Efficacy Trials with a New Early Literacy and Language Curriculum for Preschool Children with Developmental Speech and/or Language Impairment
Purpose: Eighty-two percent of children receiving special education services demonstrate a developmental speech and/or language impairment (DSLI) either as a primary diagnosis (i.e., DSLI is the sole impairment) or as a condition secondary to another primary diagnosis (e.g., developmental delay, mental retardation). Regardless of the underlying diagnosis, children with DSLI often fail to develop crucial pre-literacy skills, such as oral language skills, which can lead to later literacy difficulties and reading failure. The purpose of this study is to assess the efficacy of a recently developed preschool oral language and early literacy curriculum package, Teaching Early Literacy and Language Across the Curriculum (TELL), for children with DSLI either as a primary or secondary impairment. TELL targets skills that have been shown to be important in reading decoding and comprehension: phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, print concepts, writing, vocabulary, and sentence length/complexity.
Project Activities: Researchers will conduct a randomized controlled trial in which 72 preschool classrooms will be randomly assigned to either the TELL or "business as usual" comparison condition. Data will be collected in three cohorts (corresponding to project years 1, 2, and 3) and all children will be followed into the first quarter of kindergarten to gather information about early kindergarten success and readiness. In addition to child outcomes, researchers will examine the effectiveness of the TELL professional development sessions and the perceived value and feasibility of the curriculum.
Products: Products include evidence about the efficacy of the TELL curriculum package for improving the oral language and emergent literacy skills of children with DSLI; the variables that may serve as predictors, moderators, or mediators of observed outcomes; and the perceived value and feasibility of TELL from the perspective of preschool teachers. The results will be reported in conference presentations and published articles.
Setting: This study will be conducted in preschool classrooms in Arizona.
Population: The study will target 4-year-old children with DSLI receiving services through Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Intervention: TELL is designed so that language and early literacy goals and explicit teaching practices are integrated and implemented within the context of social emotional, math, science, art, and fine and gross motor activities. The TELL curriculum package includes a scope and sequence of instruction, scripted teaching activities, materials for implementation of oral language and early literacy activities, and professional development for teachers. TELL professional development includes 25 hours of formal training and weekly coaching for teachers and teaching assistants to implement the curriculum in experimental classrooms across the project period.
Research Design and Methods: The research design for this study is a randomized controlled trial in which 72 preschool classrooms will be randomly assigned to either the TELL or "business as usual" comparison condition. Data on child outcomes and teacher's instructional practices will be collected in three cohorts (corresponding to project years 1, 2, and 3), and all children will be followed into the first quarter of kindergarten. Focus groups, individual structured interviews, and surveys will be used to gather data from teachers on the perceived value and feasibility of TELL.
Control Condition: Classes assigned to this condition will represent standard practice (i.e., "business as usual") in their districts. During the study, the research team will gather information about the teaching content and use of practices by these classroom teachers to inform the comparisons that will be made to TELL classrooms.
Key Measures: Selected measures include those designed to (a) evaluate the impact of the TELL curriculum on children's school readiness in early literacy and oral language skills; (b) evaluate teachers' use of oral language and early literacy instructional practices; (c) evaluate the quality of the classroom language and literacy environments; and (d) determine the extent to which the TELL curriculum impacts children's readiness for kindergarten success.
Data Analytic Strategy: The primary analysis of quantitative outcome variables will be a mixed-model analysis of covariance, or hierarchical linear model. Growth curve models will be used to compare differences in growth trends between TELL and comparison students. Structural equation models will be used to test whether certain variables serve as mediators of the intervention effect on outcomes. Qualitative interview and focus group data will be audio-recorded and sent to a transcription service to create word documents. These documents will serve as the data source to be imported into qualitative results
Wilcox, M. J., Gray, S., Guimond, A., Lafferty, A. (2011). Efficacy of the TELL language and literacy curriculum for preschoolers with developmental speech and/or language impairment. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 26, 278–294. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2010.12.