WWC review of this study

An examination of software used with enhancement for preschool discourse skill improvement.

Schetz, K. F. (1994). Journal of Educational Computing Research, 11 (1), 51–71.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
    , grade

Reviewed: March 2007

No statistically significant positive
Meets WWC standards without reservations
Oral language outcomes—Indeterminate effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

Preschool Language Assessment Instrument (PLAI): Composite Score

Words and Concepts vs. Business as usual


4 year olds;
78 students





Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test Revised (PPVT-R)

Words and Concepts vs. Business as usual


4 year olds;
78 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • Female: 55%
    Male: 45%
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The study took place in five Head Start classes from three Head Start centers in the Roanoke Valley in Roanoke, Virginia.

Study sample

The study began with 97 low-income four- to five-year-old children. Four children were excluded from the study before assignment because of absences, and an additional 15 children were lost to attrition after assignment, leaving a sample of 78 children. The original sample of 93 children had a mean age of 4.6 years, 55% were female, and 17% were receiving speech-language services. The children were grouped into triads based on their summed pretest score, and one child from each triad was randomly assigned to the intervention and comparison conditions.

Intervention Group

The study included two intervention groups: software with programmed instructional interaction with a speech-language clinician (or software with enhancement) and software without the programmed instructional component (or software without enhancement). The software used was from the Words and Concepts series (Words and Concepts I, II, and III ), designed to teach children about nouns and concepts. In the software with enhancement condition, the children and the clinician interacted with the computer (that is, the clinician asked questions related to discourse skills and encouraged verbalization of responses to any questions from the clinician or the computer) to improve discourse skills (that is, receptive and expressive language). In the software without enhancement condition, the clinician gave the children instructions about how to use the software program to enhance their receptive vocabulary and concepts. In both conditions, children primarily participated in pairs twice weekly for 20 minutes a session over a period of 12 weeks. The two groups were combined by the WWC for this review to determine the overall rating of effectiveness. However, the WWC reports findings for the two intervention groups versus the comparison group separately in Appendix A4 and reports findings for the comparison between the two intervention groups in Appendices A5.1 and A5.2.

Comparison Group

Children in the no-treatment comparison group received language enrichment through the regular Head Start curriculum, including classroom activities (for example, housekeeping, circle time, dramatic play, finger plays, story time, and songs) and characteristics of the classroom environment (for example, labeling of classroom items). The same comparison group was used for both the software with enhancement and software without enhancement conditions.

Outcome descriptions

The primary outcome domain was children’s oral language, which was measured by two standardized tests: the Preschool Language Assessment Instrument (PLAI-I, PLAI-II, PLAI-III, PLAI-IV, and PLAI-Composite) and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R). (See Appendix A2 for more detailed descriptions of outcome measures.)

Support for implementation

The intervention was implemented by five student speech-language clinicians (two undergraduate students and three graduate students), who were trained and supervised by the researcher. Each classroom in the study had access to a speech-language clinician.

In the case of multiple manuscripts that report on one study, the WWC selects one manuscript as the primary citation and lists other manuscripts that describe the study as additional sources.

  • Schetz, K. F. (1992). Preschool discourse skill improvement with computer-assisted instruction. Dissertation Abstracts International, 52 (11), 3821-3822A. (UMI No. 9208433).


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