Skip to content

SIWI Research

Access a list of SIWI publications and their abstracts using the SIWI publications link. You might also read about our IES research project that is currently underway!

Wolbers, K., Dostal, H., Graham, S., & Allen, T. (August 1, 2017 – July 31, 2021). An efficacy study of Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI): Teacher development and student outcomes. Submitted to Institute of Education Sciences (IES), CFDA 84.324A, $3,298,243, R324A170086.

ASL Consent Form Video

Wolbers, K., Dostal, H., & Graham, S. (August 1, 2012 – July 31, 2016). Development of Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) for deaf and hard of hearing students. Funded by Institute of Education Sciences (IES), CFDA 84.324A, $1,156,576, R324A120085.

This three-year project seeks to adapt the Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) curriculum that has been implemented primarily in grades 6–8 for expanded use with elementary d/hh students. To be widely effective, given the heterogeneity of the deaf school population, the writing intervention must be responsive to students with varying language histories and experiences, and must be sensitive to those with additional disabilities. We anticipate achieving the following objectives by the end of the proposed project:

1)    Fully develop the SIWI intervention for later elementary students in grades 3–5, including curriculum, instructional materials, and teacher resources;

2)   Obtain and analyze data that address the feasibility of implementing the intervention; and

3)   Obtain, analyze, and report data that assess the intervention’s promise for achieving the desired outcomes. A desirable outcome as a result of this program is the development of an instructional approach that is effective in improving the language and literacy outcomes of d/hh elementary students.

