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IES Contract

Title: Access: Language Arts
Center: NCSER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Stanger, Carol Awardee: Attainment Company, Inc.
Program: Small Business Innovation Research in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 Years Award Amount: $899,996
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: EDIES14C0018

Purpose: Instruction in English Language Arts (ELA) for students with severe intellectual disabilities and autism can be challenging, as these students often do not have the skills to engage with text. In recent years, special education experts have proposed a comprehensive approach to supporting students with intellectual disabilities and autism in ELA, centered on strategies including word identification, vocabulary development, comprehension, fluency, writing, and research, and by providing opportunities to independently read and explore a wide array of self-selected texts. This project will develop tablet-based and app technology that provides age-appropriate content and a variety of evidence based strategies to support middle school students with severe disabilities in meeting Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts.

Project Activities: In 2013 during Phase I, a prototype app was developed and tested. The app included simplified versions of researcher-developed content whereby middle school students with cognitive disabilities listened to grade aligned nonfiction stories read-aloud, while individual words were highlighted on the tablet. These stories also included symbol supports, vocabulary instruction with in-text definitions, and comprehension questions. At the end of Phase I, pilot research with 3 students and 2 teachers demonstrated usability as the app operated as intended, and initial feasibility as the teachers were able to integrate the tool within standard practice and students found the app to be engaging. Phase II will add additional components to the existing prototype, including: adaptive instruction to adjust to individual student differences, formative data feedback to guide individualized instruction, additional stories, and additional skills in research and writing. During Phase II, the research partners at East Tennessee State University will carry out an iterative investigative process by implementing 3 studies to explore the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the app to improve a variety of ELA skills. In Year 2, the fourth study will be a randomized control study with approximately 30 students, half of whom will be randomly selected for intervention. Students in the control group will be provided with the intervention at the end of the study. Analyses will compare pre- and post-test ELA scores.

Product: The final product will be Access: Language Arts II, an app or tablet-based intervention aligned to common core standards to supplement ELA instruction for middle school students with severe intellectual disabilities and autism. Researcher-developed content populating the app will include simplified versions of a wide range of genres including fiction and non-fiction. The app will provide tools and adaptive supports derived from evidence based practices to facilitate learning, and will emphasize a variety of skills including vocabulary, communication, comprehension, critical thinking, research, and writing. A user guide will be developed to facilitate setup, to customize student settings, add student photos or icons for sign-in, change default highlighting or page turning, to create passwords, and collect and view student data.