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IES Grant

Title: The Influence of Collaborative Professional Development Groups & Coaching on the Literacy Instruction of Upper Elementary Special Education Teachers
Center: NCSER Year: 2007
Principal Investigator: Brownell, Mary Awardee: University of Florida
Program: Professional Development for Educators and School-Based Service Providers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 7/1/2007 to 6/30/2011 Award Amount: $2,049,920
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324B070192
Description:

Purpose: The literacy struggles of students with learning disabilities are well documented as persistent and significant. For example, the 2007 NAEP found that only 13% of 4th grade students with disabilities were proficient in reading, while in 8th grade this proficiency rate was down to 7%. In large part, the literacy problems of students with LD are due to a lack of high quality, research-based reading instruction and generally poor teaching practices. Research has found that special education reading instruction tends to mirror the whole group, undifferentiated reading instruction found in regular education without the explicit, individualized reading instruction needed by students with learning disabilities. This project will develop and conduct a preliminary evaluation of a professional development model to improve special education teachers' reading instruction for students in the upper elementary grades, with the ultimate goal of improving student achievement. The model will consist of a Training Institute and Literacy Learning Cohorts that incorporate a group approach to professional development combined with follow-up coaching designed to help special education teachers improve word study and fluency instruction.

Project Activities: An initial development phase will occur in Year 1. With input from special education teachers, the research team will develop, pilot, and refine the Training Institute and Literacy Learning Cohorts. In Year 2, the project will conduct a pilot test with a sample of 40 special education teachers: 20 to participate in the Training Institute and Literacy Learning Cohorts and 20 to serve as a comparison group. In Years 3 and 4, the project will recruit a total of 80 special education teachers providing reading instruction to students with learning disabilities and will randomly assign them to treatment or control groups for a preliminary test of the intervention.

Products: The outcomes from this study will include reports and presentations on the results of the research, plus materials necessary to implement the Training Institute and Literacy Learning Cohorts.

Structured Abstract

Purpose: The literacy struggles of students with learning disabilities are well documented as persistent and significant. For example, the 2007 NAEP found that only 13% of 4th grade students with disabilities were proficient in reading, while in 8th grade this proficiency rate was down to 7%. In large part, the literacy problems of students with LD are due to a lack of high quality, research-based reading instruction and generally poor teaching practices. Research has found that special education reading instruction tends to mirror the whole group, undifferentiated reading instruction found in regular education without the explicit, individualized reading instruction needed by students with learning disabilities. This project will develop and conduct a preliminary evaluation of a professional development model to improve special education teachers' reading instruction for students in the upper elementary grades, with the ultimate goal of improving student achievement. The model will consist of a Training Institute and Literacy Learning Cohorts that incorporate a group approach to professional development combined with follow-up coaching designed to help special education teachers improve word study and fluency instruction.

Setting: The study will be conducted in Florida, California, and Colorado.

Population: The project will focus on special education teachers providing reading instruction to third, fourth, and fifth grade students with learning disabilities (LD). The student population of interest is students with LD who are served by these teachers. Students with severe behavior disorders or more significant cognitive disabilities will be excluded.

Intervention: The intervention will consist of a two-day intensive Training Institute (Institute) to provide teachers with knowledge and skills to teach word study and fluency, followed by Literacy Learning Cohorts (Cohorts). The Cohorts will extend teacher learning beyond the Institute and will include monthly collaborative meetings, an e-community that enables the Cohorts to communicate about strategies learned and classroom implementation efforts, and follow-up coaching. The Cohorts treatment package is intended to help teachers improve word study and fluency instruction by (a) deepening their knowledge of instruction, (b) learning concrete strategies for implementing this instruction in their classrooms, (c) developing implementation plans, and (d) critically analyzing their implementation efforts, making changes based on that analysis. The Cohorts will involve groups of 5 special education teachers and will be facilitated by project staff.