  • Dostal, H., & Wolbers, K. (2016). Examining Student Writing Proficiencies Across Genres: Results of an intervention study. Deafness & Education International, 18:3, 159-169.
    • This study examines the patterns of growth across both taught and untaught genres of writing for deaf and hard of hearing students in grades 4–6. Twenty-three students were exposed to Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) for 5 weeks, during which time they received guided, interactive instruction focused on how writers address particular purposes and audiences with their writing. By examining student writing samples before and after both regular writing instruction and SIWI using genre-specific rubrics, we investigated whether students transfer and generalize writing strategies and processes learned in one genre to writing in a genre for which they did not receive instruction, in this case: information report writing. We found that after 5 weeks focused on recount genre instruction, students spontaneously transfer competencies related to genre-specific features that were not explicitly taught, and that students with greater language proficiency did so more effectively. We discuss these findings as they relate to theories of composition and language competence, and generate implications for writing instruction that can lead to growth in writing.
  • Dostal, H., Wolbers, K., & Kilpatrick, J. (accepted, July 2016). Differentiating writing instruction for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Writing & Pedagogy.
    • Researchers have long highlighted the need to apply evidence-based approaches to writing instruction for students who are deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh). Yet, the majority of the research base for effective writing instruction and intervention is based on studies of hearing children, with or without disability labels.  Therefore, existing interventions often fail to account for the unique language and literacy needs of d/hh students.  In this article we describe an approach that enhances the power of Interactive Writing (IW) instruction, an evidence-based approach for typically developing students, that is specifically designed to engage and support d/hh learners. We begin by providing a brief historical overview of IW instruction as it is often used in contemporary general education classrooms.  Then, we describe evidence of the unique language and literacy development of d/hh students from a series of recent studies related to Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) with d/hh students.  Finally, we present the language zone in the form of a flowchart, which illustrates the teacher decision making process when responding to d/hh students’ various language needs in the context of IW.  We conclude by illustrating examples of the language zone in use and discussing the implications of this approach for d/hh learners.
  • Wolbers, K., Dostal, H., Skerritt, P., & Stephenson, B. (in press, May 2016). A three-year study of a professional development program’s impact on teacher knowledge and classroom implementation of Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction. The Journal of Educational Research. DOI: 10.1080/00220671.2015.1039112 – Article Link
    • A professional development (PD) program for Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) integrating effective PD features was implemented with teachers over three years. Using a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), it was examined whether length of participation in PD impacted knowledge and ability to faithfully implement. Findings indicate significant improvements with each year of PD; those who participated for three consecutive years received the highest possible ratings on knowledge as measured by the Levels of Use (LOU) and instruction as measured by the SIWI observation and fidelity instrument. Additionally, because of modifications to the PD program, it was examined whether the year of one’s PD involvement impacted outcomes. Findings reveal that outcomes were strongest during the last year when SIWI mentors were present.
  • Wolbers, K., Dostal, H., Graham, S., Cihak, D., Kilpatrick, J., & Saulsburry R. (2015). The writing performance of elementary students receiving Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 20(4), 385-398doi: 10.1093/deafed/env022 – Article Link
    • Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) has led to improved writing and language outcomes among deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh) middle grades students. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of SIWI on the written expression of d/hh elementary students across recount/ personal narrative, information report, and persuasive genres. Five multiple-probe case studies demonstrate a relationship between implementation of SIWI and improvements in genre-related writing performance. The effect of instruction was most immediately demonstrated with information reports and persuasive writing, whereas several sessions of recount instruction were needed for students to satisfy performance criteria. Additionally, pre and post data from a larger group of students (N=31) were compared. Wilcoxon Signed-Rank test statistics were statistically significant for each genre with medium to high effect sizes. Data suggest SIWI as a promising practice with elementary students, and comments regarding further development and research are provided.
  • Bowers, L., Dostal, H., McCarthy, J., Schwarz, I., & Wolbers, K. (2015). An analysis of deaf students’ spelling skills during a year-long instructional writing approach. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 27, 237-253. doi: 10.1177/1525740114567528 – Article Link
    • Numerous studies have shown that spelling presents unique challenges for children who are deaf or hard of hearing (d/hh) and most do not develop age appropriate spelling skills. However, it is critical that these skills are acquired in order to use written language for academic or vocational purposes. Spelling errors from the writing samples of 29 middle school students in a state school for the Deaf were analyzed to examine changes over time. Samples were gathered before, during, and after a year-long writing intervention using Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI). When using SIWI, students are exposed to proper spelling during guided writing instruction; however, spelling is not a specific focus of each lesson. In this study, a linguistic analysis of spelling errors was used to assess each child’s understanding of the phonological, morphological, orthographic, semantic and visual imagery rules that apply to written words. No significant improvements in spelling were noted and the results indicate that spelling should be targeted during writing lessons. The results provide important information on the acquisition of spelling skills with this unique population and the use of narrative samples to assess spelling.
