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IES Grant

Title: Efficacy and Replication Research on the Intelligent Tutoring System for the Structure Strategy—Rural and Suburban Schools Grades 4, 5, 7, and 8
Center: NCER Year: 2008
Principal Investigator: Wijekumar, Kausalai Awardee: Pennsylvania State University
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 Years Award Amount: $2,999,932
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A080133

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

Purpose: Understanding and remembering what you read is a very important skill, but one that troubles both young and old. The structure strategy is a way of studying a wide variety of reading materials, including textbooks, newspaper articles, and magazine stories. Many careful studies have shown that this strategy helps readers of all ages improve their reading comprehension. The web-based Intelligent Tutoring System for the Structure Strategy (ITSS) has shown positive outcomes in experimental studies where fifth and seventh grade students from suburban schools learned and used the structure strategy. The purpose of this study is to evaluate a program in which ITSS provides elementary and middle school students with instruction about how to use this reading strategy.

Project: The web-based intelligent tutor teaches students how to use the structure strategy during reading, and provides them with feedback as they use the strategy. Students in the ITSS research condition will use ITSS on the computer during the regular school day. Classrooms will be randomly assigned to work with ITSS for the whole academic year (90 minutes a week). The researchers will examine changes in student reading comprehension skills, opinions and use of the computer, changes in the sense of personal capabilities related to reading and school, and attitudes toward reading. Researchers will first replicate past findings with a randomized control trial design with students from suburban schools. They will then extend ITSS instruction to rural school districts using the same experimental design. Researchers will examine specific conditions for implementing ITSS to increase reading comprehension. Next, the researchers will expand the study population to fourth and eighth grade with alternate versions of the lessons developed in a previous IES grant, and examine the usefulness of a student progress monitoring system that was piloted with teachers in the earlier IES grant. Finally, the team will expand the evaluation of the computerized assessment and scoring system for use with schools.

Products: The expected outcomes of this research include published reports on an evaluation of the ITSS and its effect on students' reading comprehension.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The setting for this project is school districts in the state of Pennsylvania.

Population: Participants in this project include suburban and rural school districts. Students in 144 classrooms representing fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth grades will participate.

Intervention: The structure strategy is a method that helps readers to focus on the text organization, helping them to organize their reading accordingly. Use of this strategy leads to significant improvement in recall of expository text. ITSS delivers 65 lessons and 30 choice lessons that provide modeling to students, practice tasks, immediate assessment, and informative feedback. ITSS implementation calls for students to interact one-on-one with the system for at least 40–45 minutes twice a week. ITSS will be compared to the usual reading instruction in participating schools.

Research Design and Methods: The primary research method is multi-site cluster randomized control trials with random assignment at the classroom level using a pre and post-test design. The hierarchical linear model applied includes student variables, classroom variables, and school district variables. Qualitative observation data will be collected to validate the ITSS system and assess the fidelity of the system implementation.

Control Condition: Students in the control groups will continue the standard language curriculum of the school district.

Key Measures: Key measures in this project include the Gray Silent Reading Test, researcher-designed measures of reading comprehension, and affective scales measuring motivation to read, self-efficacy, and computer attitudes.

Data Analytic Strategy: Hierarchical linear modeling will be used to analyze outcomes at student, classroom, and school district levels in order to take into account the classroom level random assignment. Treatment effects will be tested at the classroom level while controlling for classroom characteristics. Cross-level interaction between treatment and student variables will also be examined.

Related IES Projects: Efficacy Trial of Text Structure Strategy Instruction on the Web for Spanish-Speaking English Learners (SWELL) in Grades 4 and 5 (R305A180060); 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); 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)

Project Website:

Products and Publications

Book chapter

Wijekumar, K., and Meyer, B.J.F. (2013). Comprehension Using the Strategic Organization of Text Aided by a Web-Based Intelligent Tutoring System. In J.M. Spector, B.B. Lockee, S.E. Smaldino, and M.C. Herring (Eds.), Learning, Problem Solving, and Mindtools: Essays in Honor of David H. Jonassen (pp. 126–138). New York: Routledge Publishers.

Wijekumar, K.K., and Meyer, B J. (2016). Intelligent Tutoring of the Structure Strategy: A Reading Strategy Tutor. In S.A. Crossley and D.S. McNamara (Eds.), Adaptive Educational Technologies for Literacy Instruction (pp. 104–125). Routledge.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Meyer, B.J., and Ray, M.N. (2011). Structure Strategy Interventions: Increasing Reading Comprehension of Expository Text. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 4(1), 127.

Wijekumar, K., Meyer, B.F., and Lei, P. (2012). Large-Scale Randomized Controlled Trial With 4th Graders Using Intelligent Tutoring of the Structure Strategy to Improve Nonfiction Reading Comprehension. Educational Technology Research and Development, 60(6): 987–1013.

Wijemukar, K., Meyer, B.J.F., and Lei, P. (2013). High-Fidelity Implementation of Web-Based Intelligent Tutoring System Improves Fourth and Fifth Graders Content Area Reading Comprehension. Computers and Education, 68: 366–379.

Wijekumar, K.K., Meyer, B.J., and Lei, P. (2017). Web-based Text Structure Strategy Instruction Improves Seventh Graders' Content Area Reading Comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(6), 741.

Wijekumar, K., Meyer, B.J., Lei, P., Cheng, W., Ji, X., and Joshi, R.M. (2017). Evidence of an Intelligent Tutoring System as a Mindtool to Promote Strategic Memory of Expository Texts and Comprehension With Children in Grades 4 and 5. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 55(7), 1022–1048.