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Cognition and Student Learning


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FY Awards

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Child Instruction Interactions in Early Reading: Examining Causal Effects of Individualized Instruction

Year: 2004
Name of Institution:
Florida State University
Goal: Development and Innovation
Principal Investigator:
Connor, Carol M.
Award Amount: $1,691,582
Award Period: 3 years
Award Number: R305H040013


Co-Principal Investigator: Frederick Morrison (University of Michigan)

Research suggests that early language and literacy skills have important influences on children's reading development. Children who begin school with weaker language and early reading skills are less likely to experience academic success over the course of their school career. Moreover, recent research indicates that the effects of instruction on reading depend on the specific early language and literacy skills that children bring to school. In other words, there are child-by-instruction interactions such that certain forms of instruction may be more effective for some children, while other forms are more effective for other children. If this is so, it strengthens the idea that the kind of reading instruction a young student receives should be tailored to the particular strengths and weaknesses of the individual student. The challenge to this idea is the difficulty that teachers face in trying to provide individualized instruction to an entire classroom of students. The purpose of this project is to create and evaluate an approach to professional development and technology use that is designed to enable teachers to provide effective individualized reading instruction that can enhance children's early reading skills, and to examine the effects of individualized instruction on growth in students' letter/word recognition and passage comprehension skills.

The first year of this project is devoted to developing a training program to show teachers how to create and implement lesson plans based on individual students' developing skills, and to create software and web-based materials for use by teachers that will analyze student assessment data and produce recommendations for individualized instruction. Following that, a study will be carried out to evaluate the efficacy of this professional development and technology support approach. Twenty first grade teachers from an economically diverse school district will be randomly assigned to receive the training and technology support for implementing individualized instruction, or to receive the district's typical professional development training. A variety of observational methods will be used to determine whether teachers who receive the professional development and technology support program are more effective in providing individualized instruction to their students than are teachers who participate in district-typical professional development. The impact of the program in improving student literacy skills will be evaluated by comparing student performance on standardized measures of literacy skills across treatment and control classrooms. The overall goal of this project is to produce new professional development and technology support tools to help teachers provide the kinds of individualized reading instruction that may be useful in promoting all children's early reading achievement.

For a site tour that demonstrates the A2i software developed and evaluated with funding from this award, please visit:

Project Website:

Related IES Projects: Child-Instruction Interactions in Reading: Examining Causal Effects of Individualized Instruction in Second and Third Grade (R305B070074) and Making Individualized Literacy Instruction Available to All Teachers: Adapting the Assessment to Instruction (A2i) Software for Multiple Real-World Contexts (R305A130517)


Book chapter

Morrison, F.J., and Connor, C.M. (2009). The Transition to School: Child-Instruction Transactions in Learning to Read. In A. Sameroff (Ed.), The Transactional Model of Development: How Children and Contexts Shape Each Other (pp. 183–201). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Al Otaiba, S., Connor, C., Lane, H., Kosanovich, M.L., Schatschneider, C., Dyrlund, A.K., and Wright, T.L. (2008). Reading First Kindergarten Classroom Instruction and Students' Growth In Phonological Awareness and Letter Naming—Decoding Fluency. Journal Of School Psychology, 46(3): 281–314.

Cameron, C.E., Connor, C.M., Morrison, F.J., and Jewkes, A.M. (2008). Effects of Classroom Organization on Letter-Word Reading in First Grade. Journal of School Psychology, 46(2): 173–192.

Connor, C. M., Dombek, J., Crowe, E. C., Spencer, M., Tighe, E. L., Coffinger, S., Zargar, E., Wood, T., and Petscher, Y. (2017). Acquiring Science and Social Studies Knowledge in Kindergarten through Fourth Grade: Conceptualization, Design, Implementation, and Efficacy Testing of Content-Area Literacy Instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(3): 301–320.

Connor, C.M., Morrison, F.J., and Underwood, P. (2007). A Second Chance in Second Grade: The Independent and Cumulative Impact of First- and Second-Grade Reading Instruction on Students' Letter-Word Reading Skill Growth. Scientific Studies of Reading, 11(3): 199–233.

Connor, C.M., Morrison, F.J., Fishman, B.J., Schatschneider, C., and Underwood, P. (2007). The Early Years: Algorithm-Guided Individualized Reading Instruction. Science, 315(5811): 464–465.

Connor, C.M., Piasta, S.B., Fishman, B., Glasney, S., Schatschneider, C., Crowe, E., Underwood, P., and Morrison, F.J. (2009). Individualizing Student Instruction Precisely: Effects of Child by Instruction Interactions on First Graders' Literacy Development. Child Development, 80(1): 77–100.

Piasta, S.B., Connor, C.M., Fishman, B., and Morrison, F.J. (2009). Teachers' Knowledge of Literacy, Classroom Practices, and Student Reading Growth. Scientific Studies of Reading, 13(3): 224–248.

Terry, N., Connor, C., Thomas-Tate, S., and Love, M. (2010). Examining Relationships Among Dialect Variation, Literacy Skills, and School Context in First Grade. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 53(1): 126–145.