  • Dostal, H., Bowers, L., Wolbers, K. & Gabriel, R. (2015). “We are authors”: A qualitative analysis of deaf students writing during one year of Strategic and Interactive Writing (SIWI). TheReview of Disability Studies: An international journal, 11(2), 1-19. – Article Link
    • This article expands on prior Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) research by examining students’ development as writers.  Findings from a qualitative analysis of the writing development of 20 middle-school deaf and hard of hearing students over one year of instruction is reported. Implications and future directions are discussed.
  • Dostal, H. & Wolbers, K. Rubrics for Video Reflection.(2015). In E. Ortlieb, M. McVee & L. Shanahan (Eds.) Video as a Tool for Reflection in Literacy Education and Research. Castle Hill, Australia: Emerald Press. – Article Link
    • In this chapter we describe how a rubric-style observation instrument for observing classroom writing instruction was used to focus and optimize collaborative video analysis sessions among teachers and researchers spread across six states. As part of a 3-year Institute of Education Sciences (IES) development grant, we used videos of classroom instruction both as data for researchers studying the nature and impact of a specific instructional approach, Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI), and as a vehicle for collaborative teacher professional development– for both teachers and teacher leaders. Design. By tying video analysis to a shared observation instrument, we were able to target video clip selection for discussion, and focus our analysis to support teachers across several states and school settings implementing a new approach to writing instruction. After a brief overview of the project for which videos were used, we describe the tools and protocols developed over time to ensure the efficient and powerful use of collaborative video analysis. We also share our experiences on the nature and outcomes of these collaborative sessions both in terms of teachers’ involvement and changes in practice over time. Findings. We argue that the use of a common rubric to guide video clip selection, discussion, and analysis allowed teachers to strategically engage in “data reduction” – i.e. not be overwhelmed by the amount of video data – and to use the videos as catalysts for conversations as well as evidence of what works well for individual students. As researchers, these sessions allowed us to ensure collaborative video analysis sessions were focused, efficient, and growth-oriented as well as sources of data for understanding trends in challenges and trajectories of growth for teachers implementing a new approach to instruction. Practical Implications. This work illustrates how researchers can use video for dual purposes–to conduct literacy investigations and to provide teachers with professional development involving video review and reflection.
  • Saulsburry, R., Kilpatrick, J., Wolbers, K., & Dostal, H. (2015). Technology Tools that Support the Writing Process.Odyssey: New Directions in Deaf Education, 16(1), 30-34.
  • Dostal, H. & Wolbers, K. (2014). Developing language and writing skills of deaf and hard of hearing students: A simultaneous approach. Literacy Research and Instruction, 53(3), 245-268. doi: 10.1080/19388071.2014.907382 – Article Link
    • In school, deaf and hard of hearing students (d/hh) are often exposed to American Sign Language (ASL) while also developing literacy skills in English. ASL does not have a written form, but is a fully accessible language to the d/hh through which it is possible to mediate understanding, draw on prior experiences and engage critical thinking and reasoning (Allington & Johnston, 2002, Vygotsky, 1987; Wertch, 1991). This study investigates the impact of Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) on the development of signed expressive language (ASL) and written English. Our analysis demonstrates that a focus on ASL did not detract from students’ writing growth in English. Instead a focus on building ASL and written English proficiency simultaneously resulted in significant gains in both language and writing.
  • Wolbers, K., Graham, S., Dostal, H., & Bowers, L. (2014). A description of ASL features in writing. Ampersand, 1, 19-27. – Article Link
    • Similar to second language students who embed features of their primary languages in the writing of their second languages, deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh) writers utilize features of American Sign Language (ASL) in their writing of English. The purpose of this study is to identify categories of language transfer, provide the prevalence of these transfer tendencies in the writings of 29 d/hh adolescents and describe whether language features are equally or differently responsive to instruction. Findings indicate six categories of language transfer in order of prevalence: unique glossing & substitution, adjectives, plurality & adverbs, topicalization, and conjunctions. ASL features, of both lexical and syntactical nature, appear to respond similarly to instruction.
  • Kilpatrick, J., Saulsburry, R., Dostal, H., Wolbers, K. & Graham, S. (2014).  The integrations of digital tools during Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction. In R. Anderson & C. Mims (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Digital Tools for Writing Instruction in K-12 Settings (pp. 608-628). Hershey, PA:  IGI Global.  Article Link
    • The purpose of this chapter is to gain insight from the ways a group of elementary teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing chose to integrate digital tools into evidence-based writing instruction and the ways these technologies were used to support student learning. After professional development that exposed these teachers to twelve new digital tools, they were observed incorporating several new tools into their instruction; however, most of the tools were not the ones targeted during professional development. There are factors related to both teacher perspectives and professional development design that seem to play a role in what digital tools are used, how they are used, and who uses them. Based on these factors, suggestions are made for the design of future professional development that more effectively introduces technologies to teachers and supports their efforts to integrate these tools into classroom instruction.
