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IES Grant

Title: Literacy Study Group for Teachers of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Center: NCSER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Benner, Gregory Awardee: University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa
Program: Educators and School-Based Service Providers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015–6/30/2019)   Award Amount: $1,499,444
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A180220

Previous Awardee: University of Washington
Previous Award Number: R324A150059

Purpose: This project developed and tested the Integrated Literacy Study Group (ILSG), a web-based professional development intervention designed to assist teachers in delivering high-quality reading instruction to elementary school students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). Students with EBD are likely to experience significant reading difficulties, which is strongly correlated with low academic achievement, school dropout, conduct and social problems, and unemployment. Many of these children are also less likely to have access to reading instruction because of their placement in self-contained classrooms where they receive little or no reading instruction and because many teachers are unprepared to meet the instructional needs of this population. However, there is growing evidence that students with EBD are responsive to effective reading instruction when it is available. This research project addressed these needs by developing an intervention directed at improving reading instruction for teachers of elementary school students with EBD.

Project Activities: The project used an iterative design approach to develop the ILSG professional development intervention, which included teacher feedback, focus groups, and field trials to test its feasibility, efficiency, and usability. The final year of the project involved a randomized controlled design pilot study of the fully developed ILSG intervention as well as dissemination-related activities.

Key Outcomes: The main findings of the research, as reported by the principal investigator, are as follows:

  • Teachers made statistically significant improvements relative to the control group in self-efficacy for general teaching, teaching reading, and behavior management.
  • Educators demonstrated improved knowledge and reduced burnout, though these were not statistically significantly.
  • Students whose teachers participated in the intervention showed significantly higher academic engagement in reading instruction compared to students whose teachers were in the control group. Students of intervention teachers also demonstrated improved reading scores compared to control students, although this difference was not statistically significant.
  • Teachers rated the acceptability, relevance, satisfaction, and usability of ILSG very highly.

Structured Abstract

Setting: During the first 3 years, the research took place in elementary schools in a large urban school district in Washington State. During the final year, the randomized controlled trial took place in five different states—Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Sample: The development study (years 1–2) sample included two cohorts of eight elementary school teachers of students with or at risk of EBD. The first cohort included experienced teachers and the second cohort included both teachers who were experienced in reading instruction and new teachers who worked with students with EBD. During the feasibility study (year 3), 14 general and special education educators participated. The pilot study (year 4) included 72 teachers and 128 elementary school students with EBD.

Intervention: ILSG is a digitally delivered professional learning program that combines behavior support with high-quality reading instruction to improve academic outcomes for students with EBD. Drawn from Enhanced Core Reading Instruction, the reading content features educator explanations, modeling of the skill or strategy, signaling for individual and group responses, practice for students, error corrections, and checks for understanding. The behavior component includes high-leverage practices from widely adopted, evidence-based social, emotional, and behavioral interventions, such as verbal praise. ILSG consists of 10 modules to be completed online in the learning management system with other educators in a study group. Modules 2–9 follow a systematic sequence: (a) introduction, (b) a reflection question, (c) new content, (d) guided practice, (e) application activities, and (f) two discussion questions. Each module incorporates two topics—tier 2 reading routines for small groups and social, emotional, and behavior strategies educators can use with their students with EBD — and one video segment each for reading and behavior that models routines and strategies. Active practice includes self-recorded videos of educators rehearsing a routine without students. Peers give feedback in an online forum. In modules 8–9, instead of a practice video, educators prepare a lesson plan for their students. Educators implement the routines and strategies that best fit their students' needs.

Research Design and Methods: The research team used an iterative process to develop ILSG. The process involved multiple cycles of implementation and revision to the components of the intervention based on teacher feedback. Multiple measures of formative assessment data from the development study guided the form and content of revisions. During the feasibility study (year 3), the team tested the hypothesis that ILSG would increase self-efficacy for general teaching, reading, and behavior and decrease burnout. Fourteen general and special education educators took part in the 12-week feasibility study and were assigned to an ILSG study group, with 4–5 educators in each. Each educator used the ILSG course for 10 weeks (1 module/week), regularly documenting progress and giving usage and feasibility ratings. During the pilot study (year 4), the research team conducted a randomized wait-list control trial to test whether ILSG decreased teacher burnout, increased teacher self-efficacy and knowledge, and increased student reading performance, engagement, and motivation.

Control Condition: In the pilot study, the control group consisted of teachers receiving their usual, ongoing professional development activities at their schools.

Key Measures: During the development phase, data were collected using focus groups and a user satisfaction/acceptability survey. During the feasibility study, at pre- and post-test, educators completed assessments of self-efficacy in the areas of general teaching (instruction, management, and engagement), reading instruction, and behavioral supports for students with EBD using the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale, and three project-developed measures. A project-developed measure was used to assess teacher knowledge of evidence-based reading and behavioral practices for students with EBD. Teachers also completed the Teacher Burnout Scale to assess stress and burnout. Measures were also used to assess teacher usage, satisfaction, acceptability, relevance, and implementation of the intervention. In addition to the above teacher measures, during the pilot study, student outcomes were assessed using the Academic Competence Evaluation Scales and the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills.

Data Analytic Strategy: The research team used qualitative methods to gather, interpret, and analyze feedback on the intervention. Descriptive analyses were used to assess teacher satisfaction, knowledge, self-efficacy, and fidelity in the feasibility stage. For the pilot study, the team used multilevel modeling and effect size estimates to examine the effect of the intervention on teachers and their students who received the intervention compared to those who did not.

Related IES Projects: Project ECRI: Enhancing Core Reading Instruction in First Grade (R324A090104)

Products and Publications

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

Project Website:

Additional Online Resources and Information: Overviews of ILSG and pilot study outcomes are available at and