Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of Early Writing Intervention Delivered within a Data-Based Instruction Framework

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Effects of Early Writing Intervention Delivered within a Data-Based Instruction Framework

Article excerpt


We examined effects of research-based early writing intervention delivered within a data-based instruction (DBI) framework for children with intensive needs. We randomly assigned 46 students with and without disabilities in Grades I to 3 within classrooms to either treatment or control. Treatment students received research-based early writing intervention within a DBI framework for 30 min, 3 times per week, for 12 weeks. Control students received business-as-usual writing instruction. We measured writing performance using curriculum-based measures (CBM) and Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ III). We found significant treatment effects on CBM outcomes (Hedges g= 0.74 to 1.36). We also found a significant interaction between special education status and condition on the WJ III favoring treatment students with disabilities (Hedges g= 0.45 to 0.70). Findings provide preliminary support for using a combination of research-based intervention and DBI with students with intensive writing needs.

Children at risk or identified with academic disabilities require high-quality, effective intervention to experience success in school. Thus, researchers have made significant investments in the development and evaluation of interventions to improve students' academic performance (Chard et al., 2008; Zumeta, 2015). Although such interventions have benefited many children, a small proportion--approximately 5% of the student population--does not show sufficient response to generally effective research-based approaches (National Center on Intensive Intervention. 2013; Wanzek & Vaughn, 2009). These children likely need more intensive, individualized instruction (D. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Vaughn, 2014; Zumeta, 2015).

Intensive, individualized instruction was intended to be a cornerstone of special education, yet it is not widely implemented in current practice (D. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Stecker, 2010). Thus, D. Fuchs et al. (2010) urged the field to bring the "unique and effective instructional approach ... known as data-based instruction [DBI] ... back to the future" (p. 318) of special education. In this article, we describe one attempt to do so by using DBI in combination with research-based intervention to improve outcomes for children who experience difficulties learning to write.


DBI is a hypothesis-driven, empirical approach to individualizing instruction (Deno & Mirkin, 1977) that entails (a) a systematic process (not a single intervention); (b) an ongoing cycle of implementation incorporating assessment and intervention; (c) intervention delivered in addition to, or instead of, core instruction and small-group intervention; and (d) implementation for a long period of time (Danielson & Rosenquist, 2014). A series of DBI steps (described in Method section) guides teachers to use data to individualize instruction by determining when and whether instructional changes are needed (Danielson & Rosenquist, 2014; D. Fuchs et al., 2010).

Research shows positive evidence of DBI on teachers' instructional planning and students' performance (Stecker, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2005). Teachers who used DBI made more frequent instructional changes and identified appropriate targeted skills for students than teachers who did not use DBI (Capizzi & Fuchs. 2005; D. Fuchs. Deno. & Mirkin, 1984; L. Fuchs, Fuchs, & Hamlett, 1989; Stecker & Fuchs, 2000). Further, DBI has resulted in significant academic improvements of students at risk or with disabilities in reading, mathematics, and spelling (see Stecker et al., 2005, for a review). To date, no research has been conducted on DBI in writing.

Need for DBI in Early Writing

Writing skills are essential for school and vocational success (Graham & Perin, 2007). Students with or at risk for disabilities are especially likely to experience difficulty with writing (Graham, Harris, & Larsen, 2001). …

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