Our research team aims to better understand the mechanisms to support teachers’ data-based decision making (DBDM) to improve outcomes for upper-elementary students with reading difficulties and disabilities (including dyslexia). EXPERT is a teacher-driven program to increase expertise of both special education and general education teachers in identifying evidence of students’ learning and using that evidence to improve student achievement through the delivery of responsive, high-quality instruction to students with significant word-level reading challenges in third to fifth grades. It will be built on several characteristics shown to be important in improving teachers’ use of assessment evidence for guiding instruction: teachers’ content knowledge and self-efficacy, decision rules for evaluating data and linking assessment to instructional changes, self-monitoring of assessment and instructional practices, and fostering collaboration among teachers for purposes of DBDM. Coaching will be used throughout to individually tailor content for teachers based on their knowledge and the needs of their students. This individualized coaching model allows teachers to guide the direction of the implementation and promotes their autonomy and empowerment.
The project has three central aims: (1) to develop a program (EXPERT intervention) that will foster and enhance teachers’ expertise in DBDM for working with upper-elementary students with reading disabilities; (2) to document the feasibility and usability of the EXPERT intervention and its effects on teachers’ knowledge and skills related to DBDM in reading; and (3) to document the effects of the EXPERT intervention on the reading achievement of students with word-level reading disabilities in the upper-elementary grades.
An iterative development process will be used to design and refine the EXPERT intervention. In Year 1, we will investigate current practices in DBDM among special education and general education teachers through a detailed observation phase using direct observation, focus groups, and preliminary data collection. In Year 2, a single-case design study will be used to test changes in teachers’ behaviors while participating in the EXPERT intervention. In Year 3, feasibility of the EXPERT intervention will be explored through a pretest-posttest single-group design study. In Year 4, we will conduct a randomized controlled trial pilot study by comparing teacher and student outcomes based on participation in the EXPERT intervention versus standard practice professional development.
Teacher pairs of special educators (or dyslexia specialists) and general educators who are responsible for the reading instruction of struggling readers in third to fifth grades will be invited to participate. Students are those with a reading goal in their individualized education plans and/or who are receiving dyslexia services.