Effectiveness of toys as an enhancement to instruction in explanation for students with learning disabilities
Cohen, Nicole Amanda
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Students with language-based learning disabilities demonstrate learning challenges that must be addressed to enable them to succeed academically. Some of these students have difficulty with the process of organizing their thoughts about information acquired and expressing them in the form of an explanation, both of which are critical to effective learning and the demonstration of learning. Graham's (1990) research reveals that these students use simplified approaches to the task of explanation, illustrating this challenge. This study was designed to analyze the effectiveness of an instructional approach to teach students to give an oral explanation. It utilized a toy to facilitate organization of the students' thinking, potentially aiding in their oral expression of a complete and coherent explanation, and possibly increasing their level of engagement, another area of learning that is also often challenging to these students (Mathinos & Wypych, 1988). The intervention used was based on Self-Regulated Strategy Development, an instructional approach that combines strategy instruction with self-management procedures (Graham & Harris, 1996), and a toy used as a manipulative that was projected to: (a) serve as an analogy to the chronology, completeness, and coherence of an explanation, and (b) increase engagement in the task. This intervention was an application of Universal Design for Learning principles, which was the overarching conceptual framework to this research, that has been found effective to enhance student learning (Rose & Meyer, 2002). A single-subject multiple baseline design was used to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach with four middle school students with learning disabilities, all of whom were selected because of their difficulty with the process of explanation. Measures were taken on baseline levels of engagement and quality of oral explanation with instruction alone, and then with instruction and a toy as an enhancement to instruction. Results revealed that participating students' oral explanation scores increased slightly from baseline to Intervention 1 (Instruction) to Intervention 2 (Instruction review and toy use). While scores increased slightly from Baseline to Intervention 1 (Instruction), the subsequent increase from Intervention 1 to Intervention 2 (with the manipulative toy), was greater. Additionally, when considering student engagement data, for all but one student, the manipulative toy kept students highly engaged in both Intervention phases. This study suggests that the use of a manipulative toy in instruction improved students' learning. It also provides evidence that there is potential for the structured use of manipulative toys as augments to instruction more generally. These results have direct implications for practice in the area of curriculum design for students with learning disabilities.
Thesis (Ed.D.)--Boston University