SWIM Instructional Cycle

Shared Writing Instructional Model (SWIM)

SWIM is a new approach to writing instruction for students with intellectual disabilities. SWIM is aligned to grade-level content and designed to improve English language arts outcomes to help students meet challenging writing objectives.

Student literacy development is vital for learning other subjects such as science and social studies. SWIM elevates writing instruction for students with intellectual disabilities from basic mechanics to communication and comprehension. When writing instruction focuses more on communication and less on demonstration, every student can write with a purpose.

SWIM Instructional Cycle

As illustrated in the SWIM Instructional Cycle graphic, teachers use the SWIM Cycle to plan, deliver, and evaluate instruction that uses writing as a way students with intellectual disabilities can communicate. Each phase of the cycle includes tools and resources to support teachers in delivering writing instruction as part of a comprehensive approach to literacy. SWIM professional development resources and coaching can support teachers in implementing the SWIM Cycle.


Our Team

Russsell Swinburne Romine

Principal Investigator

Russell Swinburne Romine, PhD, is the associate director of ATLAS and principal investigator of SWIM. He has more than 10 years of experience in large-scale assessments using principles of Evidence-Centered Design and Universal Design for Learning. Swinburne Romine oversees staff who design and deliver operational assessments in English language arts, mathematics, and science. He is involved in grant projects that support all students in achieving grade-level expectations in English language arts, mathematics, science, and writing.

Russell Swinburne Romine's full research profile

Meagan Karvonen

Co-Principal Investigator

Meagan Karvonen, PhD, is the director of ATLAS and co-principal investigator of SWIM. At ATLAS, she oversees the Dynamic Learning Maps® (DLM®) Alternate Assessment System. She has worked in the field of assessments for students with disabilities since 2001. Karvonen has served as PI or co-PI on projects totaling more than $60 million and is currently PI or co-PI on three IES- and OSEP-funded grants. She has co-authored more than 200 articles, book chapters, technical reports, and presentations.

Meagan Karvonen's full research profile

Jonathan Schuster

Research Associate

Jonathan Schuster, PhD, is the English Language Arts (ELA) Research Lead on the Learning Maps team at Accessible Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Systems (ATLAS), a research center at the University of Kansas. He earned his PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Kansas. His research interests include early word processing, the cognitive processes involved in reading comprehension, and psycholinguistics, specifically focusing on reading development.

Jonathan Schuster's full research profile

Ronda Layman

Technical Assistance Provider

Ronda Layman, MEd, is the technical assistance provider for the SWIM project. Layman has more than 30 years of experience working with students with significant and multiple disabilities as a classroom teacher, speech pathologist, and special educator. She is familiar with assistive technology and experienced in state- and district-level programs for teachers of students with significant disabilities. Her experience as a mother to a son with significant cognitive disabilities drives her work in special education.

Emily Thatcher

Research Project Manager

Emily Thatcher is the research project manager for the SWIM project. She has 30 years of experience serving families and students with significant cognitive disabilities. Prior to joining the University of Kansas, Thatcher was with the Iowa Department of Education. She served as the alternate assessment consultant, project lead, and professional development developer for the Significant Disabilities focus area of a state personnel development grant. Thatcher was also the state coordinator for the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard and lead consultant of implementation teams that support educators in delivering high quality specially designed instruction and assessment.

Jennifer Kobrin

Assistant Director of Operational Research

Jennifer Kobrin, EdD, leads and contributes to ATLAS research and development projects. She earned her EdD in educational statistics and measurement from Rutgers University and holds a master’s degree in educational research and evaluation from Boston College. Before joining ATLAS, she was a senior research scientist at Pearson and a research scientist at the College Board. She also spent three years directing institutional effectiveness and assessment offices in higher education. Her research interests include teachers’ data-driven decision making for instructional improvement, assessment development based on cognitive learning models, and assessment validity. She has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, technical reports, and conference papers on a variety of topics in educational measurement and assessment.

Jennifer Kobrin's full research profile

Chelsea Bohnstedt

Research Project Coordinator

Chelsea Bohnstedt is a research project coordinator for the ATLAS professional learning team and the SWIM project. She earned both a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in social work from the University of Kansas and is currently a doctoral student in instructional design at Baker University. Prior to joining ATLAS, Bohnstedt was a special education social worker in K–12 schools.

Deb Adkins

Research Project Director

Deb Adkins, PhD, is a research project director at ATLAS. She leads a cross-functional team and coordinates activities between teams, external partners, and project management. Adkins has more than 20 years of experience in education research and assessment with a focus on early childhood education and innovation in assessment including research, design, and management of innovative prototypes of educational assessments.

Deb Adkins' full research profile