Reading and Writing Education Research

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Texas A&M University Project Abstract
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Current information about this program can be found under the Education Research program.

Principal Investigator: Jorge E. Gonzalez
RFA Goal: Development Project
Title: Project Words of Oral Reading and Language Development (WORLD)

Purpose: During the preschool years, children develop language skills that influence their long-term ability to read with comprehension. We know that children start school with different levels of language skills, and that those entry-level skills are correlated with long-term performance. However, there are few interventions that specifically target developing comprehension skills among preschool children. The purpose of this project is to find evidence of the effectiveness of a preschool curriculum designed to bridge the vocabulary and comprehension gap that exists for many disadvantaged children. The curriculum integrates preschool and home learning, narrative and informational text, and word and world knowledge. At the conclusion of this project, the investigators will have a fully developed intervention (Words of Oral Reading and Language Development) and evidence of its effectiveness.

Setting: Two public preschool sites in a small city in central Texas are participating.

Population: Three groups are involved in this project: teacher/researchers who are piloting, field testing, and providing input on the feasibility and effectiveness of the program; preschool children from low-income and diverse linguistic groups; and parents of participating children. The research team is working with 10 teachers, each of whom teaches two half-day sessions. Twenty preschool classes are participating, with approximately 22 students per classroom for a total of 440 participating preschool students. These students are overwhelmingly considered economically disadvantaged (60 percent) with a large percentage being Hispanic (38 percent).

Intervention: The new preschool curricular intervention being developed is entitled Project WORLD (Words of Oral Reading and Language Development). Project WORLD is a vocabulary and knowledge-building curriculum delivered in the context of story read-alouds. The curriculum is organized around thematic units that support the development of world knowledge. Eight vocabulary words are targeted for instruction each week. Finally, students are exposed to both narrative and informational text and are taught about the differences and similarities between text structures.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers are using a design experiment in Year 1 to systematically develop and formatively refine the intervention through observations and analysis. In Years 2 and 3, in order to determine the potential effectiveness of this novel instructional approach, the 10 participating preschool teachers, each of whom teaches two classes, are being randomly assigned to experimental and comparison conditions for a total of 10 experimental and 10 comparison classes. In Year 2, 5 of the experimental classes are being randomly assigned to include parent participation in a home-based shared book-reading curriculum.

In Year 2, the researchers are creating a Spanish version of the curriculum. A study to obtain preliminary evidence of the effectiveness of the Spanish version is planned for Year 3.

Finally, a refined version of the English-language curriculum is being evaluated.

Comparison Condition: In both conditions, shared book reading occurs for 20 minutes per day, 5 days per week, for the entire school year. Shared book reading in the comparison classrooms is implemented in the context of their standard curriculum.

Key Measures: A series of oral language and emergent literacy assessments are being administered. Observational data are being collected in order to assess implementation fidelity and to describe literacy activities seen in comparison classrooms. Finally, observational and self-report data are being collected from parents in order to describe how parents are implementing the shared book reading at home and to describe the literacy environment of the preschoolers’ homes.

Data Analytic Strategy: Both qualitative and quantitative analyses will be used throughout the study. Analytic procedures will focus on differences between students in the intervention and comparison groups, and on identifying students for whom the intervention is most successful. Analysis of covariance and repeated measures analysis of variance will be the primary procedures used to examine group differences. This development project is intended only to obtain evidence of the potential effectiveness of the intervention; the study is under-powered for analysis at the unit of random assignment (teacher and classroom) and will be analyzed at the level of the student. Qualitative data will be analyzed to provide measures of teacher change and fidelity of implementation.

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Last Modified: 11/30/2006