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  • WRITING INSTRUCTION & LEARNING DISABILITIES

    Effective Writing Instruction Practices for Students with Learning Disabilities

    By

    Essa Chang

    A research paper submitted in conformity with the requirements

    For the degree of Master of Teaching

    Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

    Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

    Copyright by Essa Chang, April 2015

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-

    NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License

  • WRITING INSTRUCTION & LEARNING DISABILITIES

    Abstract

    Learning Disabilities (LD) is the most prevalent disability among children in

    Canada (Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, 2007). However, many students

    with LD are struggling to meet the increasing academic standards and expectations as

    they advance in school years—one of the reasons is the challenge they have with writing.

    Writing is part of almost every subject in schools, but could be particularly frustrating for

    students who have LD; therefore, it is vital for teachers to provide effective writing

    instruction and support in order to facilitate their writing. This qualitative research study,

    based on in-depth interviews with two experienced teachers practicing in the Greater

    Toronto Area (GTA), investigates the following: writing difficulties faced by students

    with LD; approaches to teaching writing, such as the process writing approach and

    explicit/direct instruction, that are responsive to students’ writing difficulties; and,

    accommodations and support, including technology tools, that aid the writing and writing

    development of students with LD. The analysis of the data collected coupled with the

    relevant review of literature reveals the kinds of evidence-based strategies and support

    teachers implement in their writing instruction for students with LD, as well as challenges

    involved with the practice.

    Keywords: writing, writing instruction, learning disabilities, dysgraphia, teaching

    strategies, assistive technology

  • WRITING INSTRUCTION & LEARNING DISABILITIES

    Acknowledgements

    I must first truly thank my research supervisor Dr. Shelley Stagg Peterson for her

    helpful guidance, support and feedback, as well as for her patience and encouragement,

    throughout this research project. It was truly inspiring for me to work with such a

    knowledgeable, passionate and reflective educator and researcher who is committed to

    supporting student success through literacy development. I would also like to thank my

    research participants who took their valuable time to share their experiences; their

    teaching insights have helped shed light on ways to better improve the practice and

    research around supporting students in LD in writing.

    I wish to thank my professors, as well as my colleagues in the Junior/Intermediate

    cohort, of the Master of Teaching program at OISE who have nothing but supported and

    inspired me to always keep hope and strive towards the best. Finally, I wish to express

    my thanks to my family and friends for their constant and endless unconditional love and

    support. I have no doubt that the learnings gained and relationships formed over these

    past two years will stay with me throughout my future years and mold me into a better

    educator and a person.

  • WRITING INSTRUCTION & LEARNING DISABILITIES

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Abstract ........................................................................................................................... 2

    Acknowledgements ......................................................................................................... 3

    Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................... 6

    Introduction to the Research Study ................................................................................. 6

    Purpose of the Study ....................................................................................................... 9

    Research Questions ....................................................................................................... 10

    Background of the Researcher ...................................................................................... 10

    Definitions ..................................................................................................................... 11

    Overview ....................................................................................................................... 13

    Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................... 15

    The Plight of Students with LD..................................................................................... 15

    Deficits in writing students with LD typically face. .................................................. 16

    Writing Instruction Frameworks ................................................................................... 19

    Process writing approach. .......................................................................................... 19

    Explicit and direct approach. ..................................................................................... 21

    Technology and Students with LD ................................................................................ 22

    Accommodations and assistive technology. .............................................................. 23

    Chapter 3: METHODOLOGY ...................................................................................... 25

    Procedure ....................................................................................................................... 25

    Participants .................................................................................................................... 26

    Context and Background Information of Participants. .............................................. 26

    Data Collection .............................................................................................................. 27

    Data Analysis ................................................................................................................ 28

    Ethical Review Procedures............................................................................................ 30

    Limitations .................................................................................................................... 30

    Chapter 4: FINDINGS ................................................................................................... 32

    Theme 1: Difficulties Faced by Students with LD in Writing ...................................... 32

    Writing difficulties. ................................................................................................... 33

    Academic challenges. ................................................................................................ 33

    Theme 2: Strategies for and Approach to Teaching Writing to Students with LD in

    Writing .......................................................................................................................... 34

    Explicit/Direct writing instruction. ............................................................................ 35

  • WRITING INSTRUCTION & LEARNING DISABILITIES

    Supporting students’ writing processes. .................................................................... 38

    Tracking students’ writing progress. ......................................................................... 40

    Theme 3: Accommodations and Other Support for Students with LD in Writing ....... 41

    General accommodations. ......................................................................................... 41

    Assistive technology. ................................................................................................. 43

    Theme 4: Challenges to Teaching Writing and Teacher Recommendations ................ 46

    Writing anxiety, low self-confidence and lack of motivation. .................................. 46

    Resistance to feedback. .............................................................................................. 49

    Chapter 5: DISCUSSION............................................................................................... 50

    Writing Difficulties Faced by Students with LD in Writing ......................................... 50

    Knowledge, strategies and skills. .............................................................................. 50

    Motivation. ................................................................................................................ 51

    Strategies for and Approaches to Teaching Writing to Students with LD in Writing .. 52

    Process writing and explicit/direct instructional approach. ....................................... 52

    Supporting students’ writing processes

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