Exploring the effects of online instruction on reading comprehension achievement of students with learning disabilities

by Fitzgerald, Nancy Shuman, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGAS, 2009, 267 pages; 3391475


Two major pieces of legislation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (2001) mandate that students with disabilities be placed in the Least Restrictive Environment and have access to the general education curriculum. To provide access to the general education curriculum, inclusion in general education classes for students with disabilities has become the accepted practice. Many students with specific learning disabilities experience difficulties with the general education curriculum because their reading ability falls significantly below the school curriculum and textbook instructional levels (Deshler & Schumaker, 1993). The Word Identification Strategy (Lenz, Schumaker, Deshler, & Beals, 2007) has been validated in traditional face-to-face settings to increase the oral reading and comprehension of students with reading deficits. Due to the possibilities of the Internet, online education has become a strong alternative option for traditional face-to-face instruction.

The purpose of this multiple-probe design study was to investigate the effect of teaching The Word Identification Strategy (Lenz, Schumaker, Deshler, & Beals, 2007) through online modules to students with specific learning disabilities. Specifically, The Word Identification Strategy (Lenz et al., 2007) was taught to five participants (i.e., two fifth graders, one six grader, and two seventh graders) through online modules within an online distance education charter school. The Word Identification Strategy (Lenz et al.) served as the independent variable to determine the effect on the participants' oral reading and comprehension. Oral Reading Probes and Comprehension Probes were used to measure participant performance throughout three design conditions: (a) baseline, (b) instruction, and (b) maintenance. The instruction condition included three phases: controlled practice using instructional level reading passages, advanced practice using grade level reading passages, and generalization using reading assignments from their English, science, and social studies online classes. Maintenance Probes were used to determine whether participants maintained the skill two weeks after instruction ended. Visual analysis of graphed data from the Oral Reading Probes and Comprehension Probes obtained during the three conditions was analyzed to determine the strategy's effectiveness. Analysis revealed that all five participants learned The Word Identification Strategy (Lenz) through online instruction and improved their oral reading mean average scores from an instructional level (90%-95%) to an independent level (96%-100%) on controlled practice (instructional level) and advanced practice (grade level) materials. In addition, participants improved their comprehension on controlled and advanced materials when compared to pretest comprehension scores. Participants also generalized the strategy to online materials written at grade level. Finally, students with learning disabilities maintained their oral reading and comprehension skills over a two-week period at levels higher than their performance before learning the strategy.

AdviserSusan P. Miller
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsSpecial education; Reading instruction; Educational technology
Publication Number3391475

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