  • Wolbers, K., Bowers, L., Dostal, H., & Graham, S.C. (2013). Deaf writers’ application of ASL knowledge to English. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 1-19.  doi: 10.1080/13670050.2013.816262 – Article Link
    • Language transfer theory elucidates how first language (L1) knowledge and grammatical features are applied in second language (L2) writing. Deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh) students who use or are developing American Sign Language (ASL) as their L1 may demonstrate use of ASL linguistic features in their writing of English. In this study, we investigated the extent to which 29 d/hh students in grades 6-8 (mean age = 13.2) with diverse ASL exposure incorporated ASL features in their English writing. We also investigated the impact of one year of Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) to increase students’ metalinguistic knowledge and linguistic competence, and subsequently reduce ASL features in writing. Results indicate that ASL transfer is found in the writings of students with varied L1 experiences, and that SIWI can lead to significant reductions of ASL features in writing. The findings suggest that bilingual literacy programs where there is an emphasis on implicit language competence and metalinguistic knowledge can support d/hh students in the development of written English.
  • Wolbers, K., Dostal, H. & Bowers, L. (2012).  “I was born full deaf.” Written language outcomes after one year of Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI). Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 17(1), 19-38. doi:10.1093/deafed/enr018 – Article Link
    • Nonstandard grammatical forms are often present in the writing of deaf students which are rarely, if ever, seen in the writing of hearing students. With the implementation of Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) in previous studies, students have demonstrated significant gains in high-level writing skills (e.g., text structure) but have also made gains with English grammar skills. This one-year study expands on prior research by longitudinally examining the written language growth (i.e., writing length, sentence complexity, sentence awareness and function words) of 29 deaf middle school students. A repeated-measures ANOVA with a between-subjects variable for literacy achievement level was used to examine gains over time and the intervention’s efficacy when used with students of various literacy levels. Students, whether high- or lowachieving, demonstrated statistically significant gains with writing length, sentence complexity and sentence awareness. Subordinate clauses were found to be an area of difficulty, and follow up strategies are suggested. An analysis of function word data, specifically prepositions and articles, revealed different patterns of written language growth by language group (e.g., ASL users, oral students, users of English-based sign).
  • Dostal, H. (2011). Developing students’ first language through a second language writing intervention: A simultaneous approach (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. – Article Link
    • Deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh) children often acquire an L1 after age 3, thus are arguably more diverse than that of the general bilingual population. A unique problem therefore exists among d/hh late language learners—they often do not have an L1 to later develop an L2. This study investigated the impact of an English writing intervention (Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction, SIWI) that incorporates support for the development of American Sign Language in an effort to illustrate the necessity of explicitly addressing the proposed interdependence of language learning. The research involved providing 23 upper elementary and middle school d/hh students with SIWI. SIWI has been shown to have a significant impact on student outcomes in language and literacy. The study was conducted in five classrooms—one fourth, two fifth, and two sixth grade classrooms—over a twelve-week period at a state residential school for the deaf. This allowed for two weeks of pre-test, mid-test and post-test administration, five weeks of regular instruction, and five weeks of intervention. The students received SIWI for four forty-five minute sessions and one thirty-minute session each week for a total of five weeks. The intervention replaced their regular 45 minutes of writing instruction. In order to measure expressive language growth in ASL, language samples for each student participant were collected. These samples were analyzed to chart expressive language growth during the time period with no SIWI intervention and while engaged in SIWI by reviewing them for students’ mean length of utterance (MLU), use of unintelligible utterances, and specific grammatical features of ASL, and individually for patterns of ASL expressive language growth. Repeated measures ANOVAs (within and between subjects) conducted for students’ MLU and unintelligible utterances revealed statistically significant growth after five weeks of SIWI. This study demonstrates the reciprocity of language learning. The foregrounding of written English supported the development of a more nuanced understanding of the use and features of ASL.
  • Wolbers, K. (2010). Using ASL and print-based sign to build fluency and greater independence with written English among deaf students. L1-Educational Studies in Language and Literature, 10(1), 99-125. – Article LinkManuscript
    • This study investigated the use of ASL and print-based sign in the development of English writing fluency and writing independence among deaf, middle school students. ASL was the primary language through which students engaged in higher-level thinking, problem solving and meaning making. Print-based sign was used for rereading the collaboratively constructed English text. Mixed method approaches were utilized. First, a pretest-posttest control group design investigated whether students receiving the instruction made significantly greater gains compared to non-receivers with length of text—one indicator of writing fluency. There were a total of 33 students, 16 in the treatment group and 17 in the comparison group. The intervention lasted a total of 8 weeks, during which the treatment teacher guided the collaborative construction of two English report papers. The comparison group continued with its usual writing instruction and had equal instructional time. The analysis of variance (ANOVA) for length was statistically significant with a large effect size (d=1.53). Additionally, qualitative data demonstrated ways in which three very different classes in the treatment group gained greater English competency and fluency. Further development of ASL as L1 was deemed a necessary component for students with language delays. All students exhibited progressively more independence with writing over time.
