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OVAE: Office of Vocational and Adult Education
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Reading Research Network: Abstracts

Daphne Greenberg, Georgia State University
Research on Reading Instruction for Low Literate Adults

This study focuses on adult learners whose word reading grade equivalence levels range from 3.0 to 5.9. There are three components to the study. The first evaluates the degrees of explicitness necessary to effectively and efficiently teach reading to adult poor readers. Adults will be administered one of five instructional approaches: decoding and fluency; reading comprehension and fluency; decoding, reading comprehension and fluency; extensive reading; decoding, reading comprehension, extensive reading and fluency.

Outcomes of reading measures for individuals in these groups will be compared to each other and to a control group of adult literacy learners who do not receive any of these approaches. All reading instructional approaches will be of equal length (100 hours), similar format, and independently monitored for integrity. For each of the five instructional groups and the control group, 60 students will be evaluated (total n=360). Each sample will be randomly recruited from adult literacy students who enroll in existing adult literacy programs. Both repeated designs and growth curve modeling techniques will be used to evaluate treatment outcomes in relation to individual ability characteristics. The second component of this project is designed to evaluate differential outcomes based on subtype classifications.

Data will be analyzed to identify subtypes of adult literacy learners, and whether these subtypes respond differentially to different instructional approaches. In other words, which instructional approach, or combination of instructional approaches, is effective for the different subtypes of adult poor readers? The third and final component includes fMRI technology. There are two aspects to this component.

The first is to provide a systematic evaluation of the different components of the neural circuitry of adult poor readers compared to adult expert readers. The second aspect is to evaluate whether fMRI may provide a neurobiological index of the impact of instruction on adult learners. In years 3 and 4 of the study, 10 adult expert readers and 10 adult poor readers will undergo fMRI studies of basic reading processes. In addition, the investigators will scan five participants from each of the six groups before they receive instruction and after the 100th hour is completed.

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Susan Levy, University of Illinois
Testing Impact of Health Literacy in Adult Literacy and Integrated Family Approach Programs

This research will test the relative merit of the Integrated Family Approach (IFA) Literacy Even Start programs with adults vs. the traditional Adult Literacy (AL) programs. In addition, the research design and theoretically directed health literacy curriculum will enhance both literacy and health literacy outcomes in Illinois participants. Fundamental gaps exist in the scientific literature regarding the relative merit of IFA vs. AL programs.

This study will address key issues in the literature, empirically testing the IFA and AL approaches using a randomized study design selected from 53 sites in Illinois. Separate but content equivalent health literacy curricula will be developed and tested under the AL and IFA conditions for both English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and native English speakers. Established literacy measures required by the state of Illinois will be used to measure literacy gains. Other measures used will be those developed from curricula based on Theory of Planned Action, Social Cognitive Theory, and process measures of curriculum fidelity and implementation.

Four fundamental assumptions will be tested: (1) the IFA will prove more effective in addressing adult literacy needs than AL programs; (2) adult literacy curricula that include a health literacy component will prove more effective in improving adult literacy than adult literacy curricula that do not include a health literacy component; (3) IFA programs using a health literacy curriculum will be more effective in improving literacy than AL programs using the same curriculum or programs using a standard AL curriculum, and (4) in ESOL programs, the IFA will prove more effective in improving adult literacy than traditional AL programs when using the same health literacy curriculum.

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Daryl Mellard, University of Kansas - Lawrence
Improving Literacy Instruction for Adults

This study proposes to extend the knowledge garnered with younger populations to addressing adults' needs. The goal is to validate instructional interventions appropriate for adults with limited literacy proficiency. The proposal offers a multi-disciplinary, systematic, and programmatic research plan with three aims. First, they will research what component skills for reading are incorporated within common assessments of literacy (CASA, NAAL; and FED). This will aid in the design of effective adult interventions and provide the necessary information to explicate an intervention model linking reading components and interventions to global adult literacy outcomes.

