A dynamic systems approach to writing assessment with students with language learning problems

Elaine R. Silliman, Tiffany L. Jimerson, Louise C. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Speech-language pathologists have not typically included writing as part of instructional or intervention goals. This omission may be related to the sparse research data on writing development in children with a language learning disability (LLD). Like reading and spelling, writing results from complex interactions among the linguistic and discourse system and changes over time from an oral style of communication to a more literate style. One purpose of this article is to describe individual differences in the phases of writing development, drawing on examples from students who are typically developing, and those with an LLD. Special emphasis is given to the diffrentiation of audience and syntactic choices during the school-age years as critical elements in communicating the "writer's voice." Using an illustrative case study of a 10-year-old, the second purpose is to demonstrate how school-based writing samples can serve as a dynamic tool for analysis of interactions among the linguistic and discourse systems. The multiple levels addressed include genre knowledge, concept of audience, clausal and nonclausal complexity, spelling, and punctuation. A major assesment issue is whether the writing problems of individual students stem from an unrecognized LLD, instructional inadequacies, or both factors. Suggestions are offered for better meeting individual needs through combining explicit strategy instruction for composing and self-regulation with explicit linguistic strategies that enhance semantic and syntactic options in writing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-64
Number of pages20
JournalTopics in Language Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Audience differentiation
  • Language learning disabilities
  • Spelling
  • Syntactic differentiation
  • Writing development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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