2016 Program Grant Winner

Jason Abbitt (Project Leader), Ashley Johnson, Molly Kelly-Elliott, Katherine Mezher, Leah Wasburn-Moses, Sarah Watt, and Michael Woodin

Educational Psychology, Special Education

Writing Activities Across Multiple Courses to Enhance Final Graduate Research Writing Project


This project seeks to develop and implement a sequence of writing activities in multiple courses that will lead to improvements in the quality of writing and overall student success in a graduate research writing project that serves as a final culminating experience and assessment in the Master of Education in Special Education degree program.

The graduate program in Special Education program is a hybrid/online program in which students complete coursework leading to licensure as a K­12 Intervention Specialist as well as a Master of Education degree. This program has evolved since it’s inception in 2005 and is highly structured and shaped by the needs of practicing teachers to pursue advanced studies in Special Education. In order to accommodate the varying schedules of K­12 educators, each course in the program is delivered in a blended format that includes 3 face­to­face class sessions that are held at the beginning, middle, and near the end of the academic term with online coursework during each week between the scheduled class sessions. Most of the students in this program are distant students who travel to the class sessions from outside of Butler county.

As a culminating project in the M.Ed. program, students are required to complete a graduate research writing project. In previous years, students in the program have been required to design and conduct a research project under the mentorship of a faculty advisor. However, the faculty committee that oversees this program has recently approved a revision to the requirements of this project that will structure this project around multiple facets of research and professional writing.

In the revised graduate research writing project, students will be required to complete the following major writing projects while enrolled in EDP 652:

  1. Case Study Responses
    Students will be presented with three case studies and will write a narrative response to a stated objective. Each case study will focus on a unique aspect of special education (e.g. Legal and Ethical perspectives, Behavior Management, Assessment, etc.).
  2. Review of Literature
    Students will select a topic related to evidence­based teaching practices in special education and conduct a systematic review of literature on that topic. Students will produce a written manuscript describing the findings from the systematic review of literature.

This proposed grant project will support the development a sequence of course­based activities that would be implemented in the courses leading up to, and including, EDP 652 in which students focus on completing the graduate research writing project. These activities and projects will serve as scaffolds leading to the final graduate research writing project and will focus specifically on the professional writing skills relevant to each aspect of the revised graduate project.

Potential Impact

This grant project will directly impact the graduate students in the program by implementing the necessary structure to improve the quality of writing on the graduate research writing project. The revision to the graduate research writing project will be implemented in Fall, 2016-­17, thus impacting the students who will be entering the second year of the program at the time as well as future students. Beginning in Spring 2017, the program will be offering an expanded schedule of course offerings, thus we are anticipating growth in the number of M.Ed. candidates and the number of students and faculty who will be impacted are estimated as follows:


  • ~40 graduate students
  • 6­8 faculty research advisors

2017­-18 and beyond:

  • ~40­60 graduate students per year
  • 10­12 research advisors per year

Project Objectives

A primary objective of this grant project is to create a system for scaffolding and formative assessment of students’ writing skills prior to the time at which student begin the graduate research writing project. This will be accomplished by collaboratively developing a cohesive sequence of course­based writing activities/projects that will be implemented in the courses that precede or coincide with the final course (EDP 652) in which students complete the revised graduate research writing project. The course­based writing activities will model one or more components of the revised graduate research writing project in order to provide students an opportunity to practice and further improve their writing skills order prior to the start of the revised graduate research writing project. Multiple courses will integrate a writing project that is similar to a part of the graduate research writing project and the quality of student will be evaluated in order to provide feedback and intervention as needed. This will also provide the opportunity for students to better understand the individual components of the graduate research writing project in advance of the course in which they begin that project.

Project Plan

Traditionally, course development is often an isolated process whereby a faculty member develops course activities that seek to promote student achievement of learning objectives. In this proposed grant project, however, collaboration among the faculty team is essential to the goal of produce a cohesive sequence of course activities and projects across multiple courses. As such, the project plan focuses on facilitating collaboration among the faculty team and the Howe Writing Center staff while focusing on creating new course activities that model components of the final graduate research writing project.

Through a series of structured collaborative faculty work sessions, the project team will work to further refine to graduate research writing project and to collaboratively develop a series of scaffolding activities to be implemented in the courses that lead up to this final project.

Possible Scaffolding Activities for Courses

A discussion of scaffolding activities has already begun within the faculty team engaged in this project. The following table lists the major points of a preliminary discussion regarding how course activities may be developed to serve a scaffolds for the graduate research writing project. This lists provides a starting point for the collaborative work that would be supported by this proposed project. It is anticipated that this initial draft will be refined during a consultation with the Howe Writing Center staff during the faculty work session, Day 1.

