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

  • Author / Creator
    Frison, Jessica L.
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Education
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.