A 3-Year Development Project (2012-2015)

Previous studies showed SIWI to be an effective practice for improving the writing and language outcomes of deaf middle school students. The purpose of this 3-year project was to develop the SIWI curriculum, instructional materials, and teacher resources for implementation with deaf students in grades 3 to 5, and to conduct a study of promise. An initial randomized controlled trial (N=78) showed SIWI positively impacts the English grammar (ES=0.53 to 0.71), length of writing (ES=1.31), genre-specific features of recount and information report writing (ES=2.64; 1.01, respectively), and writing motivation (ES= 0.53 to 0.68) of deaf elementary students. There was also a statistically significant difference between SIWI and comparison groups on all writing variables measured by the Woodcock Johnson III: spelling, fluency, writing samples (ES=1.01 to 1.82).

Additional Project Information

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing have demonstrated little progress in literacy over the years. It is common for students who are deaf or hard of hearing to graduate high school writing and reading at an elementary level. Deaf or hard of hearing students may exhibit substantial difficulties with sentence-level writing skills, and their writing can have fewer words, more incomplete sentences, frequently omitted function words, and less complex structures compared to the writing of peers who are not deaf. In addition, these students lack discourse-level skills to develop coherence in writing, incorporate text structure elements, and write in a planned and organized manner. The purpose of this project is to adapt an intervention that has shown promise for improving writing outcomes for deaf students in middle school for use with deaf students in grades 3 to 5. The intervention, Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction, will address age-level writing objectives and be responsive to students with diverse language needs or additional disabilities.

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Project Staff

kimberly wolbers

Kimberly A. Wolbers is a Professor of the Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program at the University of Tennessee. She earned her PhD from Michigan State University in 2007 with a focus in special education and literacy.Her research has focused on the design and implementation of writing and language instruction for deaf and hard of hearing children and adolescents. She has conceptualized an approach called Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI), which aims to be responsive to the varied language needs of deaf learners. SIWI draws upon evidence-based approaches to teaching writing such as strategy instruction in writing and collaborative, interactive writing. SIWI also contains language-specific elements that provide teachers with direction on how to, for example, navigate between ASL and English when teaching developing bilinguals, or facilitate greater expressive language clarity and complexity among children with language delays. There is growing evidence to suggest SIWI has a positive impact on students’ expressive language, word identification, motivation, and writing outcomes at the word-, sentence-, and discourse-levels. Recent SIWI publications and grants are listed below.
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Hannah Dostal is an Associate Professor of Reading Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and a Researcher in the Social Justice and Equity Research Cluster at the University of Connecticut. Hannah is a certified reading specialist and holds a Ph.D. in Education with a concentration in literacy studies and Deafness from the University of Tennessee, where she also earned both graduate and undergraduate degrees in education (MS, BS), American Sign Language interpreting (BS), and human services (BS).

Hannah has served as a middle school teacher and a writing intervention coordinator for students in grades K-12. She also has worked with school districts and professional associations to build capacity for implementing literacy practices that support the development of reading and writing. Hannah is currently a co-PI on a four-year Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) efficacy grant, and has served as a co-PI on an IES development grant and five state teacher quality grants. Her work has been featured at national and international conferences and in both national and internationally published books and journals.

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Dr. Steve GrahamSteve Graham is the Warner Professor in the Division of Leadership and Innovation in Teachers College. For over 30 years he has studied how writing develops, how to teach it effectively, and how writing can be used to support reading and learning. In recent years, he has been involved in the development and testing of digital tools for supporting writing and reading through a series of grants from the Institute of Educational Sciences and the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education. His research involves typically developing writers and students with special needs in both elementary and secondary schools, with much of occurring in classrooms in urban schools.

Steve is the former editor of Exceptional Children, Contemporary Educational Psychology, Journal of Writing Research, Focus on Exceptional Children, and he is the current editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology. He is the co-author of the Handbook of Writing ResearchHandbook of Learning DisabilitiesAPA Handbook of Educational Psychology, Writing Better , Powerful Writing Strategies for all Students and Making the Writing Process Work . He is also the author of three influential Carnegie Corporation reports: Writing Next , Writing to Read , and Informing Writing.

Steve has served as an advisor to a variety of organization, including UNESCO, National Institute of Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Zuckerberg Initiative, National Writing Project, Institute of Educational Sciences, and the What Works Clearinghouse. He was the chair of the What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guides for both elementary as well as secondary writing. Steve was a member of the National Research Conference committee on adolescent and adult literacy. He has provided background information for a wide variety of magazine, newspaper, television, and radio reports including National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, La Monde, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, National Public Radio, CBS Sunday Moring News, and NBC Today Show.

He is the recipient of the Sylvia Scribner Award from Division C of the American Educational Research Association, Career Research Award from the International Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the Kauffman-Hallahan Distinguished Researcher Award from the Division of Research (CEC), Samual A. Kirk Award from the Division of Learning Disabilities (CEC), Distinguished Researcher Award from the Special Education Special Interest Group of the American Education Research Association, J. Lee Weiderhot Lecture Award from the Council of Learning Disabilities, and the Don Johnston Literacy Lectureship Award for career contributions to literacy. He was elected to the Reading Hall of Fame for 2018.

Steve is a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association, Division 15 of the American Psychological Association, as well as a Fellow of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities.

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Jen KilpatrickAfter completing a bachelors degree in Special Education at Liberty University, Jennifer Renée Kilpatrick began her education career teaching students with a wide range of low and high incidence disabilities at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in the rural Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  She then obtained a masters in Deaf Education from the University of Tennessee while employed as a residential education supervisor at the Tennessee School for the Deaf.  She ultimately found her niche as a middle school Intensive Reading and Language Arts teacher at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB).  While teaching at FSDB, she completed an additional masters degree in Literacy at University of North Florida.  She left the classroom to accept a position as a research associate on a federally funded grant examining the efficacy of Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction with d/hh students in Grades 3-5 and to obtain a PhD in Literacy Studies from The University of Tennessee.  As a research associate, she had the privilege of working with teachers of the deaf in listening and spoken language, total communication, and bilingual settings throughout more than 10 states.  Currently, her passion is the program evaluation and teacher training work she does at schools for the deaf throughout the beautiful, Caribbean nation of Haiti.  When not attached to a laptop, she can usually be found outside—watching sunrises, running half marathons, climbing mountains, paddling waters, and exploring new places.
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Rachel SaulsburryRachel Saulsburry is the Project Coordinator for Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI). Rachel implemented SIWI as an itinerant teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students, served as a graduate research assistant for a four-year SIWI development IES grant, designed and created many of the SIWI instructional materials, and wrote her dissertation on itinerant teachers’ implementation of SIWI, linked here.Rachel was an itinerant teacher of dhh students, preK-12, in urban and rural school districts.  She holds a Ph.D. in Education with specializations in Literacy and ESL Education from the University of Tennessee, where she also earned graduate and undergraduate degrees in Special Education for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MS, BS).  Rachel also has specialized training and experience in autism (Vanderbilt: Kennedy Center: Treatment & Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders) and assistive technology (California State University-Northridge). Her research interests include itinerant teaching in deaf education, collaboration between stakeholders in the lives of deaf children, and language access for deaf children (i.e., spoken and written language).

A 3-Year Development Project (2012-2015)
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