Award Date

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational & Clinical Studies

First Committee Member

Joseph Morgan

Second Committee Member

Tiberio Garza

Third Committee Member

Tracy Spies

Fourth Committee Member

Kyle Higgins

Fifth Committee Member

Erin Hannon

Number of Pages



Writing is a difficult task for most students. Only 27% of all students in America can write proficiently at or above grade level (U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, 2012). With the recent adoption of rigorous standards (i.e., Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards), secondary students are required to engage in increasingly more expository writing tasks, a difficult challenge for students with high-incidence disabilities and English learners.

During the instruction process, teachers may model an example to show students how experts approach a task, typically in a sequence of beginning, middle, and ending steps. This intervention applied reverse engineering theory to the modelling step of paragraph writing instruction. The link between the prewriting and drafting steps of the expository paragraph writing process was explicitly taught in a backward sequence. The intervention consisted of nine 30-minute lessons implemented over a period of three weeks. Participants were 42 students in three middle school resource classrooms in a large urban school district in the southwestern United States. Each school was assigned randomly to one of three groups: reverse sequence modeling with a graphic organizer, reverse sequence modeling with a systematic letter-labeled graphic organizer, and typical resource classroom instruction. Students participated in pre-, mid-, and post-intervention assessments to determine if their knowledge and application of paragraph writing skills improved expository paragraph writing quality.

Results indicate there was not a statistically significant difference between the intervention groups. However, findings indicate practical significance. Students with high-incidence disabilities and English learner scores increased during the three-week intervention with medium to large effect sizes. Responses from social validity measures indicate teachers will change their instruction modeling procedures as a result of participating in the study.


English Learners; Expository Paragraph; Mild to Moderate Disabilities; Paragraph Writing; Reverse Engineering


Special Education and Teaching

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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