(originally presented in table; reformatted for web)

Graduate Research Writing Project Components

Part 1: Case Study Responses; Part 2: Review of Literature

  • EDP 667
    • (Part 1) New Activity: Describing quantitative assessment data
    • (Part 2) New Activity: Summarizing results of quantitative research studies in narrative form
  • EDP 601
    • (Part 1) To Be Determined
    • (Part 2) Revise Current Activity: Critique of Evidence-­Based practices
  • EDP 651
    • (Part 1) To Be Determined
    • (Part 2) Revise Current Activity: course final project to serve as model for Literature Review of evidence­based practice in special education (part 2 of revised graduate research writing project)
  • EDP 652
    • (Part 1) Panel discussion of professional writing skills and examples of high-­quality writing
    • (Part 2) To Be Determined
  • Other Courses TBD
    • (Part 1) Develop Case Study Examples related to Special Education topics
    • (Part 2) To Be Determined

The proposed project will facilitate the development of course writing activities through three phases:

(originally presented in table; reformatted for web)

Project Phase 1: Collaborative design and development of sequential course projects

  • Expected Outcomes: Project Assessment goals, Draft course activities, Draft Assessment rubrics
  • Time Frame: Faculty Work session, Day 1

Project Phase 2: Coordination of support resources and assessment planning

  • Expected Outcomes: Finalized course activities, Finalized assessment rubrics, Draft Implementation Plan
  • Time Frame: Faculty Work Session, Day 2

Project Phase 3: Course Implementation

  • Expected Outcomes: Develop online course elements, Establish program outcomes measures in Canvas, Link course activity rubrics to Outcomes in Canvas, Distribute evaluation surveys
  • Time Frame: Fall Semester
Work Sessions

Project team members will be expected to participate in two full­day collaborative work sessions during the summer in order to design and develop the course activities and support resources necessary for implementation beginning in the fall semester of the 2016­-17 academic year. The collaborative faculty work days will be scheduled at least 1­ week apart in order to allow team members to gather resources and refine work products between the two sessions. Below is a draft general agenda for each of the two faculty work sessions.

  • Day 1: Design and Development
    • Morning:
      • Large Group: Define Assessment goals for graduate research writing project
      • Large Group: Brainstorm ideas for course activities and projects
      • Small Group: Develop outline of course activities
    • Afternoon:
      • Workshop with Howe Center Staff focus on developing writing activities
      • Small Group: Refine course activities and develop draft rubric
      • Day 1 Debrief and product sharing
  • Between Day 1 and Day 2
    • Review draft course activities
    • Gather support resources
  • Day 2: Coordinating Support Resources and Assessment Planning
    • Morning:
      • Rubric discussion and development
      • Meet with Howe consultants for distance students
    • Afternoon:
      • Small Group work on assessments
      • Final debrief
Course Implementation

During the course implementation, it will be necessary to integrate the newly developed course activities into the online course materials for each of the targeted courses.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment of this project will provide insight into the impact of the newly developed writing activities. The assessment plan will seek to inform the continued improvement of the course­based writing projects following the initial implementation.

Assessment Plan, Part 1: Impact of Writing Projects

One aspect of the assessment plan will seek to determine the degree to which to which the course­based activities impact the performance on the final graduate research writing project.

Under the current plan, the course activities will be scored using a rubric that is also aligned with the rubric for the final graduate research writing project. As such, these rubric ratings will be used to monitor the quality of writing during the course­based writing activities as well as final stage when students submit the final graduate research writing project.

Assessment Plan, Part 2: Quality of Support Resources

The support resources available to the students are an essential component in the success of distance students, thus it is necessary to determine the ways in which these resources contribute to the quality of both the course­based writing activities as well as the final graduate research writing project. Using a combination of survey methodology and monitoring digital resource usage, the assessment of this project will seek to determine: (1) frequency of use of key support resources, (2) perceptions of the quality of support resources available, (3) existing gaps in available support resources.

Although some support resources will be identified during each of the two faculty work days, those that are known at this time are:

  • Online course materials
  • Writing tutorials from 3rd party sources (e.g. Atomic Learning, APA, Online Writing Lab @ Purdue, etc.)
  • Online Consultation services from Howe Writing Center.

Team Members

  • Jason Abbitt, Associate Professor (Project Leader)
  • Ashley Johnson, Clinical Faculty
  • Molly Kelly­-Elliott, Clinical Faculty
  • Katherine Mezher, Visiting Assistant Professor
  • Leah Wasburn­-Moses, Professor
  • Sarah Watt, Assistant Professor
  • Michael Woodin, Clinical Faculty


(originally presented in table; reformatted for web)

  • Summer 2016
    • June­ July (Scheduled according to faculty availability):
    • Work Session, Day 1
    • Work Session, Day 2
  • Fall 2016-­17
    • Course Implementation in EDP 667, EDP 651
  • Winter 2016-­17
    • Course Implementation in EDP 601, EDP 652
  • Spring 2016­-17
    • Scoring graduate research writing projects
    • Review project evaluation data from Canvas Outcomes report and graduate research writing project scores.
    • Develop recommendations for future revisions as needed.


(originally presented in table; reformatted for web)

  • Compensation for time
    • Work day 1 + follow-up tasks, $250 per team member (x7) = $1750
    • Work day 2 + follow­-up tasks, $250 per team member (x7) = $1750
    • Course Implementation, $250 per instructor (up to 4 courses/instructors) = $1000
    • Project planning, evaluation, $250 for project leader = $250
  • Misc.
    • Lunch for work days, $100 x 2 days = $200
  • Total: $4950