The group has had extensive success in improving children and youth's literacy and more recently in adult education settings. They will adapt their interventions to the adult learner and adult instructional settings. Second, they will select appropriate interventions based on their aim 1 findings, and rigorously test these interventions with adults under well controlled conditions. The investigators are specifically interested in enhancing performance of the component reading skills of word analysis, fluency, and reading comprehension. They predict that these skills will be closely related to gains on adult literacy measure. The final aim addresses the issue of successfully translating research findings into practice in more typical settings. These studies will examine how effective these interventions are on learners' outcomes when the research controls and supports are reduced from what was available in the previous studies.

John Sabatini, Educational Testing Services
Relative Effectiveness of Reading Programs for Adults

In this project four supplemental instructional programs that directly target decoding and fluency will be compared with regard to their effectiveness in improving world-level reading abilities of adult learners. The planned interventions are all adult-appropriate adaptations of programs with demonstrated value for enhancing reading abilities of children with skill levels equivalent to those of low-intermediate adult readers. They vary primarily in the relative emphasis given to the teaching of decoding vs. fluency.

The participants will be drawn from the population of adults who seek assistance at several large adult education centers in two major cities, yielding a sample that will be socioeconomically, ethnically, and linguistically diverse. To examine gains resulting form the interventions, numerous reading skills and related cognitive-linguistic abilities will be assessed before, during, and after the instructional period.

The findings will provide valuable information about what kinds of literacy instruction are most effective for raising the reading abilities of low-intermediate adult readers, how to identify these adults' instructional needs accurately and efficiently by using an appropriate battery of assessments, and how literacy instruction might be tailored to the specific needs of individual adults in the target population.

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Frank Wood, Wake Forest University of the Health Sciences
Young Adult Literacy Problems: Prevalence and Treatment

Functional illiteracy in the young adult population (ages 18-25) is not only a drain on the nation's economic productivity, it is also documented as a major obstacle to adequate health care and a major independent risk factor for depression and suicide. The proposed research has two major phases: (1) determine the prevalence of poor reading skills in the young adult population, and (2) compare treatment regimes for efficacy. The latter is accomplished by a design that will permit the isolation of effective types of instruction in four areas known to be crucial to reading ability in children and suspected to be so in adults: phonological decoding (sound out words), fluency (e.g. automatic "translation" from the letter code to the sound code and ultimately to the meaning), vocabulary, and text comprehension. It is expected that the direct types of instruction will be differentially effective for persons with different skill profiles of strength and weakness.

Charles McArthur, University of Delaware
Judith Alamprese, Abt Associates
Building a Knowledge Base for Teaching Adult Decoding

The purpose of this study is to expand the knowledge base about the design of effective instruction in decoding for adults reading at the low-intermediate level (4th to 7th grade equivalent levels). Adults reading at this level often lack the skills necessary to function well in their daily lives and could benefit from formal reading instruction. A variety of approaches currently are used to teach reading to adults, and this study is examining the efficacy of teaching decoding using structured approaches derived from K-12 instruction and customized for use with adults. During the first two years of the study, we designed and pilot tested instructional methods based on theories about language learning and methods that were developed for K-12 education. Based on the results of these design studies, we developed an enriched and accelerated decoding curriculum that teaches metalinguistic concepts about phonology and orthography, includes both spelling and decoding, applies decoding skills to multisyllabic words from the beginning, and teaches cognitive and metacognitive strategies to support application of new skills in reading. This curriculum is being assessed in an experimental study involving 45 adult reading classes in 23 adult literacy programs in 12 states across the country Sixteen programs were randomly assigned to receive either the enriched curriculum or to continue their existing reading instruction. In addition, seven of the 23 programs were selected because they were already using published decoding curricula; these programs serve as an alternate treatment group. In addition to reading measures, the project is collecting extensive information about the learners, instructors, and the operation of the ABE programs to enable analysis of the relationships among learners’ characteristics, instructional methods, ABE program characteristics and learners’ development of reading skills. The results will contribute to knowledge about effective reading instruction for adult learners with low skills.

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Last Modified: 10/16/2007