Prevention Science

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 89–99 | Cite as

Using Technology and Assessment to Personalize Instruction: Preventing Reading Problems

  • Carol McDonald ConnorEmail author


Children who fail to learn to read proficiently are at serious risk of referral to special education, grade retention, dropping out of high school, and entering the juvenile justice system. Accumulating research suggests that instruction regimes that rely on assessment to inform instruction are effective in improving the implementation of personalized instruction and, in turn, student learning. However, teachers find it difficult to interpret assessment results in a way that optimizes learning opportunities for all of the students in their classrooms. This article focuses on the use of language, decoding, and comprehension assessments to develop personalized plans of literacy instruction for students from kindergarten through third grade, and A2i technology designed to support teachers’ use of assessment to guide instruction. Results of seven randomized controlled trials demonstrate that personalized literacy instruction is more effective than traditional instruction, and that sustained implementation of personalized literacy instruction first through third grade may prevent the development of serious reading problems. We found effect sizes from .2 to .4 per school year, which translates into about a 2-month advantage. These effects accumulated from first through third grade with a large effect size (d = .7) equivalent to a full grade-equivalent advantage on standardize tests of literacy. These results demonstrate the efficacy of technology-supported personalized data-driven literacy instruction to prevent serious reading difficulties. Implications for translational prevention research in education and healthcare are discussed.


Reading Writing Literacy Academic Intervention Instruction Precision intervention Individualized instruction 



These studies were funded by grants R01HD48539 and R21HD062834, and in part P50 HD052120, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and by grants R305H04013, R305B070074, R305A130517/R305A160404, R305A170163 and R305F100027 from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. The opinions expressed are ours and do not represent views of the funding agencies.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

Dr. Connor has an equity interest in Learning Ovations., a company that may potentially benefit from the research results. The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by the University of California, Irvine in accordance with its conflict of interest policies.

Ethical Approval

All studies reported were approved by the Institutional Review Boards of the university at which the studies were conducted. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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