Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Self-Regulated Strategy Development and the Writing Process: Effects on Essay Writing and Attributions

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Self-Regulated Strategy Development and the Writing Process: Effects on Essay Writing and Attributions

Article excerpt

Most students with learning disabilities (LD) experience difficulty with the writing process (cf. Englert et al., 1991; Nodine, Barenbaum, & Newcomer, 1985). Their general approach to composing minimizes the role of planning, effort, and metacognitive control (Graham & Harris, 1993; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1986). They typically convert writing Assignments into a question and answer task, quickly telling whatever comes to mind and producing papers with a few poorly developed ideas (Graham, 1990). Little attempt is made to evaluate this information or to rework it in light of other rhetorical goals. This retrieve and write process functions like an automated and encapsulated program, operating with minimal metacognitive control.

This method of composing is considerably different than approaches typically employed by more skilled writers (Harris & Graham, 1992; Hayes & Flower, 1986). Flower and Hayes (1980), for instance, found that skilled writers usually develop an initial set of goals or plans to guide the writing process. As they write, they continue to enrich and refine their plans. Moreover, they achieve their goals and intentions by deftly orchestrating a variety of strategies for generating, organizing, evaluating, and reformulating what they plan to do and say, paying particular attention to their purpose and audience. Thus, expertise in writing depends in large part on the author's ability to plan, manage the writing process, and expend the effort necessary to reach her or his goals.

Several programs of research have examined how students with LD can be assisted to develop more sophisticated approaches to writing, including the strategies and self-regulation procedures used by more skilled writers (cf. Englert et al., 1991; Wong et al., 1994). Karen Harris, Steve Graham, and their colleagues have conducted a program of research examining the application of the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) model to the teaching of writing, as well as the integration of SRSD and the process approach to writing (Graham, Harris, MacArthur, & Schwartz, 1991; Harris & Graham, 1992, 1996). With SRSD, students collaborate in the development of strategies for planning and revising as well as procedures for regulating the use of these strategies, the writing task, and individual cognitive and behavioral characteristics (such as impulsivity) that may impede writing performance. This approach has been successful in helping students with LD develop strategies for brainstorming (Harris & Graham, 1985), semantic webbing (MacArthur, Schwartz, Graham, Molloy, & Harris, 1996), using text structure to generate possible writing content (Danoff, Harris, & Graham, 1993; De La Paz & Graham, 1997; Graham & Harris, 1989a), setting goals (Graham, MacArthur, & Schwartz, 1995), peer response in revising (MacArthur, Schwartz, & Graham, 1991), and revising for both mechanics and substance (Graham & MacArthur, 1988; Graham et al., 1995). In over 15 studies conducted to date by Harris, Graham, and their colleagues, or by independent researchers, SRSD has provided an effective means for teaching writing and self-regulation strategies to students with LD, resulting in improvements in both the quantity and quality of writing (cf. Harris, Graham, & Schmidt, 1997).

Of particular relevance to the current study is an SRSD investigation that focused on expository writing. In this study, three 6th-grade students with LD learned a three-step planning strategy for writing opinion essays (Graham & Harris, 1989b). Students identified their audience and purpose for writing, generated and evaluated ideas they might use in their paper, and continued the process of planning as they wrote. Students used a mnemonic, TREE, to help them generate and evaluate their initial ideas. The steps of the mnemonic reminded them to develop their topic sentence (the premise for the paper), note reasons to support their premise, examine the soundness of each supporting reason, and note an ending for the paper. …

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