Reading and Writing Education Research

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Vanderbilt University Project Abstract
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Current information about this program can be found under the Education Research program.

Principal Investigator: Donald Compton
RFA Goal: Development Project
Title: Evaluating a Multi-component Reading Program Designed to Address the Diverse Needs of Struggling Readers in Late Elementary School

Purpose: Although a central task of students in upper elementary school is to learn from what they read, national evaluations consistently demonstrate that approximately one-third of fourth graders do not easily make sense of what they read. There are many reasons for this, and any intervention designed to work with these children must be multi-pronged. The purpose of this project is to develop a multi-component reading program to address the diverse needs of late elementary school students who are struggling readers. The research team is developing instructional dialogues, strategies, and materials that increase the probability that struggling readers derive and retain vocabulary and knowledge while reading text, especially science and social studies texts. At the completion of the project, this team will have initial effectiveness data on the proposed multi-component instructional program. These instructional procedures will be easily adapted for use with any expository text and used effectively across both general and remedial programs.

Setting: This project will take place in the greater Nashville metropolitan area. Students in the Nashville school district are 37 percent white, 42 percent African American, 18 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent other. Half of the elementary schools in this district are Title I.

Population: About 216 third- to fifth-grade struggling readers are participating in two studies carried out over three years. These students are screened on a series of standardized reading and cognitive measures, and are performing below the 25 th percentile on these measures.

Intervention: This project is developing a multi-component program that will, in its final version, incorporate both vocabulary and knowledge instruction.

Research Design and Methods: In the first phase of this research, the team is conducting a random assignment study to separately evaluate the effects of the programs developed for vocabulary and declarative knowledge instruction for struggling late elementary readers. One hundred forty-four students will be randomly assigned to one of three interventions taught by a trained research assistant. All three interventions receive decoding instruction, fluency instruction, and oral reading in text, with groups differing in terms of the in-text instruction they receive. The vocabulary intervention group receives dialogue instruction combined with definitions and semantic maps to learn the meaning of target words in text and the knowledge intervention group receives instruction in the use of dialogue and strategies associated with reciprocal teaching in order to learn the declarative knowledge contained in the text.

In the second phase of the research, a second random assignment study is being conducted to evaluate the effects of combining vocabulary and knowledge instruction as part of a multi-component program. Seventy-two students are randomly assigned to either control or intervention groups.

Control Condition: Control children receive teacher-directed questioning with no dialogue instruction.

Key Measures: Both standardized and researcher-developed measures are being used at three points: pre-, mid-, and posttest. The researcher-developed tests include tests of knowledge strategy use, knowledge acquisition, meaning strategy use, and vocabulary acquisition.

Data Analytic Strategy: Hierarchical linear modeling is being used to compare outcomes across the various instruction conditions and to explore the effects of child attributes on responsiveness to intervention.

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Last Modified: 11/30/2006