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IES Grant

Title: Writing in Middle School Science and Social Studies: Exploring Instruction and Support for Students with Disabilities (Project Explore)
Center: NCSER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Mason, Linda Awardee: George Mason University
Program: Reading, Writing, and Language Development      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2019 - 6/30/2023) Award Amount: $1,399,887
Goal: Exploration Award Number: R324A190028
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Berkeley, Sheri; Ciullo, Steve; Collins, Alyson

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to explore relationships between teachers' use of evidence-based practices, teachers' experience with and attitudes about adapting instruction for students with disabilities, and students' writing outcomes. Although research has emphasized the need for improving content-area writing for adolescents, particularly those with disabilities, most prior research has relied on surveys to establish knowledge on this topic. This exploration project will involve direct observation of classroom instruction to determine the extent to which teachers use evidence-based responsive practices (setting the stage for instruction, modeling, providing scaffolded practice, and providing feedback) and whether these malleable practices are related to students' writing outcomes. The project will also explore teachers' experience with and attitudes toward adapting instruction and how they relate to their practices and student outcomes. Findings from this research will provide preliminary information about how writing is integrated within inclusive middle school science and social studies classrooms and will inform future professional development for teachers and interventions to improve content-area writing among students with disabilities.

Project Activities: This project is an exploratory investigation of associations among teachers' use of evidence-based responsive practices and experience with and attitudes about adapting instruction and writing outcomes for students with disabilities. Researchers will conduct classroom observations, surveys, focus groups, and semi-structured interviews with teachers and then follow up in a subsequent year to collect data to document consistency in teachers' use of writing practices with a new class of students. Data on student writing outcomes will also be collected. Researchers will use the data to identify the use of evidence-based responsive practices in inclusive content-area middle school classes and examine how these practices relate to teachers' self-reported attitudes and experience and students' writing outcomes.

Products: Products of this project will include preliminary evidence of the relationship between teachers' use of evidence-based responsive practices in inclusive content-area middle school classes, teachers' experience and attitudes about adapting instruction for students with disabilities, and student writing outcomes. The project will result in peer-reviewed publications and presentations as well as additional dissemination products that reach education stakeholders such as practitioners and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in middle schools in Virginia and Texas.

Sample: Participants will include middle school general education teachers who teach inclusive science and social studies classes that include students with disabilities (those with Individualized Education Programs; IEPs). approximately 60 science teachers, 60 social studies teachers, and 1,200 students with IEPs (estimated at 5-7 per classroom) will participate.

Malleable Factors: The malleable factors under investigation are evidence-based responsive practices that teachers use to elicit a positive response from students with disabilities. The specific evidence-based responsive practices are (a) setting the stage for instruction, (b) modeling, (c) providing scaffolded practice, and (d) providing feedback. Researchers will also examine relationships between these factors and self-reported teacher experience with and attitudes about adapting instruction and student writing outcomes.

Research Design and Methods: In Years 1 and 3, two cohorts of teachers will participate in classroom observations, surveys, focus groups, and semi-structured interviews. In Years 2 and 4 researchers will collect data to document consistency in teachers' use of writing practices with a new class of students. Each teacher will be observed for 4 lessons per year for two subsequent years (total observed 8 lessons). Researchers will use the collected data to identify the use of evidence-based responsive practices in inclusive content-area middle school classes and examine how these observed malleable factors are related to self-reported teacher factors (experience with and attitudes about adapting instruction) and student writing outcomes. Researchers will use data from surveys, focus groups and semi-structured interviews to contextualize and further understand teachers' writing instruction in content-area classrooms.

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

Key Measures: Teacher factors will be assessed through focus groups, semi-structured interviews, classroom observations of teacher practices (Classroom Teaching Scan;CT-Scan),and surveys of how teachers adapt instruction for students with disabilities (Acceptability of Adaptations Scale) and preferences for teaching writing and adapting instruction (Teaching Writing in Middle School Survey and Writing Adaptations Scale). Student outcomes will be measured bythe Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-Third Edition (Essay Composition assessment) and researcher-developed science and social studies informational and argumentative writing prompts. School administrative records will be used to assess students' gender, race, English language learner status, subsidized lunch eligibility, disability classification and IEP goals related to writing.

Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive statistics will be used to summarize data collected during each year of observation from the CT-Scan observation instrument to describe teacher use of evidence-based responsive practices and adaptations to instruction. Descriptive statistics will also be used to summarize survey data on teachers' experiences with and attitudes about adaptating instruction for students with disabilities. Qualitative analytic methods will be used to identify themes from focus group and interview data to understand teacher preferences and triangulate that information with observation data and survey responses. Finally, multilevel modeling will be used to explore relations among observed malleable factors (teachers' use of evidence-based responsive practices), self- reported teacher factors (training and attitudes about adapting instruction), and content-area writing performance of students with disabilities.

Related Projects: Writing Instruction for Adolescents with Behavior Disorders: Scaffolding Procedural Learning to Extended Discourse (R324A070199)


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