A Closer Look

Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD)

Self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) is a trans-theoretical teaching approach that was first developed by Karen Harris and Steve Graham nearly 40 years ago. They designed the approach to fill a gap in writing instruction for students with disabilities. It can be used with individuals, in small groups, and classwide with students in grades two through twelve. SRSD integrates multiple effective instructional components with self-regulatory processes to empower students as learners. SRSD is similar to positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) in that it is a teaching framework rather than a teaching product (nothing to sell here). It is comprised of six interconnected and iterative stages (Harris, Graham, Mason, & Frielander, 2008):

  1. Develop and activate background knowledge
  2. Discuss skill and strategies
  3. Model skill and strategies
  4. Memorize strategies
  5. Guided practice of skill and strategies
  6. Independent practice

The What Works Clearinghouse ([WWC] 2017) has reviewed nine studies that met the methodological parameters of the Institute of Education Sciences Students with a Specific Learning Disability review protocol with reservations. Eighty-eight percent of the experiments showed positive results, while none of the studies yielded negative results. A link to the WWC review is provided in the references section.

While the WWC review is useful, it does not fully encompass the breadth of research that has been conducted with SRSD. SRSD has been used with general education students, students with autism, students with learning disabilities, and students with emotional disabilities (Asaro-Saddler, 2016; Garwood, 2018; Graham, McKeown, Kiuhara, & Harris, 2012; Losinski, Cuenca-Carlino, Zablocki, & Teagarden, 2014). Further, SRSD has been used to improve students written expression, reading comprehension, math fractional skills, and self-advocacy (Cuenca-Carlino, Freeman-Green, Stephenson, & Hauth, 2016; Cuenca-Carlino, Mustian, Allen, & Whitley, 2018; Garwood, 2018; Mason, 2004; Mason, 2013; Mason, Davidson, Schaffner, Hammer, Miller, & Glutting, 2013; Mason, Snyder Hickey, Sukhram, & Kedem, 2006; Sanders, Ennis, & Losinski, 2018).

In keeping with the framework versus product concept, there are online resources that freely offer SRSD resources. ThinkSRSD.com offers a host of resources for educational personnel who are seek information concerning the theory of SRD, the components of effective writing instruction, and a repository of seminal and current SRSD research. Perhaps most helpful to teachers and interventionists nervous about embarking on SRSD instruction, ThinkSRSD.com also offers pre-constructed assessments, graphic organizers, mnemonics, graphs, and self-regulatory strategies/plans that may be implemented or used as exemplars for instructor-constructed materials. ThinkSRSD.com and another website, SRSDonline.org, offer free and for pay video models of SRSD implementation and training modules. Both sites offer valuable resources to support educators in implementing the SRSD framework with fidelity.


Asaro-Saddler, K. (2016). Writing instruction and self-regulation for students with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review of literature. Topics in Language Disorders, 36, 266-283. doi: 10.1097/TLD.0000000000000093

Cuenca-Carlino, Y., Freeman-Green, S., Stephenson, G. W., & Hauth, C. (2016). Self-regulated strategy development instruction for teaching multi-step equations to middle school students struggling in math. The Journal of Special Education, 50, 75-85.

doi: 10.1177/0022466915622021

Cuenca-Carlino, Y., Mustian, A. L., Allen, R. D., & Whitley, S. F. (2018). Writing for my future: Transition-focused self-advocacy of secondary students with emotional/behavioral disorders. Remedial and Special Education, in press. doi: 10.1177/0741932517751212

Garwood, J. D. (2018). Literacy interventions for secondary students formally identified with emotional and behavioral disorders: Trends and gaps in the research. Journal of Behavioral Education, 27, 23-52. doi: 10.1007/s10864-017-9278-3

Graham, S., McKeown, D, Kiuhara, S., & Harris, K. R. (2012). A meta-analysis of writing instruction for students in the elementary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 879-896. doi: 10.1037/a0029185

Harris, K. R., Graham, S., Mason, L. H., & Friedland, B. (2008). Powerful writing strategies for all students. Baltimore, M.D.: Brookes.

Losinski, M., Cuenca-Carlino, Y., Zablocki, M., & Teagarden, J. (2014). Examining the efficacy of self-regulated strategy development for students with emotional or behavioral disorders: A meta-analysis. Behavioral Disorders, 40, 52-67. doi: 10.17988/0198-7429-40.1.52

Mason, L. H. (2004). Explicit self-regulated strategy development versus reciprocal questioning: Effects on expository reading comprehension among struggling readers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 283-296. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.96.2.283

Mason, L. H. (2013). Teaching students who struggle with learning to think before, while, and after reading: Effects of self-regulated strategy development instruction. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 29, 124-144. doi:10.1080/0573569.2013.758561 

Mason, L. H., Davidson, M. D., Scheffner Hammer, C., Miller, C. A., & Glutting, J. J. (2013). Knowledge, writing, and language outcomes for a reading comprehension and writing intervention. Reading and Writing: An International Journal, 26, 1133-1158. doi: 10.1007/s11145-012-9409-0

Mason, L. H., Snyder Hickey, K. Sukhram, D. P., & Kedem, Y. (2006). TWA+PLANS strategies for expository reading and writing: Effects for nine fourth-grade students. Exceptional Children, 73, 69-89. doi:10.1177/001440290607300104

Sanders, S., Ennis, R. P., & Losinski, M. (2018). Effects of TWA on science text comprehension of students with emotional and behavior disorders in a special day school. Education and Treatment of Children, 41, 483-506.

About the Author

Samuel Whitley, School Psychologist
Samuel Whitley is a practicing school psychologist. He has worked in a large urban EC-12 school district in Central Illinois for eleven years. He is also currently a doctoral candidate in the special education program at Illinois State University where he has also taught undergraduate courses pertaining to special education assessment and IEP development, as well as universal and individualized behavioral supports and interventions. His current research interests include disproportionality, psychometrics, and self-regulated strategy development.