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IES Grant

Title: Writing Instruction for Adolescents with Behavior Disorders: Scaffolding Procedural Learning to Extended Discourse
Center: NCSER Year: 2007
Principal Investigator: Mason, Linda Awardee: Pennsylvania State University
Program: Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Competence      [Program Details]
Award Period: 6/1/2007 to 5/31/2011 Award Amount: $1,795,462
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A070199

Purpose: The purpose of this project was to modify and evaluate a writing intervention for middle school students with behavior disorders. Proficiency in reading and writing is essential for academic success. On the 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 32 percent of eighth graders without disabilities attending public schools were writing at the proficient or advanced levels. For students with disabilities, only 4 percent of eighth graders were writing at the proficient or advanced levels. Students with emotional behavioral disorders (EBD) in particular often struggle with classroom writing tasks. To address the need for more appropriate writing interventions, researchers modified and evaluated an existing intervention, Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD), to meet the needs of students with behavior disorders.

Project Activities: Participating instructors were trained in the evidence-based instructional approach, SRSD. Participating students worked in groups with their reading/writing teacher and were assessed immediately afterwards and in months following instruction to assess maintenance of learning. Multiple baseline single-case design studies were used during iterative development. The pilot study used a quasi-experimental design to evaluate the promise of SRSD for improving student writing outcomes.

Key Outcomes: The main findings from this project are as follows:

  • Seventh and eighth grade students with behavioral disorders were able to apply the strategies learned during SRSD instruction to improve persuasive writing quality and number of argumentative elements, as well as fluency in writing a timed response.
  • Both seventh and eighth grade teachers and their students with behavioral disorders reported the strategies learned during SRSD instruction improved their writing and recommended no changes to the instructional methods.

Products: The products of this project include a fully developed writing strategy and fluency intervention and evidence of promise for middle school students with behavior disorders, as well as published reports and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study took place across diverse setting types for middle school students — including general education classrooms, inclusive classrooms, learning support classrooms, and alternative schools — in urban, suburban, and rural areas in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Population: Participants included seventh and eighth grade students who were struggling with writing. A total of 66 students participated in single-case design studies examining the implementation of the writing intervention and used to make appropriate modifications. Eighty four students participated in the group design study isolating the effects of fluency within the writing intervention. In addition, 195 classroom peers who were not identified as having writing difficulties participated as part of a comparison group.

Intervention: Students who receive the writing intervention were taught to use strategies for persuasive writing, following the procedures of the SRSD model. Four procedures for self-regulation are taught in this model: set a goal for learning and sign a learning contract, develop self-instructions, self-monitor performance, and self-reinforce performance. Initial SRSD lessons occurred in 20-minute sessions. After demonstrating the ability to apply the learned strategies in writing, students received a fluency component with the writing intervention. Fluency lessons were received in 5-minute sessions, three times a week, followed by a 10-minute essay writing period. The session consisted of directions for the day and 10 minutes of writing, followed by counting the number of words written, providing feedback, and graphing student performance.

Research Design and Methods: Both single-subject and quasi-experimental group designs were used in the development and initial evaluation of the writing intervention. During the development phase, multiple baseline design studies were used to examine students' writing performance (expression and fluency). Student and teacher attitudes were also examined. Modifications to the intervention were made based on students' performance and behavior and included, for example, enhancements to self-regulation strategies. In the group study, the performance of three groups of students were compared — a writing intervention group composed of students with IEPs or school-identified as at risk for behavior disorders who had writing difficulties, a control group of similar students who did not participate in the intervention, and a group of classroom peers who did not have writing difficulties. Groups were compared on writing performance as well as student and teacher behavior and attitudes.

Control Condition: The control condition received standard classroom practice in writing.

Key Measures: Writing outcome measures included persuasive essays (number of essay parts, holistic quality, fluency), Oral and Written Language Scales, and Woodcock-Johnson Fluency (writing subtest). Behavioral outcomes included frequency of absences, frequency of disciplinary referrals, on-task behavior, and self-reported attitudes of self-efficacy concerning writing. Demographic information was drawn from the School Archival Record Search, which included sex, race, socioeconomic status, special education status, and referrals to the Individualized Education Program team.

