What Works Clearinghouse Reviews Rigorous REL-NEI Study
|August 20, 2012|
Washington, DC – The What Works Clearinghouse at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has released a review of a REL Northeast and Islands randomized controlled trial that examined the effects of a computer software program on adolescent literacy.
The study, titled “Impact of the Thinking Reader® Software Program on Grade 6 Reading Vocabulary, Comprehension, Strategies, and Motivation,” was published in April 2011 and found no statistically significant differences on the comprehension outcomes of students in classes that used the Thinking Reader® program, compared with students in the comparison classes. The WWC gave the study its highest rating, noting that the research meets evidence standards without reservations.
Thinking Reader® is a software program that aims to motivate middle school students to read and to make self-directed use of seven target comprehension strategies: a) summarizing, b) clarifying, c) visualizing, d) reflecting, e) questioning, f) predicting, and g) feeling. Students listen to a novel while following highlighted text on a computer screen and then respond to questions about the story. The program applies reciprocal teaching methods through the use of animated coaches and peers to enhance comprehension strategies.
The REL-NEI study of Thinking Reader® was a multisite cluster RCT conducted during the 2008/09 academic year. Ninety-two reading/English language arts teachers from 32 elementary and middle schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island were randomly assigned within their schools to either the Thinking Reader® condition or the comparison condition. Teachers in the Thinking Reader® condition supplemented their regular English language arts or reading instruction with one to three preselected Thinking Reader® novels that students were asked to read within the Thinking Reader® software program. Students in comparison group classrooms participated in their school’s regular curriculum.
The analysis sample consisted of 90 classes and 2,147 grade 6 students, with 1,156 students in the Thinking Reader® condition and 991 students in the comparison condition. The study assessed the effectiveness of Thinking Reader® by comparing the reading comprehension of students in the Thinking Reader® and comparison conditions at the end of the school year.