Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Auditory Feedback and Writing: Learning Disabled and Nondisabled Students

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Auditory Feedback and Writing: Learning Disabled and Nondisabled Students

Article excerpt

Auditory Feedback and Writing: Learning Disabled and Nondisabled Students

Instructional research with learning disabled (LD) students has traditionally focused on reading, mathematics, and spelling. Only recently have researchers begun to study written composition; a recent special issue of Exceptional Children, for example, was devoted to "Research and Instruction in Written Language" (Graham & Harris, 1988). The initial work has been descriptive; both processes (cognitive processes students use as they compose) and products (the outcomes of students' writing) have been studied. One approach common to each involves the comparison of novice and expert writers (Humes, 1983). This comparative approach is most relevant to the present study: Although learning disabled students have not been studied extensively (Newcomer, Nodine, & Barenbaum, 1988), the results of research with novice writers may offer insight into the difficulties that LD writers experience.

In one process study, Hayes and Flower (1983) found that experts had mastered the laws of written prose well enough to focus on the higher level processes of form, meaning, and voice. Novices, however, concentrated on sentence and word level processes to the exclusion of higher level processes. Sommers (1982) reported that experts stratified their revising, concentrating on higher level rhetorical concerns first, then moving through lower level, lexical problems. In contrast, novices concentrated on lexical concerns, to the exclusion of rhetorical issues. Faigley and Witte (1981) also found that expert writers made more revisions at a meaning level, whereas revisions of the novice occurred at a surface level.

The results of product research in which writing samples of LD and nondisabled writers were compared have fit well with process research. Myklebust (1973) found that LD writers were limited in their use of word order, word usage, word endings, and punctuation. Poteet (1978) found that LD students made more punctuation errors and omitted more words than did non-LD writers. Anderson (1982) reported that most errors by LD students were substitutions, additions, and omissions. These students also had difficulty with punctuation. Moreover, Poplin, Gray, Larsen, Bonikowski, and Mehring (1980) reported that differences between LD and non-LD writers increased with age from third through eighth grade.

Although product research has described differences between LD and nondisabled writers, it has not explained why these differences occur. Further investigation into the revision processes of LD and nondisabled writers could shed some light on the question. Errors in the final written products of LD writers could be due to either an absence of revision or to poor revision skills. If poor revision skills are the difficulty, differences could result fro LD students' inability to identify errors or to correct identified errors. Difficulties in locating and correcting errors may be manifestations of a general deficit in communication skills.

A study by MacArthur, Graham, and Skarvoed (1986) found that LD students were unable to correct identified errors: The proportion of errors did not change from initial to revised drafts, despite revisions in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. The performance of LD students in this study, however, was not compared to that of nondisabled writers. It may be that nondisabled students at the same age or reading level would show the same pattern of performance.

Reading ability may have a significant effect on students' ability to locate and correct errors. Moran (1981) found no differences between the compositions of LD students and low achievers on measures of writing conventions (tense, number, possessive, subject-predicate agreement, and pronoun-referent number agreement) or writing mechanics (punctuation and capitalization). However, the reading levels of the two groups were not presented and implications about the effects of reading skills cannot be drawn directly from this study. …

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