Date of Award

5-16-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

David E. Houchins - Chair

Second Advisor

Kristine Jolivette

Third Advisor

Laura Fredrick

Fourth Advisor

Paul Alberto

Abstract

Many students struggle on writing tasks with little success because writing is a complex task. Students with learning disabilities (LD) and students who are served in English to Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) programs generally perform at lower rates on writing tasks than their English-only speaking peers without disabilities. Several researchers indicate that students with disabilities may be able to improve their performance on writing tasks through the implementation of Direct Instruction writing programs. The purpose of the current study was to demonstrate the relationship between the implementation of an accelerated Direct Instruction program and student writing performance with students who have LD in written expression, and who are either English-only speaking or native Spanish-speaking. Specifically, using a multiple-probe across participants single-subject research design, two groups of students received instruction using the Expressive Writing program. One group of three students were concurrently served in both special education for learning disabilities in the area of written expression and in a program for students who were English Language Learners (ELL), and another group of three were native English speakers who had learning disabilities in written expression. Students were divided into two separate groups to determine the effect of an abbreviated instructional sequence on both groups of students as the language background differences between the two groups did not allow them to be examined as one distinct group. The effects of instruction were measured by analyzing the number of correct word sequences, the number of words, and the types of errors when students were given three-minute writing probes. Additionally, performance on the Test of Written Language (3rd edition) (TOWL-3) and a classroom generalization measure were examined. Results indicated that when only half of the total lessons were presented to the students in both groups, the number of correct word sequences and the total number of words written increased on within-program writing probes, the TOWL-3, and on a generalization measure. An implication of these results is that adolescent students with writing deficits may be able improve their basic writing skills using half of the total program. Such a finding is important because students at this level who have not yet acquired these skills must quickly acquire them to be able to develop the more sophisticated skills required of students at their grade level. Limitations included the lack of the in-program placement test being proctored at the end of the intervention and the use of a nonconcurrent baseline with the second group of students.

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