Data Analytic Strategy: Visual analysis (interpretation of level, trend, and variability of performance during baseline, intervention, post-intervention, and fluency phases) was used to analyze the single-subject studies. A series of repeated measures analyses of variance was used to analyze the primary outcomes for the group design.

Publications and Products

Book chapter

Agrawal, J., Bronaugh, D.A., and Mastropieri, M.A. (2011). A Comparison of Observational Techniques for Assessing Students' Social Behavior. In T.E. Scruggs, and M.A. Mastropieri (Eds.), Assessment and Intervention (Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities) (pp. 93–110). Bingley, England: Emerald Group Publishing Limited? doi:10.1108/S0735–004X(2011)0000024007

Mason, L.H., and Kubina, R.M. (2011). Developing Writing Fluency for Adolescents With Disabilities. In T. E. Scruggs & M. A. Mastropieri (Ed.), Intervention and Assessment: Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities (pp. 296–319). Bingley, England: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. doi:10.1108/S0735–004X(2011)0000024013

Mastropieri, M.A., Scruggs, T.E., Cuenca-Sanchez, Y., Irby, N., Mills, S., Mason, L., and Kubina, R. (2010). Persuading Students With Emotional Disabilities to Write: A Design Study. In T.E. Scruggs, and M.A. Mastropieri (Eds.), Literacy and Learning: Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities (pp. 237–268). Oxford, England: Emerald Group Publishing Limited. doi:10.1108/S0735–004X(2010)0000023011

Book chapter, edition specified

Mastropieri, M.A., and Scruggs, T.E. (in press). Research Highlight: Academic Instruction for Students With Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities. The Inclusive Classroom: Strategies for Effective Differentiated Instruction (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Benedek-Wood, E., Mason, L.H., Wood, P., Hoffman, K., & MacGuire, A. (2014). SRSD for quick writing in four middle school science classrooms. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 12(1), 69–92.

Hoover, T., Kubina, R., and Mason, L.H. (2012). Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development for POW+TREE on High School Students With Learning Disabilities. Exceptionality, 20(1): 20–38. doi:10.1080/09362835.2012.640903

Kubina, R.M., Mason, L.H., Vostal, B.R., and Taft, R.A. (2011). Self-Regulated Strategy Development Instruction: Effects of Lesson Structure on a Teacher's Behaviors. Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 17(3): 131–138.

Mason, L.H., Benedek-Wood, E., and Valasa, L. (2009). Teaching Low-Achieving Students to Self-Regulate Persuasive Quick Write Responses. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 53(4): 303–312. doi:10.1598/JAAL.53.4.4

Mason, L.H., Kubina, R., and Hoover, T. (2013). Effects of Quick Writing Instruction for High School Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 21(3): 163–175. doi:10.1177/1063426611410429

Mason, L.H., Kubina, R., and Taft, R. (2011). Developing Quick Writing Skills of Middle School Students With Disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 44(4): 205–220. (2 studies reported) doi:10.1177/0022466909350780

Mason, L.H., Kubina, R., Valasa, L.L., and Cramer, A. (2010). Evaluating Effective Writing Instruction for Adolescent Students in an Emotional and Behavior Support Setting. Behavioral Disorders, 35(2): 140–156.

Mason, L.H., Kubina, R.M., Kostewicz, D., Mong Cramer, A., and Datchuk, S. (2013). Improving Quick Writing Performance of Middle School Struggling Learners. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 38(3): 236–246. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2013.04.002

Mastropieri, Mastropieri, M.A., Scruggs, T.E., Mills, S., Irby, N., Cuenca-Sanchez, Y., Bronaugh, D.A., Thompson, C., Guckert, M., and Regan, K. (2009). Persuading Students With Emotional Disabilities to Write Fluently. Behavioral Disorders, 35(1): 19–40.

Mong-Cramer, A.M., and Mason, L.H. (2014). The Effects of Strategy Instruction for Writing and Revising Persuasive Quick Writes for Middle School Students With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Behavior Disorders 40(1), 37-51.


Mastropieri, M.A., and Scruggs, T.E. (2012). Persuasive Writing Instruction: A Field-Based Investigation. In Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities (pp. 177–181). Padua, Italy: International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities.