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The Effect of Assistive Technology on the Writing Proficiency of Junior High Students with Significant Learning Needs Open Access


Other title
significant learning needs
junior high students
assistive technology
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Frison, Jessica L.
Supervisor and department
Smith, Veronica (Educational Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
McInnes, Alison (Educational Psychology)
Brown, Heather (Educational Psychology)
Department of Educational Psychology
School and Clinical Child Psychology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Education
Degree level
The purpose of the present study was twofold: to examine the impact of assistive technology (AT) on the writing proficiency of junior high students and to explore the utility of a writing assessment for students with significant learning needs. Writing skills included productivity, sentence complexity, word complexity, spelling, overall quality, and genre-specific skills (e.g., engage and orient reader, state an opinion). Participants were 10 students with a range of learning needs (Mild Cognitive Disability, Learning Disability, Communication Disability, Physical/Medical Disability) enrolled in Grades 5 to 7 within a segregated classroom. Four writing samples were collected from each participant: (1) unassisted narrative, (2) assisted narrative, (3) unassisted persuasive and (4) assisted persuasive, and coded using a writing assessment developed for this study. Results indicated that the use of AT lead to statistically significant improvements in spelling in persuasive and narrative genres, in narrative overall writing quality, and providing reasons in the persuasive genre. In general, students achieved higher proficiency in the narrative genre than in the persuasive genre. However, there was great variation in writing among the students, and only 50% demonstrated higher quality narrative writing with the use of AT. Two case analyses of student writing explored the extremes of writing variability and the utility of the writing assessment. Analyses revealed that, despite the modest gains realized with AT, the writing assessment allowed for a clear understanding of writing skill and demonstrated promising utility as a teacher friendly measure for targeting writing goals for students with significant learning needs. Discussion explores the importance of providing students with significant learning needs with AT that meets their writing needs and the provision of quality writing instruction across writing genres.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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