Research Design and Methods: An initial development phase will occur in Year 1, using 5 expert special education teachers to assist with the development and refinement of the Training Institute and Literacy Learning Cohorts. Following this, a sample of 16 special education teachers will participate in an abbreviated pilot of the Cohorts package to provide feedback on the design of the Cohorts, including the web-based components and the coaching routines, as well as the potential of the package for improving teachers' classroom reading instruction. Additionally, the project will refine instrumentation as discussed below. In Year 2, the project will conduct a pilot test of the professional development model with a sample of 40 special education teachers, 20 to participate in the Institute and Cohorts, and 20 to serve as a comparison/control group and only participate in the Institute. The project will assess the reading achievement gains (i.e., word attack, word identification, and oral fluency) of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students with learning disabilities assigned to these teachers (3 students per teacher or 120 students total). Necessary modifications will be made to the intervention plan and teacher measures prior to entering the experimental phase. In Years 3 and 4, the experimental phase, a total of 80 special education teachers who provide reading instruction to students with LD will randomly assigned to a treatment or control group for year 3 and an additional 40 teachers will replicate the research plan in year 4. Student achievement data will be collected on a total of 400 students over the two-year experimental phase.

Control Condition: The control condition will involve participation in the Institute without participation in the Cohorts.

Key Measures: Student measures will include the elision and rapid letter/number naming subtests of The Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (administered at pretest only), the Word Identification and Word Attack subtests of the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test - Revised, and a curriculum-based measure of oral reading fluency developed by Alachua County, Florida.

Teacher measures will include an expanded version of the Reading in Instruction in Special Education observation tool (RISE), a modified version of the Content Knowledge for Teaching Reading Survey (CKTRS), and a professional development survey to assess the quality of teachers' environment for learning outside of the Institute and Cohort experiences.

Data Analytic Strategy: During the development and pilot phases (years 1 and 2), data will be analyzed using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods, including traditional analysis of variance approaches and repeated measures multilevel approaches. Measurement instruments will be evaluated and refined on the basis of calculations of inter-rater reliability, Cronbach's alpha, relationships between teacher measures and student achievement gains, item-total correlations, and factor analyses. During the experimental phase (years 3 and 4), treatment effects will be tested by means of hierarchical linear modeling and analysis of covariance. Post-hoc analyses will be used to test for interaction effects.

Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Brownell, M. T., Kiely, M. T., Haager, D. A., Boardman, A. G., Corbett, N., Algina, J., Urbach, J., and Dingle, M. D. (2017). Literacy Learning Cohorts: Content-Focused Approach to Improving Special Education Teachers' Reading Instruction. Exceptional Children, 83(2): 143–164. doi:10.1177/0014402916671517

Brownell, M.T., Lauterbach, A.A., Dingle, M.P. , Boardman, A.G., Urbach, J.E., Leko, M.L., Benedict, A.E., and Park, Y. (2014). Individual and Contextual Factors Influencing Special Education Teacher Learning in Literacy Learning Cohorts. Learning Disability Quarterly, 37(1): 31–44. doi:10.1177/0731948713487179

Dingle, M., Brownell, M.T., Leko, M.M., Boardman, A.G., and Haager, D. (2011). Developing Effective Special Education Reading Teachers: The Influence of Professional Development, Context, and Individual Qualities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 34(1): 87–103. doi:10.1177/073194871103400106

Leko, M., Kiely, M. T., Brownell, M. T., Osipova, A., Dingle, M. P. and Mundy, C. A. (2014). Understanding Special Educators' Learning Opportunities in Collaborative Groups: The Role of Discourse. Teacher Education and Special Education, 38(2): 138–157. doi:10.1177/0888406414557283 Full text

Leko, M.M., and Brownell, M.T. (2009). Crafting Quality Professional Development for Special Educators: What School Leaders Should Know. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(1): 64–70. doi:10.1177/004005990904200106

Osipova, A., Prichard, B., Boardman, A. G., Kiely, M. T., and Carroll, P. E. (2011). Refocusing the Lens: Enhancing Elementary Special Education Reading Instruction through Video Self-Reflection. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 26(3): 158–171. doi:10.1111/j.1540–5826.2011.00335.x


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