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IES Grant

Title: An Intervention to Provide Youth with Visual Impairments with Strategies to Access Graphical Information in Math Word Problems
Center: NCSER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Gage, Nicholas Awardee: University of Florida
Program: Technology for Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2016 – 6/30/2019) Award Amount: $1,397,638
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A160154

Co-Principal Investigators: Beal, Carole; Hong, Sunggye; Rosenblum; Penny 

Purpose: This study planned to develop a technology-based intervention to support students with visual impairments in locating key information in math word problems that include graphics. Prior research has shown that students with visual impairment face challenges when working with graphical material and can miss important information resulting in errors in their problem solving. More research is needed on the efficacy of instruction and technology tools to teach students with visual impairments to efficiently gather information from graphical material. This project planned to fill this gap by training students with visual impairments to work with math graphics using an iPad-based intervention, with the ultimate goal of improving the mathematics achievement of these students.

Project Activities: The researchers planned to develop an iPad-based program and training units for students with visual impairments to locate target information in math graphics. They planned to conduct usability, feasibility, and pilot testing of the product with students with visual impairment. Specifically, researchers planned to track students' problem solving in terms of their ability to locate information in the graphics, time required, and problem-solving accuracy. In addition, they planned to create an online training for teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs). A pilot study was planned to compare students' performance with a comparison group.

Structured Abstract


Setting: The study will be conducted in specialized residential schools and public schools serving students with visual impairments in Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, and South Carolina.

Sample: Students with visual impairments will participate in this project. Because this population is so heterogeneous and most of these students work below grade level in mathematics, students eligible for participation will be identified as those working on algebra readiness, as reported by their teacher. Eighteen students will be recruited to participate in the usability study, 24 students will be recruited to participate in the feasibility study, and 48 students will be recruited to participate in the pilot study. Each student's TVI will participate in the study by collecting student data and providing feedback to the research team.

Intervention: The intervention is an iPad-based program (app) with training units for students with visual impairments to locate target information in math graphics. The graphics will be accompanied by image descriptions in audio, print, and/or braille for accessibility. There will be two levels of strategic guidance provided to students to assist them in locating target information in the graphic. The first strategy will prompt the student to think about the type of graphic and what to look for first; the second strategy provides scaffolding specific to a particular graphic. An online training program will be developed to provide the TVIs with professional development and information about the study protocols.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will use an iterative approach in the development of the iPad technology tool, including usability testing, feasibility testing, and pilot testing. In year 1, the TVIs will receive professional development to learn the goals of the intervention, the study procedures, and expectations for providing appropriate assistance and documenting the assistance. In year 2, the TVIs implement the intervention and provide feedback on its feasibility. For the intervention, students complete six training units during which the TVI completes implementation checklists. A subset of students are included in video sessions in which data are collected on eyes and hand movements to understand their use of the app. Students will also complete a pretest and posttest, as well as a telephone interview to provide feedback on the intervention. Refinements will be made to the intervention in preparation for the pilot study in year 3. For the pilot study, the researchers will use a stratified randomized control trial design with students matched on vision condition (print or braille users) randomly assigned to an intervention or control group to examine whether there is initial evidence of the intervention's promise for improving mathematics problem solving with graphics for students with visual impairments.

Control Condition: The students in the control condition will receive business-as-usual instruction while participating in the pilot study.

Key Measures: Student mathematics outcomes will be measured by researcher-developed tests, based on items from a previous researcher-developed assessment and items released from state assessments. These items will focus on word problems with graphics. The assessments will be refined in the first 2 years of the project and used as an outcome measure in year 3. An implementation checklist will be completed by TVIs to capture whether they intervene when students need assistance during implementation and to document the type of assistance provided.

Data Analytic Strategy: An analysis of variance will be conducted to evaluate the impact of the training with the iPad technology, comparing student problem-solving outcomes for students using the iPad app compared to students in a business-as-usual comparison group. Analyses may be completed separately for print and braille users depending on the range of vision conditions in the sample. A rubric developed in a prior study will be used to assess fidelity of implementation from data collected through the checklist completed by TVIs.

Related IES Project: AnimalWatch-VI Suite: A Comprehensive Program to Increase Access to Mathematics for Students with Visual Impairments (R324A120006)

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