Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Morphological Awareness Test for Reading and Spelling (MATRS)
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Apel, Kenn Awardee: University of South Carolina
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2017 to 06/30/2020) Award Amount: $1,387,462
Type: Measurement Award Number: R305A170065

Co-Principal Investigator: Yaacov Petscher (Florida State University)

Purpose: In this project, researchers will develop a comprehensive, reliable, and valid morphological awareness assessment tool for students in grades one through six called the Morphological Awareness Test for Reading and Spelling (MATRS). Morphological awareness refers to the ability to understand and manipulate the smallest units of meaning in language, such as root word, prefixes, and suffixes. Many students in the United States do not read and write proficiently, and recent research has shown that morphological awareness is important for helping students to read and write successfully. Unfortunately, researchers use different definitions and different measures of morphological awareness, so results cannot be compared across studies, and teachers and schools may not be able to identify all students who have morphological awareness problems.

Project Activities: The MATRS will be developed over three years. The researchers will begin by writing items for the assessment that measure various aspects of morphological awareness, and then these items will be tested with students in order to determine which items are the most useful. Next the researchers will conduct two studies to determine whether or not the MATRS is actually measuring morphological awareness and whether it can measure morphological awareness reliably. The MATRS will be fully developed by the end of the three-year project.

Products: The products of this project will be a fully developed and validated MATRS assessment tool for use with students in grades one through six, and peer reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in elementary schools in South Carolina.

Sample: Participants in this study will be approximately 5,880 students in 1st through 6th grade.

Assessment: MATRS will be a fully-developed morphological awareness assessment tool for use in 1st through 6th grades. The assessment will include eight tasks: segmenting; affix identification; definition; suffix choice; spelling multimorphemic words; derivational spelling; spoken relatives; and written relatives. MATRS will differ from other morphological awareness tools because it will involve both written and spoken modalities, and will include specific item features such as both inflectional and derivational forms. The final MATRS will be psychometrically sound and based on an empirical definition of morphological awareness.

Research Design and Methods: This project will include three studies. The researchers will begin by developing an item bank for the assessment, ensuring items for each grade level and each task. Study 1 will examine the factor structure of the pilot version of MATRS, and the influence of morpheme type and transparency on item difficulty. After finalizing the items for the MATRS, Study 2 will determine psychometric adequacy. Two alternate forms will be administered, with approximately 30% of items overlapping across forms. Study 3 will be a validity study, examining the convergent and predictive validity of MATRS.

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

Key Measures: Convergent and predictive validity will be studied by examining relationships between MATRS and the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test–III Word ID, Word Attack, and Comprehension subtests. The Test of Word Reading Efficiency will measure reading fluency. Spelling will be assessed with the Test of Written Spelling–Fifth Edition, and receptive vocabulary will be assessed with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test–IV. Finally, the Orthographic Pattern Awareness Test will be used to measure orthographic awareness.

Data Analytic Strategy: Study 1 and Study 2 will use item response theory to examine the dimensionality of scores and difficulty and discrimination of parameters. The research team will use confirmatory factor analysis in a structural equation model framework to examine the factor structure of the items.