Middle School Students with Emotional Disorders: Determined to Meet Their Needs Through Persuasive Writing




Cuenca-Sanchez, Yojanna

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This study examined the effectiveness of the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) model of writing instruction on the writing performance and acquisition of selfdetermination skills for middle school-age students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). SRSD instruction was modified by incorporating instruction on selfdetermination skills during the lessons. A group experimental design was conducted in which 21 seventh-grade students with severe EBD were randomly assigned to either experimental or control groups. The intervention was conducted during 30-minute sessions, four times per week, for 33 days. Six special education teachers participated in the study. Experimental teachers were trained on SRSD procedures and implemented the intervention with a high degree of fidelity. Using the SRSD model, experimental groups were taught to plan and write persuasive essays and incorporate self-advocacy into their writing. Students in the control condition received writing instruction with the established school writing curriculum, Write Traits (Spandel, 2002). Dependent measures included students’ written essays that were evaluated according to length, number of words, paragraphs, sentences, transition words, and overall quality. The fluency test of the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement was used as a standardized measure. In addition, students were administered (a) a self-efficacy writing measure; (b) a criterion-based test, to assess their knowledge about self-determination and self-advocacy; and (c) a strategy awareness prompt to evaluate their knowledge about the components of a persuasive essay. Furthermore, students and teachers were interviewed to assess their perspectives about the intervention. Students were evaluated at pretest and posttest in all measures. Maintenance and generalization to a content area were also assessed on the persuasive essay measure. Postintervention findings revealed experimental students significantly outperformed control students in all the persuasive essay-writing components assessed, in their ability to recall the parts of a persuasive essay, in the self-efficacy measure; as well as in their self-determination knowledge and perceptions about self-determination behaviors. At maintenance, experimental students outperformed control students, obtaining statistically significant differences in all writing measures (except number of words). At generalization, experimental students significantly outperformed control students in quality of overall essays and number of essay parts. Students and teachers interviews revealed an overall satisfaction with SRSD procedures and the results. Findings are discussed with respect to future research and practice.



Emotional and behavioral disorders, Writing instruction, Self-regulated Strategy Development, Self-determination, Persuasive Writing, Self-advocacy