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IES Grant

Title: Word Learning Strategies: A Program for Upper-Elementary Readers
Center: NCER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Schneider, Steve Awardee: WestEd
Program: Reading and Writing      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/2015-6/30/2019) Award Amount: $3,497,205
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A150108
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Kylie Flynn, Cathy Ringstaff, Linlin Li

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of Word-Learning Strategies (WLS), a fully-developed, comprehensive, supplementary program designed to improve upper elementary students' vocabulary by focusing on teaching students to use strategies for word learning. Results from standardized tests have consistently shown that a large proportion of students in the U.S. are below proficient in reading comprehension and vocabulary and this is especially true for students who are learning English. Many vocabulary programs available today focus on teaching individual words, which may not be useful for students when they encounter new words as they read. WLS, however, teaches students methods and strategies for learning words that can be applied to any new word a student might encounter. WLS was developed with funding from an IES Small Business Innovation Research award, Word-Learning Strategies: A Program for Upper Elementary Readers, and has shown promise for improving students' vocabulary and reading comprehension. In this project, the researchers will test whether WLS improves fifth grade students' vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Project Activities: Initial project activities include testing the assessment battery and recruiting participating schools and teachers. In the second year of the project, the researchers will begin a two-cohort randomized controlled trial in order to test the efficacy of the intervention with fifth grade students, including ELs and students from poverty backgrounds, in California. Half the students will receive the WLS intervention and half will receive standard classroom practices. Students will be assessed before and after participating in their assigned instruction.

Products: The products of this project will be evidence about the efficacy of the WLS intervention for fifth grade children. The research team will also produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in urban elementary schools in California.

Sample: Approximately 110 fifth grade teachers and their students will participate in this study.

Intervention: WLS includes teacher training, 15 weeks of whole-class instruction, 22 remedial web-based lessons, 3 web-based lessons on Spanish cognates for Spanish-speaking ELs, 3 web-based lessons on idioms for all ELs, and assessments. Teacher materials include online tutorials and videos to prepare teachers to use the materials, a teacher manual with daily lesson plans, and presentation materials like posters and game cards. Student materials include activity books with strategy practice. The strategies which are taught in WLS include using context clues, using word parts, and using the dictionary to learn the meaning of unknown words.

Research Design and Methods: In the first year of this project, the researchers will test the assessment battery to examine whether the selected assessments will show improvement based on the use of WLS. Twenty teachers will be randomly assigned to the treatment or control condition in the first year. In the second and third years of the project, the researchers will use a two-cohort randomized controlled trial to examine the efficacy of WLS on fifth grade students' vocabulary and reading comprehension. Ninety teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment or control group. In Year 2 of the project, the 45 treatment teachers will implement WLS with their classrooms of fifth grade students. In Year 3 of the project, the same 45 treatment teachers will implement WLS with their new classrooms of fifth grade students. Control teachers will participate as the control group in both years, and will have the opportunity to receive WLS materials and professional development in Year 4 after the project has ended. Students in both years and in both groups will be assessed before and after the implementation of the intervention.

Control Condition: In the control condition, students receive standard classroom practices in place at the school.

Key Measures: Primary measures of student outcome include the Gates MacGinitie Reading Test, the WORD Test 2 Elementary, the Smarter Balanced assessment, the California English Language Development Test, and the Word Learning Strategies Test, which was created by the developer of the intervention. Primary teacher measures include the Content Knowledge for Teaching Reading, and the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum. Researchers will assess fidelity of implementation using teacher logs, classroom observations, and teacher interviews.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use multilevel modeling to examine the efficacy of WLS for improving students' vocabulary and reading comprehension as compared to a business-as-usual control. The multilevel model will include students at Level 1, teachers at Level 2, and schools at Level 3. Additionally, analyses will include moderators such as poverty background and EL status to examine whether the efficacy of WLS varies depending on these variables.

Related IES Projects: Word-Learning Strategies: A Program for Upper Elementary Readers (ED-IES-09-C-0013)

Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Graves, M.F., Schneider, S., and Ringstaff, C. (2017). Empowering students With Word-Learning Strategies: Teach a Child to Fish. The Reading Teacher.


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