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IES Grant

Title: Developing a Technology-Based Early Language Comprehension Intervention (TELCI)
Center: NCSER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Kendeou, Panayiota Awardee: University of Minnesota
Program: Cognition and Student Learning in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (9/1/2016-8/31/2019) Award Amount: $1,498,749
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A160064

Co-Principal Investigator: Kristen McMaster

Purpose: This project aims to develop the Technology-Based Early Language Comprehension Intervention (TELCI) for first- and second-grade students with or at risk for disabilities who experience reading comprehension difficulties. According to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, approximately a third of fourth-grade students struggle in the area of reading comprehension, making it crucial to address these difficulties in earlier grades. A disproportionate number of students with reading comprehension difficulties are from minority and low socio-economic backgrounds. Thus, there is a continued need for efforts to raise the reading achievement and prevent long-term negative reading outcomes among diverse learners who experience reading difficulties in high-needs schools (i.e., urban schools with high percentages of English learners and students receiving free and reduced lunch as well as a high percentage of students performing below reading proficiency level). In response to this need, the current project will develop the TELCI to improve reading comprehension of students in high-needs schools who experience comprehension difficulties in the early elementary years by developing inference-making skills.

Project Activities: The research team will employ an iterative process to develop and refine TELCI, a computer application (app) aimed at improving reading comprehension by developing inference-making skills in young readers with difficulties in reading comprehension. In Years 1–2, the research team will develop the app and modules and conduct a series of field tests to identify specific components that optimize its usability, feasibility, and promise. In Year 3, a small randomized controlled trial will be used to test the intervention's feasibility for implementation in schools and promise for improving inference skills and subsequent reading comprehension for students in first and second grade who struggle with reading comprehension.

Products: The products of this project will include a fully developed intervention with evidence of promise of improving inference skills and reading comprehension for students with reading comprehension difficulties in first and second grade; peer-reviewed publications; and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in six to eight elementary schools in an urban and ethnically diverse district in Minnesota.

Sample: Approximately 140 first through second graders with difficulties in reading comprehension will participate in this research (20 in Year 1 and 60 in each of Years 2–3). In addition, approximately 34 teachers (4 teachers in Year 1, and 15 in each of Years 2–3) will participate. Two members of school personnel with expertise in early literacy intervention and up to six parents will also be recruited to provide input and feedback on the development, usability, and feasibility of TELCI.

Intervention: TELCI will be an interactive cloud-based software app with 24 learning modules (20 minutes each). Each module will engage students to (a) view age-appropriate videos (half fiction and half nonfiction), (b) learn key vocabulary words that are central to the main ideas in the video, (c) respond to inferential questions during (online) and after (offline) videos, and (d) receive scaffolding and specific feedback for each question. TELCI will also include eight transfer modules (20 minutes each), where an interventionist reads a text (half narrative and half informational) aloud in a small group and students participate in an interactive questioning activity. Each week for 8 weeks, students will complete four TELCI sessions, including three learning modules on the app and one transfer module.

Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, the research team will work with teachers, school personnel (i.e., early literacy intervention experts), and parents to develop the TECLI app and learning modules. A field test will also be conducted to examine initial usability and feasibility. Students will be randomly assigned to receive the intervention with either online questioning or offline questioning and either fiction or nonfiction videos. Usability and feasibility data will be collected and analyzed to inform revisions. In Year 2, the research team will develop and field test TELCI transfer modules and conduct an experimental field trial using a between-subjects design to compare the feasibility and promise of the two questioning versions (online vs. offline questioning) of TELCI, with fiction and nonfiction videos. Sixty students will be randomly assigned to either the online or offline questioning version of TELCI. Data from fidelity observations, student pre- and post-test measures, and usability assessments will be examined to determine the most feasible and promising version of TELCI to be tested in Year 3. In Year 3, the research team will conduct a small, randomized controlled trial, with 60 students assigned to either the intervention or control group. The researchers will analyze data to determine the promise of the intervention for improving proximal and distal student outcomes and the moderating effects of decoding and vocabulary.

Control Condition: In the pilot study, students in the control condition will participate in business-as-usual language comprehension instruction.

Key Measures: To determine eligibility, the Test of Language Competence-Expanded (TLC-E) and the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test (GMRT) will assess inference and reading comprehension skills, respectively. The research team will develop several measures to assess usability and feasibility, including focus group protocols to gain initial input from school personnel (teachers and early literacy intervention experts) and parents; questionnaires for teachers and school early literacy experts; intervention logs and bug sheets to note errors in intervention materials; and student surveys. Fidelity will be assessed using a researcher-developed observational tool. Student inference skills, a proximal outcome, will be assessed using a video comprehension measure developed by the research team in a previous project. Distal student outcomes include language and reading comprehension. The TLC-E will be used to assess inference skills in non-reading contexts and the Qualitative Reading Inventory-Fifth Edition will assess inferencing and comprehension in reading contexts. The GMRT will be used to measure reading comprehension. Possible moderators will be assessed using the FAST earlyReading battery to measure decoding, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Third Edition to measure vocabulary, and the Working Memory Test Battery for Children to measure working memory.

Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive analysis will be conducted on quantitative data to inform development and feasibility. To analyze qualitative data, researchers will conduct a content analysis to determine patterns and themes across data sources. Two researchers will analyze the data independently and come to consensus regarding the salience of themes. Analysis of variance will be used to compare different versions of the intervention in Year 2 and to determine the promise of the intervention in Year 3. Regression analysis will be used to examine relations between intervention, proximal outcomes, moderators, and distal student outcomes in Year 3.