Academic journal article Exceptional Children

The Effectiveness of Modified Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing with Mildly Mentally Retarded Turkish Students

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

The Effectiveness of Modified Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing with Mildly Mentally Retarded Turkish Students

Article excerpt

Expository writing involves highly complex metacognitive skills and cognitive process (Englert & Mariage, 2003). Two important types of knowledge influence expository writing performance: metacognitive knowledge that guides self-regulation and text structure knowledge that guides writers in generating and organizing ideas to form well-organized texts (Englert & Mariage, 1991).

Expository writing is challenging for many students because it requires an explicit awareness of how ideas can be produced in a conventional form that communicates meanings to a distant audience (Kozulin, 2003). It is especially difficult for students with cognitive or learning disabilities (LD); (Englert, 1990). They typically have difficulty with the metacognitive aspects of regulating the writing subprocesses used to plan, draft, monitor, and revise expository texts (Englert, Raphael, Fear,& Anderson, 1988; Graham, Harris, MacArthur, & Schwartz, 1991; Wong, Wong, & Blenkisop, 1989). They also lack knowledge of the basic text structures needed "to produce well-organized texts (Englert, Raphael, Anderson, Gregg, & Anthony, 1989; Englert & Thomas, 1987; Thomas, Englert, & Gregg, 1987).

Students with mental retardation have a number of cognitive difficulties (Arabsolghar & Elkins, 2000) that further impede their performance in planning, organizing, and producing expository texts. They often fail to use effective memory and rehearsal strategies (Bray & Turner, 1986; Ellis, 1970; Engle & Nagle, 1979; Spitz, 1966; Turner, Dofny, & Dutka, 1994), and they do not spontaneously organize, chunk, rehearse, or elaborate on information in ways that facilitate learning (Belmont & Butterfield, 1971; Borkowski & Wanschura, 1974; Campione & Brown, 1977; Ellis; Kellas, Ashcraft, & Johnson, 1973; Spitz). In addition, these students typically process information more slowly (Banikowski & Mehring, 1999) and fail to establish meaningful relationships among sets of ideas.

Literacy instruction for students with mental retardation usually focuses on the teaching and mastery of isolated and linear sets of subskills (Katims, 2001). However, skilled writing requires the use of a wide array of cognitive processes in a more holistic manner (Englert, 1992). In the present study, Turkish students with mild mental retardation were taught cognitive strategies for planning, organizing, drafting, and monitoring their expository texts.

During the past 15 years, two writing intervention programs have examined the effectiveness of writing strategies at both the elementary and secondary level with children with disabilities (mainly students with LD). One program was developed by Englert and her colleagues (Englert, Raphael, Anderson, Anthony, & Steven, 1991). The Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing Program (CSIW) is based on four central principles drawn from a sociocultural theory of instruction (Englert & Mariage, 2003). First, this framework emphasizes the importance of immersing writers in a holistic and cognitive process in which they apply strategies related to planning, organizing, writing, editing, and revising their expository texts (Englert, 1992). Second, the CSIW framework emphasizes the importance of teachers modeling aloud strategies for these cognitive processes as they compose specific types of text (Englert, 1990; Englert & Raphael, 1988). Third, teachers apprentice students in the strategies through the use of interactive dialogues in which they prompt, scaffold, and guide students through the application of the strategies (Englert, 1990; Englert & Mariage, 1991). Fourth, teachers make text structures, writing process, and strategies visible through a series of think-sheets that provide students with structural or procedural support at each stage of the writing process by using graphic organizers, prompts, and questions that cue strategy application and self-regulation (Englert, 1990; Englert & Raphael, 1989; Graham, MacArthur, & Schwartz, 1995). …

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