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IES Grant

Title: Efficacy Trial of Text Structure Strategy Instruction on the Web for Spanish-Speaking English Learners (SWELL) in Grades 4 and 5
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Wijekumar, Kausalai Awardee: Texas A&M University
Program: Policies, Practices, and Programs to Support English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2018 – 06/30/2022) Award Amount: $3,298,201
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A180060

Co-Principal Investigator: Meyer, Bonnie J.F.; Lei, Pui-Wa

Purpose: Reading and comprehending expository texts in English is an important skill that remains elusive for many English learners (ELs) in the U.S. school system. The text structure strategy is a learning approach that helps student understand academic texts by organizing concepts into cognitive structures that parallel those used to communicate main ideas in text. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of the Structure Strategy with Web-Based Adaptive Tutoring for English Language Learners (SWELL) intervention, a web-based intelligent tutoring system, on the reading achievement of Spanish-speaking English learners (ELs) in grades 4 and 5.

Project Activities: The researchers will evaluate the impacts of SWELL on reading and other outcomes for Spanish-speaking ELs each in grades 4 and 5. The research team will implement the intervention for one school year at each grade-level, with treatment teachers receiving professional development before and during the school year, and treatment students using the intervention twice per week throughout the year. The researchers will use surveys, teacher logs, classroom observations, and measures of reading, motivation, positive attitudes towards computer learning, and self-efficacy to evaluate the intervention's impact on student learning and achievement.

Products: The researchers will produce evidence for the efficacy of the SWELL intervention for Spanish-speaking ELs in grades 4 and 5. They also will produce peer-reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in three school districts in New Mexico where over 80% of students are Spanish speaking ELs.

Sample: For each grade, the sample will include approximately 32 schools, 8 classrooms per school, and 20 students per classroom, for a total of 5,120 students per grade. Researchers will group schools with similar characteristics into sites and then randomly assign them to treatment or control within sites.

Intervention: The SWELL intervention presents instruction about the text structure strategy with adaptations for Spanish speaking ELs. The structure strategy facilitates understanding of content area text by helping learners to organize concepts with cognitive structures that parallel those used to communicate main ideas in text. SWELL helps Spanish speaking ELs apply these strategies by guiding their selection of important ideas and supporting their construction of effective memory representations of content area texts. To accomplish this, SWELL's intelligent tutoring system models text structure use, allows students to practice tasks, and provides immediate, formative feedback. SWELL has 65+ web-based interactive lessons, teacher professional development video components (in Spanish and English), physical classroom materials such as posters (in Spanish and English), a web-based lesson search utility, an administrator tool to generate student status reports, and a database with teacher resources for classroom use. Teachers who implement SWELL receive two days of professional development and four in-school coaching sessions, as well as materials, to support their implementation of the intervention.

Research Design and Methods: This study uses a multi-site cluster-randomized trial (CRT) design with random assignment at the school level. Fourth and fifth grade teachers in treatment schools will receive two days of SWELL-related PD at the beginning of the school year, followed by four 90-minute coaching sessions over the course of the school year. Teachers in both the intervention and control conditions will complete surveys at the beginning of the school year about their curriculum, materials, and classroom practices. Teachers also will keep web-based logs about their classroom practices for a week at a time at three different points during the school year. Researchers will test students in both conditions on a variety of outcomes at the beginning and end of the school year. Students in the treatment condition will use the SWELL software for 30 minutes twice each week over the course of the school year. The researchers will observe all classrooms twice during the school year. Teachers from control schools will have the opportunity to receive SWELL's professional development and materials at the end of the school year after all data collection have been completed.

Control Condition: Students in the control condition will receive their district's standard reading curriculum and instruction.

Key Measures: The primary measures for this study are the Gray Silent Reading Test and researcher-designed measures of reading comprehension, motivation to read, computer attitudes, and structure strategy self-efficacy.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use three-level hierarchical linear models (HLM) with students nested within classrooms within schools to evaluate SWELL's effect on reading and other outcomes. They will build separate models for each grade-level and outcome. If they identify any significant mediation effects in the HLM models, they will use structural equation modeling to examine these further.

Related IES Projects: Efficacy and Replication Trial of the Individualized Adaptive ITSS with 4th and 5th Grade Students in High Poverty Schools (R305A150057); Improving Reading Comprehension of Middle Grades English Language Learners by Combining Structure Strategy with Web-Based Adaptive Tutoring for EL Learners (SWELL) (R305A130704); Efficacy and Replication Research on the Intelligent Tutoring System for the Structure Strategy–Rural and Suburban Schools Grades 4, 5, 7, and 8 (R305A080133); Intelligent Tutoring Using The Structure Strategy To Improve Reading Comprehension of Middle School Students (R305G030072); Promoting Reading Comprehension and Learning With Multimodal Science Texts (PRISM) (R305A220015)

Products and Publications

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

Select Publications:

Hudson, A. K., Owens, J., Moore, K. A., Lambright, K., & Wijekumar, K. (2021). "What's the main Idea?": Using text structure to build comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 75(1), 113–118.