Our Study: Abstract

Scientific Abstract

Our Center had two major goals: (1) to conduct research on the underlying cognitive and motivational processes that contribute to or impede the reading development of struggling adult readers, and (2) to develop and evaluate a multiple component intervention framework to address their literacy learning needs. Reading comprehension as the goal of reading was the ultimate focus of this Center grant. To comprehend text successfully, a reader relies on integration and management of many rapidly executed skills and strategies. We targeted those with the strongest evidence base: phonological awareness, morphological knowledge, decoding, orthographic/irregular word reading, vocabulary, fluency, background/general knowledge, text structure knowledge, reasoning skills, and memory retrieval ability.

The participants in our work were adults who read between the 3rd and 8th grade equivalency levels. Our five years of work included three phases, each guided by specific research questions. The first phase focused on measuring individual differences in cognitive and motivational functioning, the second phase focused on instructional design within an iterative development framework and feasibility studies, and the third phase focused on conducting pilot intervention studies.

Among the unique contributions of our Center were: (i) a comprehensive approach to assessment that weds cognitive assessment with evaluation of motivational needs and attributions about literacy learning; (ii) attention to the adequacy of measurement instruments for this population; (iii) an assessment and intervention approach and theory of change motivated by a detailed theory of reading; (iv) an instructional framework adapted from an intervention developed and evaluated with 800+ adolescents reading at the same levels as ABE adult learners; (v) development of an intervention with different modules to allow tailoring to differing instructional needs in decoding and word identification, reading fluency, vocabulary, text analysis and reading comprehension; (vi) adoption of a web-based instructional adjunct to facilitate increased engagement by adult learners and greater reading experience inside and outside the classroom; (vii) design of web-based tutoring to individualize instruction and promote deeper levels of comprehension by learners; and (viii) feasibility and pilot intervention studies using different authentic adult literacy sites in the US and Canada.

With the added demands for digital literacy skills, the burden of low adult literacy will only increase. It is critical that we better understand the processes impeding the literacy learning of struggling adult readers in order to develop and test effective interventions capable of addressing their complex learning needs.