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icon of glasses and a book Reading for Understanding Research Initiative


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FY Awards


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Examining Effective Intervention Targets, Longitudinal Intensity, and Scaling Factors for Pre-K to 5th Grade Student Comprehension

Year: 2010
Name of Institution:
Florida State University
Goal: Multiple Goals
Principal Investigator:
Lonigan, Christopher
Award Amount: $20,000,000
Award Period: 5 years
Award Number: R305F100027


Co-Principal Investigator: Carol M. Connor

Purpose: The goals of this project are to investigate the underlying cognitive and linguistic components that contribute to or that prevent the acquisition of well-developed comprehension skills, and to create and evaluate coherent, integrated multi-component instructional interventions intended to build and integrate key component skills that support students' proficient oral and text comprehension and reading for understanding. Researchers will identify, develop, and evaluate interventions that will likely result in substantial increases in students' reading comprehension across early childhood and elementary school with a focus on students at risk for significant reading comprehension difficulties, particularly among children attending higher poverty schools. A focus of this project is the investigation of the cumulative impact of the use of effective instructional interventions on students' reading comprehension skills. Development and evaluation studies will be embedded in a longitudinal model, and will explore the accumulated effects of instruction over multiple years of schooling. Interventions will consist of data-informed instructional sequences and activities that will be shared through a web-based teacher tool called CTT (Comprehension Tools for Teachers). This tool will also include assessments for use in decision making. In addition, this team will develop and evaluate a professional development support and training system to increase fidelity of implementation of the multi-component instructional interventions and increase the impact on the reading comprehension skills of students from prekindergarten to fourth grade.

Grade Span: Prekindergarten through Grade 4 students will participate in the intervention studies. Longitudinal data will be collected for Grade 6 students as well.

School Partners: Schools in Leon, Bay, Liberty, and other counties in north Florida

Basic Cognitive Studies: Studies focus on understanding critical elements of cognitive and linguistic processing at the word, sentence and text level. Methods will include both traditional and novel approaches (such as tracking of eye movements) that will be used to study both conscious and ‘under the hood' processes. Researchers will examine how information is processed during reading; the role of inhibitory processes, attention regulation, and sensorimotor activity during comprehension; understanding in relation to contextualization; dialect awareness; meta-cognitive processes; and semantic connections in relation to comprehension monitoring.

A multivariate study of components of reading comprehension is being conducted to identify which cognitive and linguistic factors account for the largest portion of variance in reading comprehension and therefore could be the most promising targets of intervention. A cross-sequential study is being conducted in years 1–3 to identify promising targets of intervention through providing both cross-sectional and longitudinal data for multiple cohorts. Students are assessed on a battery of measures that include standardized and experimental assessments as well as eye-tracking measures. The study is collecting multiple measures of similar constructs to allow for better estimation of latent abilities. Multilevel, multivariate, latent variable models will be used to analyze data to identify targets for intervention.

Key Personnel: All of the project's key personnel are involved in all phases of the project. The key personnel most associated with these studies include: Christopher Lonigan, Richard Wagner, Michael Kaschak, Ralph Radach, and Christopher Schatschneider.

Intervention Development Studies: To accelerate the development of promising interventions, development work began in years 1 and 2 based on several cognitive and linguistic components for which there is already substantial evidence of their role in supporting comprehension: semantic knowledge, background knowledge, strategy use, text structure, and morphological awareness. Building on pilot work already completed, units in science and social studies were developed for students in prekindergarten through grade 4. Researchers are also developing multi-component interventions designed to increase children's metalinguistic awareness of text structure, morphology, and orthography.

These interventions consist of integrated longitudinal small group instructional activities that are recommended based on students' assessed language, literacy, and other skills (i.e., those identified in the basic cognitive studies). Intervention sessions are conducted at least 3 to 4 times per week with flexible small groups of children with similar learning needs. Researchers and teachers work together to use findings from basic studies to inform the development of the instructional activities and sequences. An iterative cycle of development, testing, and refinement is utilized to create the final version of the interventions.

The web-based teacher tool, Comprehension Tools for Teachers (CTT), will be modeled on ‘clinical decision support systems' in the medical field. Such systems include recommendations for treatment (e.g., instruction) and computer-based support that is integrated into the teacher's work schedule and environment. CTT will include student assessment modules in oral language, decoding, content area knowledge, comprehension, and other skills to track student progress over time. Teachers will attend workshops for professional development in using CTT, and will have ongoing access to an online support system. A series of studies will be undertaken to develop and refine the Professional Development and CTT support system.

