Participants were attending specialized programs for students with learning disabilities in
special education classrooms in eastern Alabama.
Forty-four students were randomly assigned, and the analysis sample for this study
included 42 students with learning disabilities at three elementary schools.
The students were classified as learning disabled by the school district’s special education
review committee in accordance with state and federal guidelines, including a one standard
deviation discrepancy between tested intelligence and achievement. Students were between
8 and 12 years of age and in grades 2 through 4. Thirty-two students were male and
10 were female. Full-scale IQs ranged from 80 to 116, with an average of 87.
Within each school, the students were randomly assigned to instructional groups of three to
six students each. Four of the eight groups included a total of 21 intervention students, and the
other four groups included a total of 21 comparison students. The study does not specify the
distribution of the eight intervention and comparison instructional groups across schools, and
the authors did not respond to a request for this information. The analysis sample of 42 students
excluded two students (one intervention student and one comparison student) who were
randomly assigned but who were absent for much of the study period.
Students in the intervention group received instruction from Level D of the Spelling Mastery
program (students did not receive the entire Level D program). The teacher followed scripted
lessons, and each week’s sessions focused on a different type of word (e.g., phonetically
regular words, phonetically regular words with a prefix or suffix, irregular words). Lessons
were organized around three instructional activities: (1) introduction of the spelling rule in
whole group instruction time (5–7 minutes); (2) application of the spelling rule, also in wholegroup
instruction (10–12 minutes); and (3) independent worksheet practice while the teacher
circulated to assist as necessary (5–7 minutes). The intervention was implemented in sixteen
30-minute sessions over a 4-week period with each session focusing on six words. All words
taught had a fourth-grade level of difficulty.
The comparison group was taught the same words as the intervention group using traditional
basal instruction (HBJ Spelling and Laidlaw Spelling). Lessons were organized around three
instructional activities: (1) a pretest, self-corrected by students using whole-group instruction
(5–7 minutes); (2) independent worksheet practice with the teacher circulating to assist as
necessary (10–12 minutes); and (3) follow-up activities, including dictionary and handwriting
skill training activities (5–7 minutes).
Four tests were administered after the intervention was completed, all in the writing domain.
The measures included the Test of Written Spelling (TWS) including Predictable Words and
Unpredictable Words subtests, a Generalization test, a Transfer test, and a Maintenance test.
Four unit tests were also administered but are not included in this report. For a
more detailed description of these outcome measures, see Appendix B.
Support for implementation
Each of three teachers delivered spelling instruction to both the intervention and comparison
groups. The teachers were graduate students enrolled in a masters program in learning disabilities
from a mid-sized southeastern university. The study authors provided three 1-hour
training sessions to each teacher. The first author supervised, critiqued, and evaluated the
teachers as they role-played teaching the scripted lessons. Prior to implementation, teachers
were required to demonstrate adequate performance during role-playing situations.