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IES Grant

Title: Exploring the onPAR Model in Developmental Literacy Education
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Magliano, Joseph Awardee: Northern Illinois University
Program: Postsecondary and Adult Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015- 6/30/2019) Award Amount: $1,571,213
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A150193

Co-Principal Investigators: Santuzzi, Alecia; Tonks, Stephen; O'Reilly, Tenaha; Sabatini, John

Purpose: Higher education faces a crisis in that a number of students who start college are not sufficiently ready to read to be successful in their courses. Being underprepared to read has negative implications on students' likelihood of obtaining a degree and obtaining a successful career. Consequently, institutions of higher education invest money and resources to help under prepared students. This project was conducted under the assumption that these efforts are facilitated with a clear understanding of what factors support students' readiness to read and to be successful in their early college careers. This was an Exploration Project (Goal 1) intended to explore and refine a theoretical framework of the college reader called the Proficient Academic Reader (PAR) Model. PAR specified three factors important for readiness to read and specifically, basic literacy skills (foundational skills that support reading, and inference strategies), motivation to read, and metacognitive awareness associated with strategic reading. Studies were conducted to (1) assess how these factors are related to support success on different kinds of literacy tasks faced by students, (2) assess if these factors are predictive of success in courses intended to support college readiness to read, and (3) if these factors are predictive of early college success.

Project Activities: This project consisted of three studies. Study 1 was conducted in 4- and 2-year institutions of higher education. It involved administering the assessments associated with the PAR model and conducted analyses to understand their relationships. Study 2 was conducted at a 4-year institution in the context of a class intended to support under prepared college students. This study was conducted to assess what factors are predictive of success in this course. Study 3 involved using data from Studies 1 and 2 to assess what factors predict early college success and measured by the cumulative GPA for 3 consecutive semesters within the first 2 years of college. The data from studies 1 and 2 allowed the research team to conduct additional studies to learn about specific populations of college students in the sample, such second language learners.

Publicly available data: The data for this project is available on Open Science Framework (Link:

Key Outcomes: The main findings of this exploratory study are as follows:

  1. Students who are underprepared vary in their strengths and challenges, and as such may need different types of support (Feller et al., 2020; Magliano, Lampi, et al., 2020, Magliano, Higgs, et al., 2020).
  2. There are complex relationships between basic literacy skills (reading, inference), motivation, and metacognition (Kopatich et al. 2019; Magliano, Higgs, et al., 2020).
  3. The nature of literacy tasks matters and affects how students leverage strategies that they use (Feller et al., 2020; Magliano, Higgs, et al., 2020).

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study took place 4-year university located in Illinois and community colleges located in the Southwest and Northeastern United States.

Sample: Data from 1072 participants was collected over the courses of this project at 4-year (n=682) and 2-year (n=390) institutions. There were 610 participants that completed the demographic survey, which indicated a highly diverse sample of participants (53% female; 46% Black/African American, 26% White, 10% Asian, 17% Hispanic/Latino, and 2% Other).

Malleable Factor: The PAR model features several components, including basic literacy (such as vocabulary, syntactic processing skills, and basic comprehension), text modeling (such as the ability to generate inferences while reading), metacognition (students' ability to consciously choose cognitive strategies), and motivation (students' ability to put forth the appropriate amount of energy to complete a task). The current development reading curriculum at the university uses an approach that aligns with the PAR model. This reading course also teaches students how to apply various literacy practices and strategies across disciplines (such as psychology and history) to accomplish authentic academic tasks (such as preparing for tests, writing papers).

