WWC review of this study

Improving Learning Disabled Students' Skills at Composing Essays: Self-Instructional Strategy Training.

Graham, Steve; Harris, Karen R. (1989). Exceptional Children, v56 n3 p201-14. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ400693

  • Single Case Design
    , grade

Reviewed: October 2017

Meets WWC standards with reservations

To view more detailed information about the study findings from this review, please see Self-Regulated Strategy Development Intervention Report (841 KB)

Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 67%
    Male: 33%

  • Suburban
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The study took place in one suburban elementary school in the northeastern United States. The intervention was administered individually to each student in a quiet room within the elementary school.

Study sample

The study sample included three sixth-grade students who were identified as having LD by their district and were receiving special education services in a resource room. Elaine was a 12-year-old girl with an IQ of 101 on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R). She scored at least 3 years below grade level in math, writing, and knowledge achievement. Morgane was a 12-year-old girl with an IQ score of 89 on the Slossom Intelligence Test. She scored 2 years below grade level in reading. Arthur was a 12-year-old boy with an IQ of 99 on the WISC-R. He also scored 2 years below grade level in reading and math achievement and had repeated third grade.


SRSD, referred to as self-instructional strategy training procedures in this study, was administered individually to students to help improve their writing skills. The instructor, a graduate student majoring in special education, first worked with each student to define the components of a good essay using a mnemonic device (TREE) which prompted students to think of a topic sentence, reasons, examples, and an ending. The instructor then reviewed the student’s current level of essay writing and discussed goals. Next, the instructor presented a three-step essay-writing strategy to the student (Think, Plan, Write) and modeled for the student how to use the strategy. Next, the student memorized the strategy and practiced self-regulation. The instructor and the student then worked together to write an essay using the strategy. Finally, the student wrote essays independently. Elaine, Morgane, and Arthur participated in seven, five, and eight SRSD training sessions, respectively. Each session lasted approximately 40 minutes. Post-training essay probes were administered immediately following SRSD instruction.


The study used a multiple probe design across three students. During the baseline condition for each student, the graduate student instructor asked students to write essays on a specific topic or in response to a picture. General procedures were in effect in the resource room during this period.

Support for implementation

The instructor received training on the step-by-step implementation procedures and received detailed lesson plans with guidance on how to conduct each step.


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