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IES Grant

Title: Supporting Reading Comprehension for English Learners Through Inquiry-Based, Language Focused Instruction
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Davis, Dennis Awardee: North Carolina State University
Program: Policies, Practices, and Programs to Support English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (08/01/2020 – 07/31/2024) Award Amount: $1,398,946
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A200283

Co-Principal Investigators: Huang, Becky; Relyea, Jackie

Purpose: In this project, the researchers will develop a new small-group intervention for English learners (ELs) in grades 3 through 5 who have reading comprehension difficulties. The intervention, called the Building Knowledge and Language through Inquiry Framework(KLI), aims to help readers strengthen their language and literacy skills while building new knowledge of interesting topics in the disciplines (science and social studies). The KLI approach aims to build students knowledge of both the language and the topic area through direct instruction and through inquiry-based approaches, such as having students engage in conversations about language and the topic area. By addressing both of these areas of knowledge concurrently, KLI will help improve the reading comprehension of upper-elementary ELs.

Project Activities: The researchers will use an iterative approach to develop the curriculum and ensure its usability and feasibility. Once they have a fully developed approach, they will use a school-randomized control trial to determine its impact on student outcomes. During this pilot study, the researchers will also determine the intervention's implementation cost.

Products: This project will develop the KLI curriculum, collect and report information about the cost of implementing the intervention, and disseminate findings through peer-reviewed publications, presentations, and additional dissemination products (e.g., research briefs) that reach education stakeholders such as practitioners and policymakers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in elementary schools in districts in North Carolina and Texas that serve high numbers of English learners.

Sample: Approximately 60 students and 8 educators across 5 schools will participate during the development phase, and approximately 400 students and 30 educators across 20 schools will participate in the pilot study. The students will be English learners in grades 3 through 5 who have difficulties in reading comprehension but are not experiencing difficulties with word recognition.

Intervention: KLI will have five inquiry-based modules, each of which leverages an engaging science or social studies topic. Each module will include multiple, high-quality curated texts that will have varying levels of complexity and will include informational and literary genres. Each module will also include instructor materials for topic-relevant instruction in vocabulary, morphological word building, morpho-syntactic sentence manipulation, and fluency practice. The intended instructors include literacy specialists/interventionists, ESL specialists, and classroom teachers with advanced preparation in language and literacy. These staff will use the modules with small groups of ELs (approximately three to four students per group) during supplement sessions. Each session will be approximately 40 minutes long, with instruction occurring 3 times per week.

Research Design and Methods: During the development phase, the researchers will iteratively design and revise the components of the intervention through a series of systematic design-implement-observe-revise cycles in afterschool settings. They will leverage input from interviews and surveys of teachers and ratings of observations of instruction to inform their revisions. Once they have a nearly complete version of the curriculum, they will determine its usability and feasibility in school settings and will finalize the materials. During this phase, they will continue to collect data from instructors and through feasibility interviews and surveys. The researchers will then test the full curriculum in a pilot study using a school-randomized design.

Cost Analysis: As part of this pilot study, they will also determine the cost for implementing the full intervention, calculating the per student and per school and benchmarking the costs relative to the costs of the business-as-usual controls in the pilot study schools.

Control Condition: The control condition will be students in other schools who are receiving business-as-usual small-group intervention supports from an ESL or literacy specialist.

Key Measures: To determine the impact on student outcomes, the researchers will use standardized, researcher-developed, and school measures of reading comprehension, language, reading fluency, and comprehension processes.

Data Analytic Strategy: The researchers will use multivariate multilevel models with treatment exposure to determine the main effects of the KLI intervention on student outcomes. They will use similar models to test the effects of the intervention on the intermediate learning opportunities targeted for improvement by the intervention and will use sequential multilevel mediation analysis to evaluate the various components of the intervention according to the components of the theory of change that support the instructional approach.