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UDL Guidelines - Version 2.0: Research Evidence

Checkpoint 5.2: Use multiple tools for construction and composition

II. Provide Multiple Means of Action and Expression

Expression and Communication


Many students have difficulties mastering the basic tools for communication and problem solving that are most commonly used in classrooms: pencils, pens, paintbrushes, chalk, rulers, and so forth.  The difficulties are not limited to the physical use of these tools but to their skillful incorporation into communication and expression. The experimental studies included below examine the utility of providing the more flexible, and more contemporary, options that should be available in 21st century classrooms and workplaces: word processors that include spellcheckers and grammar checkers, calculators, word prediction programs, speech recognition software, etc.  This research examines the utility of these options for students who struggle with fluent expression - e.g. language-based learning disabilities, executive function disorders – and for typically achieving students as well. The scholarly reviews and opinion pieces explore many of the same tools for expression as listed in the experimental studies; however, the scholarly reviews and opinion pieces provide more classroom-based perspectives on providing options in the tools available to students.

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Experimental and Quantitative Evidence:

Bridgeman, B., Harvey, A., & Braswell, J. (1995). Effects of calculator use on scores on a test of mathematical reasoning. Journal of Educational Measurement, 32(4), 323-340.

Center for Implementing Technology in Education. K-12 calculator technology. Retrieved July 16, 2009, from

Crealock, C., & Sitko, M. (1990). Comparison between computer and handwriting technologies in writing training with learning disabled students. International Journal of Special Education, 5(2), 173-183.

Dalton, D. W., & Hannafin, M. J. (1987). The effects of word processing on written composition. Journal of Educational Research, 80(6), 338-342.

Dalton, B. D., Herbert, M., & Deysher, S. (2003, December). Scaffolding students’ response to digital literature with embedded strategy supports: The role of audio-recording vs. writing student response options. Paper presented at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the National Reading Conference, Scottsdale, AZ.

Ellington, A. J. (2003). A meta-analysis of the effects of calculators on students’ achievement and attitude levels in precollege mathematics classes. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 34(5), 433-463.

Figueredo, L., & Varnhagen, C. K. (2006). Spelling and grammar checkers: Are they intrusive? British Journal of Educational Technology, 37(5), 721-732.

Geoffrion, L. D. (1982). The feasibility of word processing for students with writing handicaps. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 11(3), 239-250.

Gerlach, G. J. (1991). Using an electronic speller to correct misspelled words and verify correctly spelled words. Reading Improvement, 28(3), 188-194.

Gersten, R., & Baker, S. (2001). Teaching expressive writing to students with learning disabilities: A meta-analysis. The Elementary School Journal, 97(5), 475-500.

Goldberg, A., Russell, M., & Cook, A. (2003). The effect of computers on student writing: A meta-analysis of studies from 1992 to 2002. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 2(1), 1-24.

Graham, A. T., & Thomas, M. O. J. (2000). Building a versatile understanding of algebraic variables with a graphic calculator. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 41(3), 265-282.

Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). A meta-analysis of writing instruction for adolescent students. Journal Educational Psychology, 99(3), 445-476.

Graham, T., & Smith, P. (2004). An investigation into the use of graphics calculators with pupils in key stage 2. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 35(2), 227-237.

Gupta, R. (1998). Can spelling checkers help the novice writer? British Journal of Educational Technology, 29(3), 255-266.

Hembree, R., & Dessart, D. J. (1986). Effects of hand-held calculators in precollege mathematics education: A meta-analysis. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 17(2), 83-99.

Hetzroni, O. E., & Shrieber, B. (2004). Word processing as an assistive technology tool for enhancing academic outcomes of students with writing disabilities in the general classroom. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37(2), 143-154.

Higgins, E. L., & Raskind, M. H. (1995). Compensatory effectiveness of speech recognition on the written composition performance of postsecondary students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 18(2), 159-174.

Innes Helsel, F.K., Hitchcock, J.H., Miller, G., Malinow, A., Murray, E., & the Center for Implementing Technology in Education. (2006, April). Identifying evidence-based, promising and emerging practices that use screen-based and calculator technology to teach mathematics in grades K-12: A research synthesis. Paper presented for the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.  Retrieved July 16, 2009, from

Jones, I. (1994). The effect of a word processor on the written composition of second-grade pupils. Computers in the Schools, 11(2), 43-54.

Joram, E. (1992). The effects of revising with a word processor on written composition. Research in the Teaching of English, 26(2), 167-193.

Kurth, R. J. (1987). Using word processing to enhance revision strategies during student writing activities. Educational Technology, 27(1), 13-19.

Lange, A. A., McPhillips, M., Mulhern, G., & Wylie, J. (2006). Assistive software tools for secondary-level students with literacy difficulties. Journal of Special Education Technology, 21(3), 13-22.

Langone, J. (1996). The differential effects of a typing tutor and microcomputer-based word processing on the writing samples of elementary students with behavior disorders. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 29(2), 141-158.

Lewis, R. B., Ashton, T. M., Haapa, B., Kieley, C. L., & Fielden, C. (1999). Improving the writing skills of students with learning disabilities: Are word processors with spelling and grammar checkers useful? Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 9(3), 87-98.

Lewis, R. B., Graves, A. W., Ashton, T. M., & Kieley, C. L. (1998). Word processing tools for students with learning disabilities: A comparison of strategies to increase text entry speed. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 13(2), 95-108.

MacArthur, C. A. (1996). Spelling checkers and students with learning disabilities: Performance comparisons and impact on spelling. Journal of Special Education, 30(1), 35-57.

MacArthur, C. A. (1998). Word processing with speech synthesis and word prediction: Effects on the dialogue journal writing of students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 21(2), 151-166.

