The study was conducted in six schools in a major city in Portugal (three middle schools, three combined middle and high school).
The analytic sample for the intervention group had a mean age of 13.33 and was 51.9% female. In the intervention group, 10% had repeated a grade and 1.9% had a special need. The language arts grades for the intervention schools was 3.66 and the general school achievement was 3.82.
The analytic sample for the comparison group had a mean age of 13.56 and was 56.6% female. In the comparison group, 11.1% had repeated a grade and 4.3% had a special need. The language arts grades for the comparison schools was 3.68 and the general school achievement was 3.69.
Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) was developed by Karen Harris. It “…combines the teaching of writing processes (including planning, drafting, composing, revising and evaluating); instruction in writing strategies; and development of self-regulation strategies, including goal-setting, self-assessment (self-monitoring and self-recording), self-instruction, and self-reinforcement.” (p. 18). Strategies for writing in specific genres are explicitly taught as are approaches to developing self-regulation. “Such strategies for writing and self-regulation are developed in six recursive, interactive, individualized instructional stages with gradual release of responsibility for writing to students: (1) develop and activate background knowledge; (2) discuss and describe the strategies to be learned; (3) model the strategies; (4) memorize the strategies; (5) support the strategies; and (6) independent performance (Harris et al., 2008). Instruction proceeds based on students’ progress; students are given the time they need to make these strategies their own.” (p. 18).
In the study, teachers used these six stages of the SRSD model, determining their pacing on students’ progress and needs. During the first stage, teachers introduced the strategies designed to support students’ development of genre-specific knowledge, vocabulary, writing approaches and self-regulation strategies. In the third stage, teachers modeled self-regulation strategies (e.g., goal-setting, and self-instruction) as well as how to use the POW/PODE and TREE/TRAVE approaches (described below). In stage 5, teachers supported students writing opinion essays and in the final stage students wrote essays independently.
POW/PODE: This is an English/Portuguese mnemonic for: “Pick my idea, i.e., pick an initial idea of what to write
about; Organize my notes, i.e., write a plan using a graphic organizer; Write and say more, i.e., continue modify and upgrade the plan during writing)” (p. 21)
TREE/TRAVE: This is an English/Portuguese mnemonic for the strategy specifically designed for writing opinion essays “… to carry out the second step of POW (Organize my notes), TREE (Topic sentence, Tell what you believe; Reasons, three or
more, and elaborate on or say more about each one; Ending, Wrap it up right; and Examine, do I have all my parts?)” (p. 21)
Teachers provided weekly 45-minute class sessions on SRSD for opinion essays for three months. They used materials provided by the researchers adapted from Harris et al. (2008) and another Harris source (not specified) so they would be appropriate in Portuguese classrooms (and translated into Portuguese). The mnemonics for the SRSD strategies were also adapted and translated.
Teachers in the comparison condition used standard teaching strategies, which included a variety of practices and some of the elements of SRSD instruction. The study assessed the comparison teaching practices with a teacher questionnaire and found that the comparison group teachers spent less time teaching writing compared to the intervention group.
Support for implementation
Teachers received a 2-day (14 hour) training session and had weekly meetings with a research assistant to support implementation. In addition, they received guidelines and materials for implementing the activities in the intervention. The research team translated the SRSD materials into Portuguese and adapted them as needed to fit into Portuguese classrooms. They also discussed with the research teams ways in which to adapt the model for use with differentiated instruction. Finally, teachers met with researchers weekly for an hour during the study to discuss questions, concerns, and plans.