Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Exploring Writing Instruction Delivered by Teachers Providing Services to Students with Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Ciullo, Stephen Awardee: Texas State University
Program: Reading, Writing, and Language      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (08/01/2018-07/31/2022) Award Amount: $1,398,259
Type: Exploration Award Number: R324A180137

Co-Principal Investigators: Collins, Alyson; Graham, Steve

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to explore the extent to which effective writing instruction practices are used by special education and general education teachers who teach writing to students with disabilities in Grade 4, and to examine the relationships between effective writing instruction practices and student writing outcomes. The project will also examine whether teacher-level factors (e.g., expertise for teaching students with disabilities) moderate these relationships and whether there are differences in the use of effective writing instruction practices between special education and general education teachers. Little prior research has examined such relationships for both general and special education teachers. Findings from this research will inform future professional development research related to special education writing instruction.

Project Activities: The research team will explore relationships between a set of malleable factors hypothesized to be related to writing outcomes for students with disabilities. The researchers will (a) observe writing instruction to explore use of effective practices and examine whether special educators and general educators differ in their use of these practices, (b) investigate associations between teacher-specific variables and use of effective writing instruction practices, (c) examine associations between effective writing instruction practices and student writing outcomes, and (d) determine whether teacher-specific variables moderate these associations.

Products: The products of this study will include preliminary evidence of an association between effective writing instruction practices, teacher factors, and student writing outcomes. It will also provide evidence on differences between general and special education teachers in their use of these practices. Products will also include peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: Data collection will take place in Grade 4 classrooms in elementary schools in Texas.

Sample: Approximately 210 teachers (ie., 105 dyads that include a special educator and a general educator) and 315 Grade 4 students with disabilities will participate in the study.

Malleable Factors: The malleable factors under investigation are writing instruction practices to teach writing.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will collect data from three non-overlapping cohorts of special education and general education teachers observed at four time points per year. Data from these systematic observations will be used to analyze the extent to which teachers implement effective writing practices. In addition, data collected on teacher knowledge, beliefs, and expertise will be used to determine any associations between these teacher-level variables and use of effective writing instruction practices. Relationships between observed practices and student outcomes will be explored, along with factors that potentially moderate these relations.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of this exploratory research, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: The researchers will use a researcher-developed observational measure of writing instruction to collect data on practices used by teachers. Data on teacher knowledge will be collected using additional researcher-developed measures, including a teaching writing knowledge test, a writing instruction preparation and professional development questionnaire, and a knowledge of writing adaptations test. Data on teacher beliefs about writing instruction will be collected using an instrument that assesses teacher efficacy for writing (e.g., beliefs about their ability to improve writing outcomes for students), writing orientation (e.g., beliefs about how writing should be taught), and writing attitudes (e.g., personal writing ability, enjoyment of writing, and purpose for writing). Teacher expertise for working with students with disabilities will be collected using scales of writing adaptations and acceptability of adaptations, and a survey of special education preparation and professional development. Student reading and writing outcome measures include the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III) Essay Composition, Woodcock Johnson (WJ-IV) Sentence Writing Fluency and Editing, School Motivation and Learning Strategies Inventory Writing and Research Skills, and Gates MacGinitie Reading Comprehension test.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will use descriptive statistics to summarize classroom writing instruction. They will use multivariate analysis of variance to explore differences in the writing instruction of special educators and general educators. Structural equation modeling will be used to explore the association between teacher-level variables and effective writing practices. Separate series of multilevel models will be used to examine associations between writing instruction and each post-instruction student-level (Level 1) outcome variable. Students' pre-instruction scores on the outcome will be available as a covariate. In Level 2, teacher-level explanatory variables will be included separately for special education teachers and general education teachers, allowing a determination of whether the importance of any specific predictor varies depending on teacher type. The team will use additional multilevel models to test moderation effects of teacher knowledge, beliefs, and expertise on the association between teacher writing practices and student outcomes.