Assessing the Effectiveness of Structured Word Inquiry for Students in Grades 3 and 5 With Reading and Spelling Difficulties: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Danielle Colenbrander, Liam Parsons, Jeffrey S Bowers, Colin J Davis

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Abstract

Research syntheses have demonstrated that morphological instruction can improve the literacy skills of poor readers and spellers. However, studies have used a wide variety of training methods. Questions remain about what type of morphological instruction is most effective and under which circumstances. In this study, we conducted a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of Structured Word Inquiry for poor readers and spellers. Structured Word Inquiry teaches students the logic of the English spelling system via instruction in morphology and etymology. Students in grades 3 and 5 with poor reading and spelling skills were randomly assigned to receive either Structured Word Inquiry instruction or a comparison instruction method involving robust vocabulary instruction and reciprocal teaching. Instruction was delivered by teaching assistants over the course of a full school year. After training, there were few differences between the groups in terms of literacy or vocabulary skills. However, teaching assistants found Structured Word Inquiry instruction challenging to deliver, which is likely to have impacted the results. Our findings have implications for the nature and content of morphological instruction for poor readers and spellers, and for future attempts to scale up the delivery of morphological interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-352
Number of pages46
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Volume57
Issue number1
Early online date4 May 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research project was funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant (EDU/42179) to Colin J. Davis and Jeffrey S. Bowers. Bowers is the brother of Peter Bowers, who runs the company WordWorks where he uses SWI to work with students, teachers, and schools. We thank the TAs, other staff, and students at participating schools; Paula Clarke for assistance with development of the MR training program; Bowers for training TAs in SWI during the workshop; the members of our advisory committee (Kate Nation, Chris Rogers, and Gemma Davies) for their invaluable advice; Samantha McCormick for assistance with randomization; Bobby Stuyvesant, Peter Humburg, and Serje Robidoux for statistical advice; Oxford University Press for generously donating books; Aardman animations for the use of the Morph character on our study materials; and our research assistants and volunteer interns, particularly Queenie Hon, Shawna Murphy, Cristiano Altamura, Alwena Luff, Laura Threadgold, Eleanor Underhill, and Rebecca Jackson.

Funding Information:
This research project was funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant (EDU/42179) to Colin J. Davis and Jeffrey S. Bowers. Bowers is the brother of Peter Bowers, who runs the company WordWorks where he uses SWI to work with students, teachers, and schools. We thank the TAs, other staff, and students at participating schools; Paula Clarke for assistance with development of the MR training program; Bowers for training TAs in SWI during the workshop; the members of our advisory committee (Kate Nation, Chris Rogers, and Gemma Davies) for their invaluable advice; Samantha McCormick for assistance with randomization; Bobby Stuyvesant, Peter Humburg, and Serje Robidoux for statistical advice; Oxford University Press for generously donating books; Aardman animations for the use of the Morph character on our study materials; and our research assistants and volunteer interns, particularly Queenie Hon, Shawna Murphy, Cristiano Altamura, Alwena Luff, Laura Threadgold, Eleanor Underhill, and Rebecca Jackson.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Reading Research Quarterly published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Literacy Association

Keywords

  • Instructional strategies; methods and materials
  • Struggling learners
  • Decoding
  • Vocabulary
  • Cognitive
  • Decoding—Morphemic analysis
  • Vocabulary—Morphology
  • Vocabulary—Word structure
  • Experimental/Quasi-experimental
  • Hierarchical Modeling
  • 2-Childhood

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