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Developing Multisyllabic Decoding + Encoding Skills for Upper Elementary Learners

This project will develop and evaluate materials that are contextually relevant and build competencies in multisyllabic decoding and encoding, while examining implications for targeted instruction of students who find reading and spelling big words in isolation and in authentic literacy contexts challenging. 

The researchers will develop and evaluate the effects of an instructional intervention on Grade 3 to 5 students’ decoding, encoding, sentence production, fluency, and their confidence to read using small and whole group instructional practices. Small group instruction for decoding and encoding strategies addresses morphology and structural analysis of multisyllabic words with a goal of flexible application of syllabification practices. This flexibility and fluency in small-group contexts will be reinforced with brief whole-group applications. In this process, executive functioning is promoted as students reread and re-check their work. Students’ review and self-reflection will serve to reinforce the value of use of the taught strategy and confirm the pragmatic and semantic function of the word decoded and encoded in the context of reading and writing sentences. This project is based on principles of design research that allow for iterative cycles of implementation and revision. 

Junior Book Club
Children Using Tablets

Research Methods

This work draws attention to upper elementary learners’ needs by developing and evaluating materials that are contextually relevant and build competencies in multisyllabic (Big Word) decoding and encoding. Contextual relevance largely stems from the design of the study which allows for flexibility and revisions within the project timeline to meet the needs of students in their contexts. Materials are co-developed with teachers and district leaders, families are engaged in the work as it occurs, and feedback is sought from school personnel and students themselves. 

Building upon existing research and known effective practices, instructional materials utilize a number of strategies to develop morphological awareness and increased automaticity of Big Word reading and spelling. Given the community-focused, design-based research approach, this project serves the needs of its participants while generating materials that benefit the field at large and increase knowledge about what works and for whom as it relates to reading Big Words. 

Design-Based Research Methodology


This project is based on design research that allows for iterative cycles of implementation and revision (McKenney & Reeves, 2012; Philippakos et al., 2021; Reinking & Bradley, 2004; 2008). Dillon et al. (2011), in their discussion about professional development in reading and teacher education, emphasized the importance of conducting formative experiments that allow the study of instructional practices in real classroom settings with the collaboration of teachers across time. Thus, in this work we collaborate with district and school-level leaders and classroom teachers to codevelop the resources used across two cycles of implementation. Members of the research team develop materials, seek feedback (of partners and by the consulting team), and revise as needed after developing a strong understanding of student and school needs and the contextual factors shaping and impacting the instructional settings. The development of this understanding is critical to engage in robust and appropriate design-based research as this study seeks to do. 

The analysis will follow iterative cycles of implementation (Gravemeijer & Cobb, 2006). We anticipate two cycles of implementation, but we may revise this based on needs. Micro cycles refer to revisions to the intervention from one implementation to the next. The analysis will focus on examining the efficacy and feasibility of the intervention and improving its resources and delivery.

Reading a Book
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