Research Design and Methods: Study 1 explored the correlation between the various components of the PAR model and student academic outcomes, in particular academic literacy, retention, and GPA. Researchers collected on students' pre-existing basic and academic literacy, their motivation and metacognitive skills, and background characteristics (working memory, demographics, etc.) during the first weeks of the semester. These data were collected from a diverse sample of college students, including from students enrolled in developmental education programs at a university and community college. The researchers collected students' end-of-semester data including retention, course grades, and overall GPA over the subsequent three semesters. Study 2 explored the factors specified in PAR and the extent that they were correlated with performance in a reading study and strategy course. The same assessments used in Study 1 were used in Study 2. Study 3 used a longitudinal design to follow the students for an additional 2 years subsequent to the developmental reading course.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of the design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: Basic literacy measures include the Study Aid and Reading Assessment (SARA) (for basic literacy, e.g., decoding, vocabulary, and basic comprehension) and the Reading Strategy Assessment Tool (RSAT) (for comprehension, inferencing, and paraphrasing). Academic literacy measures included two different assessments that reflected different types of literacy tasks that can happen in academic settings. One assessment evaluated proficiency in basic comprehension (understanding what a text is about) and was the comprehension subtest in the SARA. The other assessment, the Global, Integrated Scenario-Based Assessment (GISA) evaluated proficiency in complex problem solving with texts. Metacognition measures include Metacognitive Awareness Inventory, and the Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies Inventory. Motivation measures include the Adaptive Reading Motivation Measures and the Experience Sampling Method. Academic measures include retention rates, credit hours completed, and grade point average.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers used confirmatory factor analyses, structural equation modeling, hierarchical regression, path analysis, and latent profile analysis to examine the relationships among the PAR components and students' performance.

Related IES Projects: Developing Reading Comprehension Assessments Targeting Struggling Readers (R305G004065); Assessing Reading Comprehension with Verbal Protocols and Latent Semantic Analysis (R305G040055); Assessing Reading for Understanding: A Theory-based, Developmental Approach (R305F100005); Development and Validation of Online Adaptive Reading Motivation Measures (R305A110148)

Project website:

Products and Publications

Book chapters

Magliano, J. P., McCrudden, M. T., Rouet, J. F., & Sabbatini, J. (2018). The Modern Reader: Should Changes to How We Read Affect Research and Theory? in M. F. Schober, M. A. Britt, & D. N. Rapp (Eds) (2018). Handbook of Discourse Processes (2nd addition), (pp. 343–361) New York: Taylor & Francis.

Magliano, J. P., Higgs, K., & Clinton, J. A. (2019). Sources of Complexity in Comprehension Across Modalities of Narrative Experience. In M. Grishokova & M. Poulaki (Eds.) Cognition and Narrative Complexity. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Magliano, J. P., Hastings, P., Kopp, K., Blaum, D., and Hughes, S. (2018) Computer-based Assessment of Essays Based on Multiple Documents: Evaluating the Use of Sources. In J. L. G. Braasch, I. Bråten, & M. T. McCrudden (Eds.) Handbook of Multiple Source Use. New York, NY: Routledge.

Wigfield, A., Tonks, S. M., and Eccles, J. S. (2018). Expectancy-Value Theory in Cross-Cultural Perspective: What Have We Learned in the Last 15 Years? In D. M. McInerney & G. A. D. Liem (Eds.), Research on Sociocultural Influences on Motivation and Learning Volume 4: Big Theories Revisited (2nd Edition). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Press.

Journal articles

Feller, D. P., Kopatich, R. D., Lech, I., & Higgs, K. (2020). Exploring Reading Strategy use in Native and L2 Readers. Discourse Processes, 57(7), 590–608.

Feller, D. P., Magliano, J., Sabatini, J., O'Reilly, T., & Kopatich, R. D. (2020). Relations Between Component Reading Skills, Inferences, and Comprehension Performance in Community College Readers. Discourse Processes, 57(5–6), 473–490.

Kopatich, R. D., Magliano, J. P., Millis, K. K., Parker, C. P., & Ray, M. (2019). Understanding how Language-specific and Domain-general Resources Support Comprehension. Discourse Processes. 56, 530–552.

Magliano, J. P., Higgs, K., Santuzzi, A., Tonks, S. M., O'Reilly, T., Sabatini, J., ... & Parker, C. (2020). Testing the Inference Mediation Hypothesis in a Post-Secondary Context. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 61 101867.

Magliano, J. P., Lampi, J. P., Ray, M., & Chan, G. (2020). Revealing the Comprehension Processes of Underprepared College Students: An Evaluation of the Reading Strategies Assessment. Journal of College Literacy and Learning, 46. 104–122.


In addition to disseminating study findings to educational scientists via published manuscripts in peer reviewed journals and presentations at professional conferences, this research was disseminated to the general public in the context of blog articles posted to the Wide Wide World of Psychology, hosted on A web-based version of the Reading Strategy Assessment Tool was created that can be made available to the research community.