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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Early intervention for children at risk of reading disorders in Northern Norway: A cluster randomised trial

Alternative title: Tidlig intervensjon for barn i Nord-Norge med risiko for lesevansker: En randomisert kontrollert studie

Awarded: NOK 14.2 mill.

The primary objective of this study is to improve decoding skills and reading comprehension in young students identified to be at risk for reading failure. Children's reading skills is vital to their long-term success in education and later employment. An understanding of causal mechanisms is essential if teachers are to ensure that children's reading difficulties are identified early, and timely interventions are put in place. The project will provide young students with a well-founded intervention and teachers with state-of-the-art knowledge and skills enhancement. There are compelling financial reasons to intervene earlier rather than later in children's development. Figures show a steep increase in the share of students receiving special needs education across primary through lower secondary school. The study is a two-arm cluster randomized trial with group as the unit of randomisation. The two arms are (1) a programme to improve decoding skills and language comprehension and (2) "business as usual". The intervention is an intensive support programme delivered by trained teachers (or teaching assistants), and is designed to improve oral language ability and decoding skills in young students in Year 2 and Year 3 who are identified to be at risk for reading failure. The sessions focus on improving letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and vocabulary, reception of grammar and narrative skills. Both the intervention group and the control group includes children in Northern Norway, where the share of poor readers is higher than the national average. Teachers involved in the project will learn about the continuities between reading and language disorders. Given a successful outcome of the RCT study, however, the schools will continue to use the resources to ameliorate reading failure in future students. The project findings and experiences will furthermore be widely disseminated and thus contribute to a national knowledge base for the teaching profession.

The proposed study is a two-arm cluster randomized trial with group as the unit of randomisation. The two arms are (1) a programme to improve decoding skills and language comprehension and (2) "business as usual". The intervention is an intensive support programme delivered by trained teachers (or teaching assistants), and is designed to improve oral language ability and decoding skills in young students in Year 2 and Year 3 who are identified to be at risk for reading failure. The sessions focus on improving letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and vocabulary, reception of grammar and narrative skills. Both the intervention group and the control group includes children in Northern Norway, where the share of poor readers is higher than the national average. The most critical R&D challenges to be faced is implementation fidelity. The training will however enable teachers to understand the importance of the intervention and their role for successful implementation. Another critical challenge is absence. Both students and teachers may miss sessions due to illness or other reasons. To avoid problems related to sick leave among teachers, all schools will be requested to have a backup plan (e.g. trained teaching assistants who can act as stand-ins). Teachers involved in the project will learn about the continuities between reading and language disorders. Given a successful outcome of the RCT study, however, the schools will continue to use the resources to ameliorate reading failure in future students. The project findings and experiences will furthermore be widely disseminated and thus contribute to a national knowledge base for the teaching profession.

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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren