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IES Grant

Title: Instructional Supports for Children with Dyslexia Learning to Read Complex Words
Center: NCSER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Steacy, Laura Awardee: Florida State University
Program: Early Career Development and Mentoring      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2019–06/30/2023) Award Amount: $500,000
Type: Training Award Number: R324B190025

Mentors: Catts, Hugh; Lovett, Maureen; Wade-Woolley, Lesly; Nation, Kate; Petscher, Yaacov

Purpose: The Principal Investigator (PI) will conduct a program of research focused on better understanding factors associated with complex word reading among students with dyslexia while participating in mentoring and training activities to develop knowledge and skills related to dyslexia, reading interventions and theory, randomized controlled trials, item-level statistical analyses, and grant writing. Although there have been recent calls for schools to address the unique educational needs of students with dyslexia, there is limited research on how to meet theneeds of these students, especially as it relates to complex word reading. Complex words are important because they account for a large portion of the content-specific information needed to comprehend expository text. Without the skills required to read complex words, students with dyslexia often skip or guess at these words, which can negatively impact their academic knowledge. Research and theory suggest that instruction that builds students' morphological knowledge and set-for-variability (SFV; the ability to problem solve when faced with words with inconsistent grapheme/phoneme relationships) may be associated with better complex word reading outcomes. However, this has not been tested empirically among students with dyslexia. The current project aims to address this gap by exploring the effect of different approaches for teaching complex words on reading outcomes of students with dyslexia.

Research Plan: The purpose of the research plan is to better understand the effect of malleable instructional approaches for teaching complex words on reading outcomes for students with dyslexia. To address this goal, the PI will conduct an experimental study to explore and compare the effects of three different approaches to teaching complex word reading (SFV training, morphological training, and SFV plus morphological training) on students' proximal and distal word reading outcomes. Approximately 300 students in grades 3-5 with dyslexia will be recruited across the first 3 years of the project to participate in a short-duration design experiment. Students will be randomly assigned to receive one of the three types of instruction provided over the course of 3 days. SFV training will encourage students to engage with mispronunciations/decoded forms of complex words in a variety of ways. Morphological training will directly target the spelling and meaning of words and will be based on morphological interventions that have demonstrated positive effects in the literature. The combined training will involve equal parts of the SFV and morphological trainings. Students will complete a battery of reading and cognitive measures prior to and after the instructional period. The PI will conduct within-treatment analyses to determine the strength of the response to instruction from pre-test to post-test on the trained words and between-treatment analyses to compare the effects of the three approaches on the untaught transfer words. In addition, differential effects based on student skills (such as general word reading skill, morphological awareness, and phonological awareness) and word characteristics (such as frequency, length, and number of morphemes) will also be examined.

Career Plan: Through a career development plan, the PI intends to build (1) knowledge of dyslexia, reading interventions, and reading theory; (2) skills and knowledge related to item-level statistical analyses and randomized controlled trials; and (3) grant-writing skills. To accomplish these goals, the PI will receive guidance from mentors (including those with content and methodological expertise), participate in workshops related to randomized controlled trials and item response theory, attend conferences on reading and other research, and participate in grant-writing workshops.