WWC review of this study

Developing Vocabulary and Conceptual Knowledge for Low-Income Preschoolers: A Design Experiment [World of Words vs. business as usual (HighScope)]

Neuman, Susan B.; Dwyer, Julie (2011). Journal of Literacy Research, v43 n2 p103-129. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ950695

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
    , grade

Reviewed: July 2022

At least one finding shows promising evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Language outcomes—Statistically significant positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

World of Words (WOW) Sorting task - not taught words (Neuman & Dwyer, 2011)

World of Words (WOW) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
178 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.

  • Other or unknown: 100%
  • Race
    Other or unknown
  • Ethnicity
    Other or unknown    
  • Eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch
    Other or unknown    


The study took place in preschool classrooms in two Head Start elementary school program sites. The study sites served low-income children.

Study sample

The students (analysis sample) were 56 percent white, 28 percent Black, and 17 percent Middle Eastern. The average age was 50.5 months. Among the teachers selected to participate in the study, the average age was 38, the average number of years of teaching was 9, 11 out of 12 were white, one was Black, and all held a Bachelor's degree.

Intervention Group

The study evaluated the World of Words (WOW) intervention, a supplemental multimedia vocabulary curriculum. The intervention was implemented in two units (living things and healthy habits) and within those units were 4 topics, each taught sequentially over 8 days for 12 minutes a day during whole group circle time. Each unit lasted 8 weeks for a combined intervention period of 16 weeks.

Comparison Group

The six classrooms in the comparison group followed their normal circle room routine.

Support for implementation

The study team hosted a one-day workshop for the intervention teachers to introduce them to the WOW curriculum and provide them with supporting materials, including DVD player, DVD with video clips, information books, picture cards, and instructional guides for each of the topics. During the initial phase of the study, the team iteratively revised the intervention based on input from the intervention teachers, weekly classroom observations, and student assessment scores. The second phase of the study involved testing the effectiveness of the revised intervention by comparing student outcomes to the comparison group.


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