"When Data and Theory Collide: Designing and Evaluating Successful Interventions for Young Children's Comprehension-Related Processes"

SREE 2017 Spring Conference
March 1-4, Washington, DC

"When Data and Theory Collide: Designing and Evaluating Successful Interventions for Young Children's Comprehension-Related Processes" 
Authors: Christopher J. Lonigan, Carol M. Connor, Beth M. Phillips, & Young-Suk Kim


The Reading for Understanding (RFU) project at the Florida Center for Research (FCRR) had three inter-related goals: (a) Develop a refined understanding of the cognitive, linguistic, and behavioral processes that are associated with understanding (both language and reading). (b) Develop, refine, and evaluate the impact of instructional interventions to promote factors associated with understanding, and (c) Develop, refine, and evaluate instructional tools that both provide teachers with effective instructional strategies for children with or at risk of problems in understanding. In the service of these goals, we simultaneously conducted basic science projects designed to uncover comprehension-related processes that could be leveraged to improve comprehension outcomes for children in grades preschool-fifth grade and development, design, and evaluation projects of interventions intended to affect children’s comprehension-related processes. We conducted a large-scale comparative efficacy study to identify the intervention or interventions that yielded the largest or broadest impacts on children’s comprehension-related processes. The results of this study, which involved approximately 4,000 children in preschool-fourth grades, indicated that several interventions produced significant effects that were largely constrained to measures of the skill targeted by the intervention, and that effects were largest for younger children. Therefore, we selected the three interventions that yielded the largest impacts to evaluate in the next study: “Language in Motion”, “Comprehension through Oral Retell, Monitoring, and Providing Awareness of Story Structure” (COMPASS), and “Dialogic Reading-Enhanced” (DR-E). Each of the three interventions targeted different aspects of language skill (i.e., vocabulary, syntax, text structure knowledge, comprehension monitoring). Each intervention was designed as a 9-week module involving small-group instruction. Because results of our comparative-efficacy study indicated that each intervention had impacts on its targeted skill, interventions were combined as a means of obtaining a broader impact on children’s comprehension-related processes. Although the interventions tended to produce significant positive effects for all children, impacts were moderated by some child characteristics. Follow-up analyses revealed that interventions tended to produce larger effects for preschool children with weaker initial skills. For kindergarten children, moderation effects were outcome specific with larger effects associated with both weaker and stronger initial skills. The results of this study indicate that it is possible to have broad impacts on young children’s comprehension-related skills using interventions specifically designed to impact the two primary dimensions of linguistic competencies related to reading comprehension.