Examining the effects of practice-based professional development and coaching on the differentiation of SRSD writing instruction
McKeown, Debra Kay
In this mixed methods study, researchers sought to understand if practice-based professional development paired with coaching would suffice for teachers to implement an evidence-based practice with fidelity in Tier 1 while also differentiating to meet the needs of varying students. Three fourth grade teachers participated in practice-based professional development to learn a writing strategy called Count and Plan FAST that is based on self-regulated strategy development (SRSD). Teachers implemented the strategy with their classes to improve student scores on the standardized state writing test and data from four students (two classified as being below average in writing and two classified as being average in writing) in each class were collected. Coaches supported teachers by encouraging them to differentiate the lessons while maintaining high fidelity of treatment and making suggestions on how best to meet the needs of each student. Teacher outcomes were measured through qualitative observations to track instances of differentiation. Most observations were video recorded. Grounded theory was used to create a coding system that was then applied by an independent researcher for reliability. Student writing outcomes were measured using a single-subject (multiple baseline across subjects) design. Student writing was scored for story elements, length, and use of strategy where story elements was the primary measure used to move phases in the single-subject design. Results of this study were mixed. The six students who were classified as below average in writing showed growth in median scores for story elements from baseline to posttesting and the variability decreased in stories written by five of the six students. The six students classified as average in writing had varied results. Five of the six students improved their median scores from baseline to posttesting, but the improvements were minimal. Students who were classified as below average in writing also participated in short-term Tier 2 tutoring following Tier 1 instruction. Measures during tutoring showed improvements, but most student scores had a declining trend during tutoring indicating writing fatigue could have had an impact on their performance. The variability in the results have several important implications. First, it is possible Tier 1 interventions are not adequate for many students, including some average-achieving students, and careful consideration needs to be given to how to best serve students in the tiered model. There was also variability in writing prompts which may have impacted the validity and reliability of the scores as measures of student writing ability. Further implications, limitations and future directions for research are discussed.