News from July 2017

Sharon Vaughn, Sarah Powell to be featured at Central Texas Dyslexia Conference
July 25, 2017

MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn and Principal Investigator Sarah Powell will share their expertise as featured presenters at the Central Texas Dyslexia Conference this fall in Austin. 

Vaughn will be a featured speaker for the event, which will be held October 19 at the Austin Independent School District Performing Arts Center. Her presentation, "Reading Strategies That Work," will explore the features of successful reading interventions in grades 4 to 8 and the importance of explicit and systematic phonics instruction.

Powell will lead a breakout session titled "Math Strategies That Work." She will discuss areas of difficulty, explicit instruction, the concrete-to-abstract continuum, fact fluency, and word problems.

According to the website, the conference "will help teachers and parents by identifying the cognitive strengths common among dyslexic students and will explain how to nurture these gifts in dyslexic students. In addition, dyslexia experts will provide instructional best practices proven to help dyslexic students improve reading fluency, comprehension, and math skills."

For more information on this free event, including registration and a full schedule, visit the conference website.

MCPER, Utah State to test story-skills program for those at risk for language, literacy difficulties
July 17, 2017

Researchers at Utah State University (Ron Gillam and Sandra Gillam) and The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk (Sharon Vaughn and Greg Roberts) have been awarded a $3.3 million, 4-year federal grant to test a program for improving the narrative comprehension and composition of first- through fourth-grade students at risk for language and learning difficulties.

The funding from the Institute of Education Sciences will allow the researchers to evaluate the effects of the Supporting Knowledge in Language and Literacy (SKILL) curriculum in a large randomized clinical trial in Utah and Texas over the next 4 years.

This work will build on previous research on the impact of early instruction in narrative language skills, such as story structure, character development, and causation. This research demonstrated the importance of narrative language proficiency to academic success. Students with language and learning difficulties will be the focus of the efficacy studies at the Utah and Texas sites.

Students randomized to receive the language and literacy intervention will participate in approximately 40 half-hour sessions. Instruction will focus on story structure, strategies for constructing situation models, and the integration of new information into long-term memory. The literature-based texts and activities will closely align with the kinds of texts students read and write in general education classrooms. The project team will evaluate the effects of the curriculum by examining student performance on measures of narrative language during oral and written storytelling, reading comprehension, and early written language.

For more information about this project, visit the project webpage.

New project to examine practices for improving reading comprehension and reducing anxiety
July 10, 2017

The National Institutes of Health has awarded researchers at The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk and Boston University a $2.9 million, 5-year grant to investigate practices for improving reading comprehension and reducing reading anxiety of fourth- and fifth-grade students with reading difficulties.

The grant will allow MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn and Amie Grills of Boston University to build on their previous research investigating the relation between reading difficulties and reading anxiety and approaches to improving reading performance and reducing anxiety. Their previous research demonstrates a high prevalence of anxiety among children experiencing reading difficulties. To address this problem, Grills and Vaughn conducted a pilot study examining the effects of a reading intervention program that featured strategies for reducing anxiety. Their research findings provide preliminary evidence that significant reductions in anxiety occur when students receive anxiety-management instruction within a reading intervention.

Over the next 5 years, the researchers will further develop and test an integrated approach in a randomized clinical trial with students in Texas and Massachusetts. Students randomized to receive the intervention will participate for 2 consecutive years beginning in fourth grade. Instructional practices for reducing anxiety will focus on three core areas: (1) recognizing feelings and understanding how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related; (2) practicing various relaxation and stress-management skills; and (3) recognizing anxious and unhelpful thoughts and changing them. These practices will be embedded within reading intervention lessons found in previous studies to improve student decoding and reading comprehension outcomes. The project team will evaluate the effects of the reading and anxiety practices by examining student performance on reading and socioemotional measures.

“This is a very exciting opportunity to conduct a relatively unique approach to better understanding whether we can both reduce anxiety and improve reading outcomes for students with significant reading problems," Grills said.

For more information about this project, visit the project webpage.