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Learning and Instruction: A SERP Research Agenda
Developing and Testing Reading Intervention Once hypotheses are generated regarding the components of effective instruction for different groups and grades, the next phase of R&D would involve the design of interventions that incorporate those components into instruction systematically, in an effort to verify their effectiveness experimentally and to assess their efficacy with a wider array of students and reading curricula or subject matter.
Since basal readers are the primary reading curriculum materials for the majority of American classrooms (National Research Council, 1998), they are an obvious target for improvement in reading instruction. Two studies have examined first grade basal readers for their theories of learning (Foorman et al., 2002; Hiebert et al., 2002), and both studies report their limitations. For example, the vast majority of words presented in text selections in a lesson in first grade basals are used only once, yet research clearly indicates that multiple presentations of a word are required before it becomes part of a student’s vocabulary (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000). Basals also differ significantly on the decodability of the text (the composition with respect to length, grammatical complexity, the number of unique and total words, repetition of words, and coverage of important vocabulary). Iterative cycles of design and research on the features of instructional interventions generally, and basals specifically, could make a direct contribution to instructional practice.
The development projects should be undertaken in competing efforts in order to maximize creativity and entrepreneurship, and each project should be conducted with a research component to test critical features (e.g., variation in time spent on vocabulary instruction.) Once instructional interventions have gone through sufficient iterations of design, testing, and redesign, the interventions should be tested more broadly. More powerful, large-scale, longitudinal, planned variation studies could be undertaken to test the relative benefit of different instructional programs, and data on student achievement results should be collected to ascertain how large an impact the intervention has on students with different characteristics (socioeconomic status, primary language, achievement level, etc.). Simultaneously, teacher knowledge and support requirements should be studied.