A study published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness reports on the impact of Word Generation on academic language, vocabulary and reading comprehension outcomes for pupils in grades 4 to 7 (Years 5 to 8).
Word Generation (WG) is a vocabulary programme designed to
teach academic vocabulary words through English, maths, science and social
studies classroom activities. For this study, 7,725 fourth to seventh grade pupils
from 25 schools in the northeast US were randomised within pairs to either
treatment or business-as-usual control conditions. In treatment schools, the
programme was implemented throughout the school year. In grades 4 and 5 (Years
5 and 6), this involved 12 ten-day long units of 45-50 minutes per day. For
grades 6 and 7 (Years 7 and 8), the programme was implemented in six-week long
units designed to take 45 minutes each day in science and social studies
At the end of the first year, pupils in grades 4 and 5 also
made improvements on their academic language skills (ES = +0.06), and in their
reading comprehension at the end of the second year (ES = +0.15). Reading
comprehension also improved at the end of the second year for pupils in grades
6 and 7 (ES = +0.10).
The study also showed gains on tests of the specific words
emphasised in the programme, but these effects are considered potentially
Experimental effects of Word Generation on vocabulary, academic language,
perspective taking and reading comprehension in high-poverty schools (August
2019), Journal of Research on Educational
Kristin Rogde and colleagues from the Campbell Collaboration have completed a systematic review that examines the effects of linguistic comprehension teaching on generalised measures of language and reading comprehension skills. Examples of linguistic comprehension skills include vocabulary, grammar and narrative skills.
The authors searched literature dating back to 1986, and
identified 43 studies to include in the review, including samples of both
pre-school and school-aged participants. Randomised controlled trials and
quasi-experiments with a control group and a pre-post design were included.
Key findings of the review were as follows:
The linguistic comprehension programmes
included in the review display a small positive immediate effect on generalised
outcomes of linguistic comprehension.
The effect of the programmes on generalised
measures of reading comprehension is negligible.
Few studies report follow-up assessment of
According to the authors, linguistic comprehension teaching has
the potential to increase children’s general linguistic comprehension skills.
However, there is variability in effects related to the type of outcome measure
that is used to examine the effect of such instruction on linguistic
effect of linguistic comprehension instruction on generalized language and
reading comprehension skills: A systematic review (November 2019), Campbell Systematic Reviews
Evidence for Learning in Australia has published an evaluation report of a randomised controlled trial of MiniLit, a small group, phonics-based programme for struggling Year 1 readers. The intervention is targeted at the bottom 25% of pupils struggling to read, and focuses on improving pupils’ literacy in five areas: phoneme awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
The programme involved struggling readers from Year 1
classes in nine Australian primary schools located in New South Wales, and
consisted of 80 one-hour lessons delivered four to five days per week over 20
weeks. The lessons were delivered in school outside of regular lessons by
teachers to small groups of up to four pupils. A total of 237 pupils
participated, of which 119 were allocated to the MiniLit intervention group and
118 to the control group. Pupils in the control group received the school’s
usual learning support for struggling readers, which could include whole-class
approaches and/or support programmes for struggling readers.
Overall, there was no evidence that MiniLit had any
additional impact on pupils’ reading at 12 months, measured using the York
Assessment of Reading Comprehension – Passage Reading (YARC-PR) tests compared
to pupils receiving usual reading support (ES = -0.04). However, there were
some positive effects for reading accuracy (ES = +0.13) and reading rate (ES =
+0.06). There was also evidence of improvement in foundational reading skills
at six months, particularly letter sound knowledge, which was also sustained at
The researchers point out, however, that the findings were
dependent on the quality of the MiniLit lessons which were provided to pupils. Schools
were limited to 20 weeks’ duration, and in many cases, teachers reported that this
length was not sufficient to complete the programme for all groups. They suggest
that improving how MiniLit is implemented may lead to more positive outcomes;
however, this requires further evaluation to determine.
Learning impact fund: Evaluation report (2019). Independent report prepared by the Murdoch Children’s Research
Institute and the University of Melbourne for Evidence for Learning
Projections estimate that by 2030, children with English as an Additional Language will comprise 25% of US students, 77% of whom will speak Spanish. Yet there is little evidence-based research addressing what works in literacy for the Spanish-speaking population. Trisha Borman and colleagues recently reported the first-year results of a randomised study of Descubriendo La Lectura (DLL), an individually administered Spanish literacy programme for first graders (Year 2) struggling with literacy in their native Spanish, examining its effects on both Spanish and English literacy.
DLL incorporates the research-proven
practices of 1:1 tutoring, using a student’s native language to improve their
second language, intervening early (in first grade), using data to track and
guide progress, professional development, research-proven practices, and
Subjects were first-grade students in
22 schools in 3 states, statistically matched at baseline and randomly assigned
to receive DLL either in the 2016 school year (experimental group, n=78), or
the 2017 school year (delayed treatment control group, n=74). Students
qualified for DLL if they spoke Spanish at home and scored below 25% on the IdO
(a test that assesses literacy). Students were also pretested and post-tested
using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) and Logramos (the Spanish equivalent
of the ITBS). The experimental group received 30-minute lessons daily with
students and teachers meeting 1:1, progressing at their own pace until they
qualified to leave the programme and were post-tested. This process took 12-20
weeks, depending on the student.
Results favoured the DLL group, with statistically significant effect sizes on the Spanish Logramos averaging +0.55 (p<.001). On the English ITBS, the mean effect size was +0.17, which was not significant. There were larger positive outcomes on measures made by the developers. The programme will continue to be studied in two subsequent cohorts.
Source: Addressing Literacy Needs of Struggling Spanish-Speaking First Graders: First-Year Results From a National Randomized Controlled Trial of Descubriendo la Lectura (July 2019) AERA Open
In the field of education, professional development (PD) is intended to improve both classroom teaching and children’s learning. A new study, published in Journal of Educational Psychology, looks at what effect PD has when used at scale with large numbers of educators.
In this large-scale randomised controlled trial, Shayne B
Piasta and colleagues examined the effectiveness of a language and literacy PD
programme on both teacher and child outcomes in early childhood education. More
than 500 teachers across one US state took part in the trial and were randomly
assigned to one of three groups: professional development with coaching,
professional development without coaching, or a comparison group. Teachers in
the PD groups received 30 hours of state-sponsored language and literacy
professional development, with those assigned to the coaching groups also
receiving ongoing individualised coaching throughout the academic year.
Teachers in the comparison group also received state-sponsored PD, but in other
The results of the trial suggest that PD affected only a few
aspects of classroom language and literacy teaching practices relative to the
comparison group, and did not affect children’s literacy learning. PD with coaching
showed a small positive impact on the quantity of phonological awareness, while
both PD with and without coaching had a small positive impact on the quality of
teaching in phonological awareness and writing.
state-sponsored language and literacy professional development: Impacts on early
childhood classroom practices and children’s outcomes (June 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology
A new resource from Deans for Impact summarises current cognitive-science research related to how young children – from birth to age eight – develop skills across three domains: agency, literacy and numeracy.
It aims to
give guidance to anyone working in education who is interested in understanding
the science of how young children develop control of their own behaviour and
intentions, how they learn to read and write, and how they develop the ability
to think mathematically.
domain, the report identifies key questions about learning and provides a short
list of the principles from learning science that inform the answers to these
questions. The resource then connects these principles to a set of practical
implications for specific teaching strategies. The original research is clearly
referenced for anyone wishing to find out more.
Source: The science of early learning: How do young
children develop agency, literacy, and numeracy? (2019), Deans for Impact.