  • Wolbers, K. & Dostal, H. (2010). Interventions for the deaf and language delayed. In R. Allington & A. McGill-Franzen (Eds.), Handbook of reading disabilities research (pp. 392-406). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.
    • This chapter provides a synthesis of previous literacy research with deaf students, and it suggests a number of future directions. Much attention throughout the chapter is given to one subpopulation of deaf students—those with severe to profound losses who are less likely to develop oral language skills and who encounter unique barriers to reading and writing development when compared to their hearing or hard of hearing peers. There is a need for specialized literacy instruction of the deaf in order to be responsive to the specific language and literacy challenges they encounter. Two main areas are discussed in this chapter: (1) the occurrence of delays in development of expressive language and (2) the effect of having a visually and spatially-based language as one’s primary mode of communication. Instructional interventions that address these specific challenges and attempt to positively impact reading or writing in English are highlighted throughout.
  • Wolbers, K. (2008a). Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI): Apprenticing deaf students in the construction of English text. ITL International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 156,299-326.doi:10.2143/ITL.156.0.2034441 – Article Link
    • This study investigates the effects of using Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI) with deaf, middle school students who use American Sign Language as their L1 and written English as L2. Using a pretest-posttest control group design, the research explores whether students receiving SIWI made significantly greater gains compared to those not receiving SIWI on a number of variables. There are 33 total students, 16 in the treatment group and 17 in the comparison group. The intervention lasted a total of 8 weeks, during which time the treatment group collaboratively constructed two report papers using SIWI components, and the comparison group continued with their typical literacy instruction. The pre and posttest measures were scored, according to rubrics, for evidence of primary traits, contextual language, and conventions. The multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and follow-up univariate analyses were statistically significant. Furthermore, effect sizes (d) were large to very large, ranging from 1.27 to 2.65, indicating SIWI to be an effective approach with deaf L2 writers.
  • Wolbers, K. (2008b). Using balanced and interactive writing instruction to improve the higher order and lower order writing skills of deaf students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 13(2), 255-277. doi:10.1093/deafed/enm052 – Article Link
    • The current study reports the findings of balanced and interactive writing instruction used with 16 deaf and hard of hearing students. Although the instruction has been used previously, this was the first time it had been modified to suit the specific needs of deaf children and the first time it had been implemented with this subpopulation of students. The intervention took place in two elementary classrooms (N=8) and one middle school classroom (N=8) for a total of 21 days. A comparison of pre and posttest scores on both writing and reading measures evidenced that students made significant gains with use of genre-specific traits, use of contextual language, editing/revising skills, and word identification. Students showed neither gains nor losses with conventions and total word count. In addition, a one-way MANOVA was used to detect any school-level effects. Elementary students made significantly greater gains with respect to conventions and word identification, and middle school students made significantly greater gains with editing and revising tasks.
  • Wolbers, K. & Miller, J. (2008). Adapted for deaf students, “Morning Message” helps build writing skills. Odyssey, 9(1), 42-45.
  • Wolbers, K. (2007). Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI): Apprenticing deaf students in the construction of informative text. (Doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University, 2007). Dissertation Abstracts International, 68(09A), 3708.
    • The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of writing instruction that was strategic and interactive, namely Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI), when utilized with deaf, middle school students. In addition to strategic and interactive instruction, four minor instructional components included: (a) use of writing examples and non-examples; (b) metalinguistic knowledge building; (c) use of visual scaffolds; and (d) NIP-it lessons (i.e., contextualized mini-lessons involving Noticing, Instructing, and Practicing). The study used a non-equivalent, pretest-posttest control group design to explore whether students receiving SIWI made significantly greater gains compared to those not receiving SIWI on a number of writing variables and reading. The participants of the study were two teachers of the deaf and their respective middle school students. There were 33 total students, 16 in the treatment group and 17 in the comparison group. Students, teachers and schools were matched according to several pertinent variables. The SIWI intervention lasted a total of 8 weeks, during which the treatment teacher guided the collaborative construction of two informative papers; the comparison group continued with their usual literacy instruction. All students were given a battery of assessments prior to and after the intervention to evaluate any gains. These measures included (a) an informative writing assessment, (b) an editing and revising task, (c) a generalization writing probe similar to a 7th grade state standardized assessment, and (d) a SORT-R reading test. The first three measures were scored, according to rubrics, for organization, coherence, evidence of text structure, contextual language, and conventions. A second rater scored approximately 10 to 20% of the papers and obtained an interrater reliability of 0.93 to 1.0. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was performed along with the necessary follow-up univariate analyses. All analyses were statistically significant, finding SIWI to be an effective instructional approach. Furthermore, the effect sizes (d) or the magnitude of the differences between group means for writing variables were large to very large, ranging from 1.27 to 2.65. The effect size for the reading variable was small to moderate at 0.39.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.