Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Idea Detectives: Individualized Intervention in Reading Comprehension and Word Reading based on Best Evidence from Cognitive Science
Center: NCSER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Denton, Carolyn Awardee: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Program: Cognition and Student Learning in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2015–6/30/2018) Award Amount: $1,499,998
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A150171

Co-Principal Investigator: Zucker, Tricia

Purpose: The intended aim of this project was to apply advances in cognitive science in text processing to further the development of an intensive and research-based reading intervention, Idea Detectives, for students in grades 2 and 3 at risk for or identified as having serious reading difficulties or disabilities (RD). In the absence of quality intervention, students with reading difficulties in the primary grades are likely to maintain these deficits throughout school. To address this need, many schools are implementing response-to-intervention, or multi-tiered systems of support, models that include a focus on reading outcomes. This project planned to develop a Tier 3 intervention intended to accelerate the reading progress of students who demonstrated inadequate response to previously provided intervention.

Project Activities: The research team planned to design Idea Detectives to integrate specific supports for children with impaired phonemic awareness, oral language development, working memory, attentional control, and self-regulation. The intervention aimed to enable targeted, systematic intervention in word reading, fluency, and comprehension. The team proposed to develop the intervention through an iterative process of development and examine its promise using a randomized controlled trial.

Structured Abstract


Setting: Data will be collected within elementary schools in a metropolitan area of Texas.

Sample: In years 1 and 2, the sample will include two elementary special educators and two reading specialists, each with one small group of four participating students with RD in grades 2 and 3 (for a total of 16 students). In year 3, the pilot study sample will include 16 special educators or reading specialists, each with four participating students with RD in grades 2 and 3 (for a total of 64 students).

Intervention: Idea Detectives will be designed to provide integrated, systematic intervention in word study and comprehension based on scientific evidence on effective instruction for students with RD. Specifically, it will (a) provide teachers with ways to deliver explicit instruction in both word reading and reading comprehension, building sequentially from easier to more complex skills in increasingly complex text, with multiple opportunities for practice; (b) include daily guided application of comprehension and decoding skills/strategies in engaging connected text; (c) be designed to support active student involvement and motivation through collaborative grouping and incorporation of hands-on activities; (d) place heavy emphasis on teacher scaffolding and feedback; (e) support data-based individualization of instruction using end-of-unit mastery tests with decision guidelines for making curriculum adjustments; (f) incorporate characteristics and activities designed to support students with impaired oral language, phonemic awareness, working memory, attention, or self-regulation; and (g) incorporate evidence-based practices to support English learners. Idea Detectives will be implemented in small groups in daily 45-minute lessons by a special educator or reading interventionist.

Research Design and Methods: Idea Detectives will be developed in collaboration with teachers through an iterative process called Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation, and Revision/Refinement. In years 1 and 2, focus groups will be conducted with teacher partners—a small group of elementary special educators and reading specialists—to provide an overview of needs and feedback on revisions. The same teachers will field test the intervention as it is developed and revised. In year 3, the intervention will be pilot tested in schools to establish its feasibility, usability, and promise in supporting student outcomes. A randomized controlled trial will be implemented for the pilot study, contrasting Idea Detectives and typical school instruction, with random assignment by small instructional group/teacher. Eight teachers and 32 students will be included in each condition (treatment and control).

Control Condition: The control condition will be typical school instruction by the instructional group/teacher.

Key Measures: During iterative development, measures include teacher focus groups, observations of instruction, teacher logs, and student data from the Indicators of Progress Early Reading Assessment (ISIP) Word Analysis, Spelling, Text Fluency, and Comprehension subtests. In the pilot study, measures include the following: ISIP, Bridging Inferences Test (Bridge-IT); Detection of Text Inconsistencies; Sentence Anagram Task; Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement and Oral Language – IV; Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE); Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT-5); Test of Silent Reading Efficiency and Comprehension (TOSREC); Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP); Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-4 (CELF); and Strengths and Weaknesses of ADHD-Symptoms and Normal Behavior.

Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive analyses will be conducted and outcome data will be analyzed to compare the two groups using analysis of covariance. Qualitative data will be collected to identify facilitators and obstacles to implementation in authentic school situations and to inform other questions about feasibility and usability. These data will be coded using both a priori and emerging categories and matrices will be created; themes will be identified and data will be summarized based on these matrices.

Related IES Projects: First Grade Super-Readers: Intervention for the Prevention of Reading Comprehension and Decoding Difficulties in Young Children At-Risk for Reading Disabilities (R324A100129)


ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.