Andrew, the student described in the first article, "Partnering to Build ‘Good Day Plans' for Students," fell apart when faced with a writing assignment. By developing a Good Day Plan together with his teacher, Andrew was able to practice self-determination skills by identifying his needs, solving problems, making decisions, and setting and attaining goals for writing. However, once Andrew had achieved his first writing goal, he required additional strategies and instruction to increase and improve his writing.
Research studies confirm that, like academic skills, self-determination skills can be taught (Test, Mason, Hughes, Konrad, Neale, Wood, 2004). How do we teach the writing process to struggling and reluctant writers like Andrew and incorporate instruction of self-determination skills such as choice making, goal setting and attainment, problem solving, and self-regulation into their educational experiences?
Harris, Graham, and Mason (2003) note that students with disabilities often lack an understanding of the writing process; have difficulty identifying, organizing and planning topics and ideas for writing; and show weaknesses in writing mechanics. Students who also lack skills in goal setting, self-monitoring, self-reinforcement, and self-instruction face additional challenges when required to complete academic tasks such as writing. According to Wehmeyer and Schalock (2001), self-determination, like writing, is a developmental process acquired through specific learning experiences that require purposeful instruction.
Harris et al. (2003) suggest an integrated approach to instruction that addresses behavioral and cognitive weaknesses. The writing strategy described below helps students to grasp the writing process and to develop positive attitudes about their writing.
Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) combines instruction of writing and self-determination skills through student-teacher collaboration that occurs throughout six instructional stages (Harris et al., 2003). The POW and TREE strategies (see Figure 1) are presented in lessons that incorporate the following six stages of SRSD process (www.kc.vanderbilt.edu/CASL/srsd.html):
- Stage 1: Develop and Activate Background Knowledge
- Stage 2: Discuss It
- Stage 3: Model It
- Stage 4: Memorize It
- Stage 5: Support It
- Stage 6: Independent Performance
The POW strategy modifies the SRSD approach to a three-step planning and writing framework for elementary students. Further, the TREE strategy presents a model for early persuasive writing. Complete lesson plans that incorporate the POW and the TREE strategies may be found at http://kc.vanderbilt.edu/casl/powtree.html.
Figure 1: POW + TREE = Creating Persuasive Essays
Adapted from "Self-Regulated Strategy Development in the Classroom: Part of a Balanced Approach to Writing Instruction for Students with Disabilities" by K. R. Harris, S. Graham, and L. Mason, 2003, Focus on Exceptional Children, 35(7), p. 11.
SRSD instruction supports struggling writers with strategies that help them to successfully navigate the writing process while simultaneously addressing other behavioral and emotional needs. As students develop these critical academic and self-determination skills, they are better prepared for and more confident about independently applying them during future writing experiences (www.kc.vanderbilt.edu/CASL/srsd.html).
Harris, K. R., Graham, S., & Mason, L. (2003). Self-regulated strategy development in the classroom: Part of a balanced approach to writing instruction for students with disabilities. Focus on Exceptional Children, 35(7), 1-16.
Test, D., Mason, C., Hughes, C., Konrad, M., Neale, M., & Wood, W. (2004). Student involvement in individualized education program meetings. Exceptional Children, 70, 391-412.
Wehmeyer, M., & Schalock, R. (2001). Self-determination and quality of life: Implications for special education services and support. Focus on Exceptional Children, 33, 1-16.