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IES Grant

Title: Supporting Teachers' Data-Based Instruction in Early Writing: Tools, Learning, and Collaborative Support
Center: NCSER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: McMaster, Kristen Awardee: University of Minnesota
Program: Educators and School-Based Service Providers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 9/1/13– 8/31/16 Award Amount: $1,499,458
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A130144

Co-Principal Investigator: Erica Lembke (University of Missouri-Columbia)

Purpose: Learning to write is critical to students' overall literacy development. Writing provides students with the means to communicate what they know and is important for integrating knowledge and critical thinking. Beyond the K–12 school years, lack of writing proficiency can have a serious impact on postsecondary and employment opportunities. Improving student writing outcomes is particularly important for students with or at risk for disabilities that affect writing. Researchers found that only 6 percent of eighth-grade students with learning disabilities (LD) reached proficiency in writing and 46 percent were below the basic level. Writing by students with LD is often characterized by fewer ideas, poorer organization, and lower quality than that of their peers without LD, as well as by difficulties with handwriting, spelling, and mechanics. Early identification and effective, individualized writing instruction could prevent long-term negative consequences for many students.

The purpose of this project is to develop a professional development system to support teachers' use of data-based instruction (DBI) with students with or at risk for disabilities that affect early writing development. The professional development system is called DBI-TLC, representing the tools, learning modules, and collaborative support that it provides.

Project Activities: Over the course of 3 years, the researchers will develop the data-based instruction protocol including a manual to document teacher knowledge and skills related to DBI, their instructional decisions, and implementation fidelity. They will develop and use tools for measuring the feasibility of the DBI-TLC intervention to determine whether it is accessible, meets teacher needs, and is cost effective. Finally, the team will assess the promise of DBI-TLC to improve teachers' knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy related to DBI and early writing practices, teachers' use of DBI, and students' early writing outcomes.

Products: The products of this project will include a fully developed professional development program designed to improve teachers' early writing instruction and data-based instruction for students with or at risk for learning disabilities, tools for measuring intervention fidelity, peer-reviewed publications, and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This research will take place in public school districts in Minnesota and Missouri.

Sample: Participants will include approximately 80 school district leaders, special education teachers, and other support personnel, and approximately 70–80 students in grades 1–3 who are at risk for or identified by their schools as having learning disabilities.

Intervention: The intervention is a professional development system that incorporates tools for early writing (e.g., progress monitoring and graphing, intervention, and fidelity tools), learning modules that provide interactive instruction and practice, and collaborative support among teachers using data-based instruction in their classrooms.

Research Design and Methods: The project will use an iterative curriculum development process aimed at improving the feasibility and potential impact of the professional development writing intervention. During the third-year pilot study, the team will assess changes in teacher knowledge and skills, fidelity of implementation, and student writing outcomes.

Control Condition: There is no control condition.

Key Measures: The research will use a variety of sources and measures to inform the development of the professional development intervention. These sources include quantitative ratings and written feedback from content experts and school partners on intervention components; feasibility data including observations, surveys, and focus groups; and outcome data including teacher knowledge and skills, fidelity of DBI use, and student writing outcomes using curriculum-based measures and standardized assessments (i.e., Test of Early Written Language).

Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive analyses will be conducted to inform development and feasibility of the intervention. Qualitative and quantitative data will be organized to identify themes in the feedback from participants and to inform ongoing revisions of intervention materials. Analysis of variance will be used to examine pre- to post-test changes on outcome measures from the pilot study in the final year of the project, and regression analyses will be conducted to examine relations between teacher knowledge and skills, fidelity of implementation, and student outcomes.

Related IES Projects: Making the Right Connections: Improving the Comprehension of Struggling Readers (R324A110046)

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

McMaster, K. L., Kunkel, A., Shin, J., Jung, P., and Lembke, L. (2017). Early Writing Intervention: A Best-Evidence Synthesis. Journal of Learning Disabilities. doi:10.1177/0022219417708169