Key Personnel: All of the project's key personnel are involved in all phases of the project. The key personnel most associated with these studies include: Carol Connor, Beth Phillips, Stephanie Al'Otaiba, Young-Suk Kim, Kenn Apel, Christopher Lonigan, and Shurita Thomas-Tate.

Efficacy Studies: Given preliminary results from the multivariate study of components of reading comprehension, which indicated that there was less distinction between potential component language skills that could contribute to reading comprehension, the component interventions developed to promote children's comprehension skills (i.e., syntax, narrative, morphological awareness, text structure) is being tested in a comparative efficacy study to identify which interventions produce large effects, effects that generalize across multiple domains of language skills, or both. Children who are identified as at risk for comprehension difficulties in grades Pre-K to 4 are randomly assigned to one of the interventions developed for their grade level or a business-as-usual control group. Assigned students were assessed in the fall prior to intervention and immediately after the conclusion of the interventions in the spring) with a common study-wide battery of assessments that include measures of vocabulary, grammar, narrative, decoding, and reading comprehension. All interventions are being conducted by the project's instructional staff as small-group, daily, pull-out interventions, and the interventions last from 8 to 12 weeks each. Fidelity of the interventions is monitored via live observations and rating of intervention sessions three times during the intervention period. In addition to this fidelity observation, professional development staff are monitoring intervention implementation via live observation and through randomly selected audio recordings of each interventionist's intervention groups. In concert with the latter fidelity observations, professional development staff provide feedback and additional training to intervention staff as needed based on observations. The study design will allow the study team to identify which interventions produce the largest or most generalized impacts and to explore if certain child characteristics are associated with larger or smaller gains from particular interventions.

A study of teacher usage of CTT will be conducted in the full deployment phase of the research to further test the professional development system in the context of full implementation and also to investigate what supports are necessary and scalable for high quality implementation.

Key Personnel: All of the project's key personnel are involved in all phases of the project. The key personnel most associated with these studies include: Christopher Lonigan, Beth Philips, Young-Suk Kim, Stephanie Al'Otaiba, Kenn Apel, Michael Kaschak, Carol Connor, and Christopher Schatschneider.

Project Website:

Publications from this project:

Ahmed, Y., Wagner, R. K., and Lopez, D. (2014). Developmental Relations Between Reading and Writing at the Word, Sentence, and Text Levels: A Latent Change Score Analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106: 419–434.

Apel, K. and Diehm, E. (2013). Morphological Awareness Intervention with Kindergarteners and First and Second Grade Students from Low SES Homes: A Small Efficacy Study. Journal of Learning Disabilities 47(1), 65–75.

Apel, K., Brimo, D., Diehm, E., and Apel, L. (2013). Morphological Awareness Intervention With Kindergartners and First- and Second-Grade Students From Low Socioeconomic Status Homes: A Feasibility Study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 44(2): 161–173.

Apel, K., Diehm, E., and Apel, L. (2013). Using Multiple Measures Of Morphological Awareness to Assess Its Relation to Reading. Topics In Language Disorders, 33(1): 42–56.

Barnes, A., Kim, Y-S., and Phillips, B. M. (2014). The Relations of Proper Character Introduction to Narrative Quality and Listening Comprehension for Young Children From High Poverty Schools. Reading and Writing, 27, 1189–1205.

Connor, C. M. (2013). Intervening to Support Reading Comprehension Development With Diverse Learners. In Brett Miller & Laurie E. Cutting (Eds.), Unraveling the Behavioral, Neurobiological and Genetic Components of Reading Comprehension: The Dyslexia Foundation and NICHD (pp. 222–232). Baltimore: Brookes.

Connor, C.M. (2016). A Lattice Model of the Development of Reading Comprehension. Child Development Perspectives, 10: 269–274.

Connor, C. M., and Al Otaiba, S. (in press). Primary Grade Reading Instruction in the United States. In A. Pollatsek & R. Treiman (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Reading.

