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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
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 Institution: University of Washington
Previous Award Number: R324A150059

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop Literacy Study Group (LSG), a web-based professional development intervention designed to assist special education 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 will address these needs by developing an intervention that is directed at improving reading instruction for teachers of elementary school students with EBD.

Project Activities:  The project will use an iterative design approach to develop the LSG professional development intervention, which will focus on improving elementary special education teachers' abilities to deliver high-quality literacy instruction. In Years 1 and 2, the project will undergo three phases in which reading modules of the LSG prototype will be developed using teacher feedback and focus groups. In Year 3, the research team will assess the feasibility, efficiency, and usability of implementing LSG based on teacher feedback. The final year of the project involves a randomized controlled design pilot study of the fully developed LSG intervention as well as dissemination-related activities.

Products: The products of this project will include a fully developed LSG professional development program for elementary school teachers of students with EBD, as well as presentations and peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in elementary schools in Washington State.

Sample: The study sample will include elementary special education teachers of students with EBD and their students. There will be two cohorts of eight special education teachers in the first 2 years. The first cohort will include experienced teachers and the second cohort will include both teachers who are experienced in reading instruction and new special education teachers who work with students with EBD. Twenty special education teachers with elementary students with EBD will participate in the feasibility evaluation of the intervention, and 50 will participate in the pilot study.

Intervention: LSG will be a professional development intervention designed to improve elementary special education teachers' literacy instruction and to meet the distinct literacy needs of students with EBD. LSG integrates interactive web-based learning technologies with vodcasts (i.e. video webcasts) of existing evidence-based Enhanced Core Reading Instruction (ECRI) modules. In each interactive session, teachers progress through a six-phase professional development process to help them integrate research-based practices into their existing instructional approaches. These phases include (1) debriefing on the teacher's previous use of research-based practices, (2) discussing research-based practices, (3) comparing with existing practice, (4) planning to implement the new practices, (5) practicing implementation, and (6) implementation of new practices. The intervention also includes a web-based environment that supports community-building among teachers of students with EBD.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will use an iterative process to develop LSG. The process involves 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 and feasibility studies will guide the form and contents of revisions. A randomized controlled design with 50 teachers from six school districts will be used in the pilot study to evaluate the promise of the intervention.

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

Key Measures: For teachers, data will be collected using formative and summative focus groups, a satisfaction/acceptability survey, and treatment fidelity observations. Other measures include behavior analysis as teachers use the LSG program throughout the iterative development process. To assess teacher knowledge of evidence-based reading practices, the researchers will complete the Reading Content and Practices Survey. For students, outcomes will be assessed with a standardized measure of reading skills (Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-III) and teachers' ratings of academic engagement (Academic Competence Evaluation Scales) in reading instruction and competence.

Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative methods will be used to gather, interpret, and analyze feedback on the training activities and web environment used for developing and revising the various aspects of the intervention. Descriptive analyses will be used to assess completion time, teacher satisfaction, teacher knowledge, and classroom literacy in the feasibility and implementation stage. Knowledge and classroom literacy will be examined to see how students improve over time. Multi-level modeling will be used for the pilot data to estimate 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)