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Tamar Russell Brown, 718.974.3328
Writing to Learn for Emotionally Challenged Children
Vermont professor brings SRSD Online to youth treatment center
BOSTON — SRSD Online, the website of scholars who utilize and research Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD), recently conducted an insightful interview with Justin D. Garwood. An assistant professor at the University of Vermont’s Department of Education, Garwood has conducted invaluable research on the methods of SRSD at a treatment facility for at-risk youths. The results are impressive.
For two years, Professor Garwood taught at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, which offers a master’s program focusing on emotional behavioral disorders (EBD). He initiated a collaboration with a nearby residential treatment facility for youth experiencing complex trauma. Administrators at the facility were concerned about the academic instruction the youths needed as well as their lack of engagement, and they felt an intervention was needed. This is where SRSD strategies came into play.
Karen, a high school science and social studies teacher, played an important role in implementing the basic training for SRSD and delivered the intervention. The researchers observed, using as much of a “hands-off” approach as possible. During the course of the intervention, 11 to 20 students in three different classes were involved. In pre-intervention assessments, students wrote two or three sentences at most. Post-intervention, students wrote three to four paragraphs! This was even the case with one student who had written nothing at all before the intervention. For example, instead of repeating the technical details of their science class — cell parts and DNA — students wrote about the ethical dilemmas of zoos, or whether energy drinks should be sold at schools. When learning about persuasive writing, one student was keenly adept at presenting her argument as to why students should be allowed to have iPods in class and listen to music. Upon reading her reasoning, the principal had a difficult time rebutting such an articulate argument.
Justin describes Karen’s fidelity to SRSD as “darn near perfect.” Although she had no background in special education, she embraced the strategy of SRSD. Her enthusiasm and out-of-the-box thinking were instrumental in modeling the methods for students. This goes to show the positive effect that SRSD has on good teachers who can take advantage of the process. As Karen put it:
If you can get a veteran science teacher, with a background in music education, to motivate students with severe EBD to write in science class, who couldn’t do this? Who wouldn’t SRSD work for?
What would Justin recommend to other interventionists who want to use the SRSD methodology? For EBD youths in treatment facilities, the transfer rate is high. It is difficult to track youths who have left a treatment facility to follow up on progress and long-term maintenance. Good planning and obtaining permission to follow up with a student is vital to learning how students fare with their writing in different settings and contexts.
Overall, researchers observed significant increases in psychological engagement and a sense of school belonging post-intervention, in addition to academic improvement. The fact that students improved markedly very soon after the intervention indicates that there is a definite correlation between SRSD and these increases.
Professor Garwood’s peer-reviewed study will be published soon and he is presenting his results at the Council for Exceptional Children conference in January.
About SRSD: Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) is rated as the best evidence-based, classroom-proven writing method helping all levels of K-12 and college-entry students excel at writing and learning. Writing to Learn™ is the renowned online SRSD teacher training course with mentor support.
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