Connor, C. M., Day, S. L., Phillips, B., Sparapani, N., Ingebrand, S. W., McLean, L., and Kaschak, M. P. (2016). Reciprocal Effects of Self-Regulation, Semantic Knowledge, and Reading Comprehension in Early Elementary School. Child Development. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12570 NIHMSID: NIHMS783168

Connor, C. M., Dombek, J., Crowe, E. C., Spencer, M., Tighe, E. L., Coffinger, S., Zargar, E., Wood, T., and Petscher, Y. (2016). Acquiring Science and Social Studies Knowledge in Kindergarten through Fourth Grade: Conceptualization, Design, Implementation, and Efficacy Testing of Content-Area Literacy Instruction (CALI). Journal of Educational Psychology. Online first publication. doi: 10.1037/edu0000128

Connor, C. M., Goldman, S.R. and Fishman, B. (2013). Reading and Writing Technology. In M. Spector, D. Merrill and M. J. Bishop (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Connor, C. M., Ingebrand, S., and Dombek, J. (2014). The Reading Side. In B. Miller, P. McCardle and R. Long (Eds.), Teaching Reading and Writing: Improving Instruction and Student Achievement (pp. 7–20). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Connor, C. M., Phillips, B. M., Kaschak, M., Apel, K., Kim, Y-S., Al Otaiba, S., Crowe, E. C., Thomas-Tate, S., Johnson, L., C., and Lonigan, C. J. (2014). Comprehension Tools for Teachers: Reading for Understanding From Pre-Kindergarten Through Fourth Grade. Educational Psychology Review, 26, 379–401.

Connor, C. M., and McCardle, P. (Eds.). (2016). Reading Intervention: Research to Practice to Research. NY: Brookes Publishing.

Connor, C. M., Radach, R., Vorstius, C., Day, S. L., McLean, L., and Morrison, F. J. (2015). Individual Differences in Fifth Graders' Literacy and Academic Language Predict Comprehension Monitoring Development: An Eye-Movement Study. Scientific Studies of Reading, 19(2), 114–134. doi: 10.1080/10888438.2014.943905

Lonigan, C. J. (2015). Early Literacy. In R. M. Lerner, Lynn S. Liben, and U. Müeller (Eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science. Volume 2: Cognitive Processes (pp. 763–805). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons.

Kim, Y-S., and Phillips, B. M (2014). Cognitive Correlates of Listening Comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 49, 269–281.

Kim, Y.-S. G. and Phillips, B. M. (in press). Five Minutes a Day to Improve Comprehension Monitoring in Real Language Contexts: An Exploratory Intervention Study with Prekindergarteners From Low Income Families. Topics in Language Disorders.

Phillips, B. M. (2014). Promotion of Syntactical Development and Oral Comprehension: Development and Initial Evaluation of a Small-Group Intervention. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 30, 63–77.

Phillips, B. M., Tabulda, G., Burris, P. W., Jangra, S., Sedgwick, T. K, & Chen, S. (2016). A Syntax and Theory of Mind Intervention for High-Need Prekindergarten Students: Results From a Randomized Trial. Manuscript in press Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research.

Quinn, J. M., Wagner, R. K., Petscher, Y., and Lopez, D. (2015). Developmental Relations Between Vocabulary Knowledge and Reading Comprehension: A Latent Change Score Modeling Study. Child Development, 86, 159–175.

Spencer, M., Kaschak, M. P., Jones, J., and Lonigan, C. J. (2015). Statistical Learning is Related to Early Literacy-Related Skills. Reading and Writing, 28, 467–490.

Spencer, M., Muse, A., Wagner, R. K., Foorman, B., Petscher, Y., Schatschneider, C., Tighe, E. L., and Bishop, D. (in press). Examining the Underlying Dimensions of Morphological Awareness and Vocabulary Knowledge. Reading and Writing.

Spencer, M., Quinn, J. M., and Wagner, R. K. (2014). Specific Reading Comprehension Disability: Major Problem, Myth, or Misnomer? Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 29, 3–9.

Tang, S., Reilly, R. G., and Vorstius, C. (2012). Eyemap: A Software System for Visualizing and Analyzing Eye Movement Data in Reading. Behavior Research Methods, 44, 420–438.

Tighe, E. L., Wagner, R. K., and Schatschneider, C. (in press). Multiple Group Causal Indicator Models of Reading Comprehension. Reading and Writing.

Vorstius, C., Radach, R., and Lonigan, C. J. (2014). Eye Movements in Developing Readers: A Comparison of Silent and Oral Sentence Reading. Visual Cognition, 22, 458–485.

Vorstius, C., Radach, R., Mayer, M. B., and Lonigan, C. J. (2013). Monitoring Local Comprehension Monitoring in Sentence Reading. School Psychology Review, 42, 191–206.

Wagner, R. K., Herrera, S. K., Spencer, M., and Quinn, J. M. (2015). Reconsidering the Simple View of Reading in an Intriguing Case of Equivalent Models. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 48, 115–119.