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Stephen Hooper, PhD, and Lara-Jeane Costa, PhD, were awarded a $4.5 million research grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) for their project titled, Effectiveness Replication of the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) Instructional Model for Writing in the General Curriculum.

The purpose of the systematic replication is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) Instructional Model under routine classroom conditions in the general curriculum. SRSD instruction is a structured, disciplined approach for teaching all students specific strategies for writing compositions.

“Writing is challenging to teach and learn, which is why we think it is important to evaluate writing instruction to ensure its effectiveness. We tested SRSD for efficacy under ideal conditions with funding from IES from 2012-2017 and found that students made significant gains over 12 weeks with less than 12 hours of instruction. With these promising results, we felt the need to expand the examination of SRSD to determine if it will work under typical conditions and at scale,” said Hooper and Costa in a joint statement.

This project will take place in 70-100 targeted urban, suburban, and rural middle schools that represent a diverse student sociodemographic population across North Carolina and are open to being a part of the project. The final sample will include 280 English Language Arts (ELA) teachers and literary specialists and 28,000 sixth-grade students.

The teachers and literacy specialists will receive high-quality, evidence-based professional development from Dr. Linda Mason (George Mason University) at a convenient location at or near their schools. The project’s goal is to determine if this professional development and implemented instruction can be effective for increasing students’ writing skills when brought to scale. Writing outcomes will be assessed for students in the regular curriculum which also will include some students with special needs.

The project will address the gaps in the SRSD literature by: 1) providing large-scale evidence for the use of this instructional approach with middle school students; 2) examining the conditions under which SRSD may prove most successful; and 3) promoting sustainability of practice.

The study will occur in two contexts: 1) Practice-Based Professional Development (PBPD) for literacy coaches and teachers, and 2) teachers’ implementation of SRSD in their classrooms under routine conditions. The independent research team will use a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the impact the SRSD intervention for 6th grade middle-school students on student writing outcomes.

“We chose to train not only teachers, but also literacy specialists to increase sustainability,” said Costa. “Assuming SRSD is effective at scale, after the project is complete we hope teachers will continue to use the strategies they learned and pass their knowledge to other teachers.”

Stephen Hooper, PhD, is the Associate Dean of Medicine and Chair for UNC’s Department of Health Sciences. He also serves as a Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, Pediatrics, and Education. Lara-Jeane Costa, PhD, is a Research Specialist for the Department of Health Sciences. She is the Principal Investigator for the IES-funded Writing Model Project and Project Director for the IES-funded Preschool Writing Project where Dr. Hooper in the Principal Investigator.