This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Study of the Differences Between the Expressive Writing Approach and a Writer's Workshop Approach for Writing Instruction for Secondary School Students with Disabilities




Conniff, Alexandra

Type of Degree



Rehabilitation and Special Education


A comprehensive review of research of instructional approaches investigated descriptive and intervention writing studies, both short-term and longitudinal, that has been conducted to examine the writing skills of students with and without disabilities. Various instructional studies investigated the effectiveness of instruction on the writing skills of students with disabilities and their peers. The prior knowledge the writers brought to the writing task and the students' metacognitive ability were factors involved in writing. Presented were the textual factors of the writer's knowledge of both general and specific writing structures that affect the writing process. The impact of instructional procedures is examined. Methodological issues in writing research with secondary school students with learning and behavioral problems were analyzed. This study compared two highly dissimilar approaches of teaching writing: Writer's Workshop, a writing process approach, versus Expressive Writing, a rule-based strategy approach. Expressive Writing (Engleman & Silbert, 1985), the rule-based strategy approach is based on the Direct Instruction Model developed by Siegfried Englemann and his colleagues. This writing instructional method focuses on teaching specific rules and strategies to students so that each student can apply the strategies to his or her writing. Writer's Workshop (Calkins, 1986, 1981; Graves, 1983), the writing process approach including rehearsal, drafting, revising, and editing phases, is based on a social contextualist perspective. The cognitive process of the writer was the emphasis of the process approach to writing. In this study 21 secondary students with mild mental retardation, specific learning disabilities and other health impairments in a rural high school (13 males, 8 females, 16 African Americans and 5 Caucasians, ranging in age from 14.6 to 18.6 years) were randomly assigned to treatment groups: Expressive Writing or Writer's Workshop instruction. Two weeks of 45-minute daily instructional sessions were implemented. The two groups were compared on two essays, two curriculum-based measures and a maintenance essay. To determine whether students demonstrated a preference for either instructional method, an attitude/satisfaction scale was administered. Results of this study suggest that students with mild mental retardation, specific learning disabilities or other health impairments can benefit from small group writing instruction. Students did not show a preference for either instructional method.