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IES Grant

Title: Focusing on the Efficacy of Teaching Advanced Forms of Patterning on First Graders' Improvements in Reading, Mathematics, and Reasoning Ability
Center: NCER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Pasnak, Robert Awardee: George Mason University
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $1,577,827
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A090353

Co-Principal Investigator: Julie Kidd

Purpose: "Patterning" is the ability to recognize an ordering of numbers, letters, shapes, symbols, objects, or events according to some rule of progression. Understanding the place of an item in a pattern depends on understanding how it is related to items just preceding or following it. By first grade, children are expected to be developing the ability to understand patterns involving orientation or rotation, temporal and causal patterns of activities or events, and repetitive arbitrary patterns of colors or shapes (for example red, blue, green, red, blue, green). This project builds on two previous IES projects carried out with preschool and kindergarten children, and is designed to test the efficacy of a fully developed patterning intervention on first-grade children's reading, mathematics, and reasoning performance. Findings from these earlier studies indicate that helping children develop the age-appropriate abstract thinking involved in recognizing patterns produces significant academic progress in numeracy and knowledge of letter sounds when implemented with kindergarten children. However, the level of patterning practice that was needed to produce such progress is much higher than what is currently seen in typical instruction.

Project Activities: The researchers are conducting a randomized field trial in which children in participating classrooms are randomly assigned to either the experimental pattern recognition condition (480 patterns that vary widely in nature and are presented in a variety of media) or one of three control conditions (instruction in numeracy, reading, or art). All children will receive the same amount of small-group instruction per day. The study will be conducted in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms with first grade children, many of whom are from low-income homes. Approximately 800 5- to 7-year old children in 25 classrooms will participate in the study to determine if the patterning intervention leads to greater gains in early math and early reading knowledge and skills than participating in the other comparison conditions.

Products: Products include published reports on the efficacy of the patterning intervention.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will be conducted in classrooms in an urban school district serving aculturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse population near Washington, D.C.

Population: Participants will include approximately 800 5- to 7-year old children from 25 classrooms. The school system is diverse, and 51 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Intervention: Children receiving the intervention will be taught to identify 480 patterns which vary widely in their nature and are presented in a variety of media to increase generalization. These problems range from simple linear orderings on one dimension (for example, 1, 2, 1, 2), to multidimensional matrices where objects vary on multiple dimensions. The patterns become progressively more difficult in both length, number of dimensions, number of items, and number of missing items. For example, rotation patterns show regular or irregular geometric shapes rotating through four, six, or eight positions. Narrative scripts cards use three to seven cards to portray simple or complex temporal or cause-and-effect events like going to the beach or playing catch. The children in the experimental group will be supported in 15-minute group sessions until they master advanced patterning.

Research Methods: Participating children in each classroom will be randomly assigned to one experimental, one passive control (art), and two active control conditions (numeracy and literacy instruction). First, the children in each class are formed into quartets by random assignment. In a second random assignment, one member of each quartet is assigned to the experimental condition and one of the others to each of the three control conditions. The members of each quartet receive the same number of instructional sessions, ending when the child in the experimental group reaches criteria of mastery of advanced patterning.

Control Condition: Children participating in the control groups will receive "business-as-usual" instruction in numeracy, literacy, or art. Control groups will be matched in timing, extent, and number of sessions with those in patterning groups, and all groups will receive the same amount of adult assistance.

Key Measures: A test for near and far generalization of patterning, as well as the Woodcock-Johnson III Letter-Word Identification and Applied Problems (numeracy) scales are used to compare achievement of children in each of the four conditions. The patterning measure will be administered before and after instruction and will have two forms (A and B), each with 30 patterns designed to measure near generalization (patterns different in particulars but similar in form and media to those used in instruction) and 30 patterns for far generalization (patterns and media much different from those used in instruction). Form A will be used to screen out children who have already developed a good understanding of patterning and to provide a baseline for measuring children's response to the instruction they receive.

Data Analytic Strategy: A single, multi-level model will be used to identify effects of the intervention on student outcomes on collected Woodcock Johnson III scores.

Related IES Projects: Increasing Learning By Promoting Early Abstract Thought (R305H030031) and An Economical Improvement In Literacy and Numeracy (R305B070542)


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Gadzichowski, K.M., O'Brian, S.E. and Pasnak, R. (2014). Orientation of Letter and Number Patterns. Journal of Education and Human Development, 3(2): 59–66.

Kidd, J.K., Carlson, A.G., Gadzichowski, K.M., Boyer, C.E., Gallington, D.A., and Pasnak, R. (2013). Effects of Patterning Instruction on the Academic Achievement of 1st-Grade Children. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 27(2): 224–238.

Kidd, J.K., Curby, T.W., Boyer, C.E., Gadzichowski, K.M., Gallington, D.A., Machado, J.A., and Pasnak, R. (2012). Benefits of an Intervention Focused on Oddity and Seriation. Early Education & Development, 23(6): 900–918.

Pasnak, R., Kidd, J.K., Gadzichowski, K.M., Gallington, D.A., Schmerold, K.L., and West, H. (2015). Abstracting Sequences: Reasoning That is a Key to Academic Achievement. The Journal of Genetic Psychology: Research and Theory on Human Development, 176(3): 171–193.