MacArthur, C. A. (1999). Word prediction for students with severe spelling problems. Learning Disability Quarterly, 22(3), 158-172.

MacArthur, C. A., Ferretti, R. P., Okolo, C. M., & Cavalier, A. R. (2001). Technology applications for students with literacy problems: A critical review. The Elementary School Journal, 101(3), 273-301.

McNamara, D. S. (1995). Effects of prior knowledge on the generation advantage: Calculators versus calculation to learn simple multiplication. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87(2), 307-318.

McNaughton, D. (1997). Proofreading for students with learning disabilities: Integrating computer and strategy use. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 12(1), 16-28.

Morocco, C. C., Dalton, B., & Tivnan, T. (1992). The impact of computer-supported writing instruction on fourth-grade students with and without learning disabilities. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 8(1), 87-113.

Murray, B., Silver-Pacuilla, H., Innes Helsel, F., & the Center for Implementing Technology in Education. (2007). Improving basic mathematics instruction: Promising technology resources for students with special needs. Technology in Action, 2(5). Retrieved July 16, 2009, from

Orton-Flynn, S., & Richards, C. C. J. (2000). The design and evaluation of an interactive calculator for children. Digital Creativity, 11(4), 205-217.

Owston, R. D. (1992). The effects of word processing on students. Research in the Teaching of English, 26(3), 249-276.

Quesada, A. R., & Maxwell, M. E. (1994). The effects of using graphing calculators to enhance college students' performance in precalculus. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 27(2), 205-215.

Quinlan, T. (2004). Speech recognition technology and students with writing difficulties: Improving fluency. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(2), 337-346.

Raskind, M. H., & Higgins, E. (1995). Effects of speech synthesis on the proofreading efficiency of postsecondary students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 18(2), 141-158.

Roberts, D. M. (1980). The impact of electronic calculators on educational performance. Review of Educational Research, 50(1), 71-98.

Roberts, K. D. (2005). The use of voice recognition software as a compensatory strategy for postsecondary education students receiving services under the category of learning disabled. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 22(1), 49-64.

Rosenbluth, G. S., & Reed, W. M. (1992). The effects of writing-process-based instruction and word processing on remedial and accelerated 11th graders. Computers in Human Behavior, 8(1), 71-95.

Tumlin, J., & Heller, K. W. (2004). Using word prediction software to increase typing fluency with students with physical disabilities. Journal of Special Education Technology, 19(3), 5-14.

Wetzel, K. (1996). Speech-recognizing computers: A written-communication tool for students with learning disabilities? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(4), 371-380.

Wolfe, E. W., Bolton, S., Feltovich, B., & Niday, D. M. (1996). The influence of student experience with word processors on the quality of essays written for a direct writing assessment. Assessing Writing, 3(2), 123-147.

Zhang, Y. (2000). Technology and the writing skills of students with learning disabilities. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 32(4), 467-478.

Scholarly reviews and expert opinions:

Dalton, B., Winbury, N., & Morocco, C. C. (1990). "If you could just push a button": Two fourth grade learning disabled students learn to use a spelling checker. Journal of Special Education Technology, 10(4), 170-191.

Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Larsen, L. (2001). Prevention and intervention of writing difficulties for students with learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 16(2), 74-84.

Huinker, D. A. (2002). Calculators as learning tools for young children. Teaching Children Mathematics, 8(6), 316-321.

Isaacson, S., & Gleason, M. M. (1997). Mechanical obstacles to writing: What can teachers do to help students with learning problems? Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 12(3), 188-194.

Kirschner, P. A., & Erkens, G. (2006). Cognitive tools and mindtools for collaborative learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 35(2), 199-209.

Longo, B., Reiss, D., Selfe, C. L., & Young, A. (2003). The poetics of computers: Composing relationships with technology. Computers & Composition, 20(1), 97-118.

Macarthur, C. (1999). Overcoming barriers to writing: Computer support for basic writing skills. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 15(2), 169-192.

MacArthur, C. A. (1996). Using technology to enhance the writing processes of students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(4), 344-354.

Onosko, J. J., & Jorgenson, C. M. (1998). Unit and lesson planning in the inclusive classroom: Maximizing learning opportunities for all students. In C. M. Jorgenson (Ed.), Restructuring high schools for all students: Taking inclusion to the next level (pp. 71-105). Baltimore, Maryland: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Peterson-Karlan, G. R., Parette, H. P., & Center, S. E. A. T. (2007). Supporting struggling writers using technology: Evidence-based instruction and decision-making. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Technology Innovation.

Quenneville, J. (2001). Tech tools for students with learning disabilities: Infusion into inclusive classrooms. Preventing School Failure, 45(4), 167-170.

Sanderson, A. (1999). Voice recognition software. A panacea for dyslexic learners or a frustrating hindrance? Dyslexia, 5(2), 114-118.

Sitko, M. C., Laine, C. J., & Sitko, C. (2005). Writing tools: Technology and strategies for struggling writers. In D. Edyburn, K. Higgins & R. Boone (Eds.), Handbook of special education technology research and practice (pp. 571-598). Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin: Knowledge by Design.

St John, D., & Lapp, D. A. (2000). Developing numbers and operations with affordable handheld technology. Teaching Children Mathematics, 7(3), 162-164.

Vernon, A. (2000). Computerized grammar checkers 2000: Capabilities, limitations, and pedagogical possibilities. Computers and Composition, 17(3), 329-349.

Williams, S. C. (2002). How speech-feedback and word-prediction software can help students write. Teaching Exceptional Children, 34(3), 72-78.

Last Updated: 02/01/2011

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