A meta-analysis of morphological interventions: effects on literacy achievement of children with literacy difficulties

Abstract

This study synthesizes 79 standardized mean-change differences between control and treatment groups from 17 independent studies, investigating the effect of morphological interventions on literacy outcomes for students with literacy difficulties. Average total sample size ranged from 15 to 261 from a wide range of grade levels. Overall, morphological instruction showed a significant improvement on literacy achievement (\( \overline d \) = 0.33). Specifically, its effect was significant on several literacy outcomes such as phonological awareness (\( \overline d \) = 0.49), morphological awareness (\( \overline d \) = 0.40), vocabulary (\( \overline d \) = 0.40), reading comprehension (\( \overline d \) = 0.24), and spelling (\( \overline d \) = 0.20). Morphological instruction was particularly effective for children with reading, learning, or speech and language disabilities, English language learners, and struggling readers, suggesting the possibility that morphological instruction can remediate phonological processing challenges. Other moderators were also explored to explain differences in morphological intervention effects. These findings suggest students with literacy difficulties would benefit from morphological instruction.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Authors attended several educational and reading conferences such as the American Educational Research Association, Council for Exceptional Children Convention & Expo, Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, Institute for Educational Sciences Annual Conference, and the National Reading Conference and polled experts to find any studies that were never published or upcoming unpublished studies related to morphological instruction.

  2. 2.

    Time frame of studies published since 1980 was chosen based on the history of the study of morphological awareness in relation to literacy. For example, in the 1970s, researchers seemed focused on examining the correlations between morphological awareness and general reading measures (Britain 1970) whereas by the 1980s, researchers determined the frequency of morphologically complex words in text (Nagy & Anderson, 1984) and began to study morphological interventions (White, Sowell, & Yanagihara, 1989; Wysocki & Jenkins, 1987).

  3. 3.

    The standardized mean-change difference between treatment and control group was computed using the formula proposed by Becker (1988) \( {d_i} = \left( {1 - \frac{3}{{4({n_{{T_i}}} - 1) - 1}}} \right)\left( {\frac{{{M_{{\rm{post}},\,{T_i}}} - {M_{{\rm{pre}},\,{T_i}}}}}{{{\hbox{S}}{{\hbox{D}}_{{\rm{pre}},\,{T_i}}}}}} \right) - \left( {1 - \frac{3}{{4({n_{{C_i}}} - 1) - 1}}} \right)\left( {\frac{{{M_{{\rm{post}},\,{C_i}}} - {M_{{\rm{pre}},\,{C_i}}}}}{{{\hbox{S}}{{\hbox{D}}_{{\rm{pre}},\,{C_i}}}}}} \right) \)where \( {n_{{T_i}}} \)and \( {n_{{C_i}}} \)are sample sizes for treatment and control groups for the ith study; \( {M_{{\rm{pre}},{T_i}}} \) and \( {M_{{\rm{pre}},{C_i}}} \)are means of the pretests for treatment and control group for the ith study \( {\hbox{S}}{{\hbox{D}}_{{\rm{pre}},{T_i}}} \) and \( {\hbox{S}}{{\hbox{D}}_{{\rm{pre}},{C_i}}} \)are standard deviations of the pretests for treatment and control group for the ith study.

  4. 4.

    The variance of d i is computed by the formula proposed by Becker (1988)

    $$ \begin{gathered} {v_{({d_i})}}_{_i} = {\left( {1 - \frac{3}{{4({n_{{T_i}}} - 1) - 1}}} \right)^2}\left( {\frac{{2(1 - {r_i})}}{{{n_{{T_i}}}}}} \right)\left( {\frac{{{n_{{T_i}}} - 1}}{{{n_{{T_i}}} - 3}}} \right)\left( {1 + \frac{{{n_{{T_i}}}d_{{T_i}}^2}}{{2(1 - r)}}} \right) - d_{{T_i}}^2 \\+ {\left( {1 - \frac{3}{{4({n_{{C_i}}} - 1) - 1}}} \right)^2}\left( {\frac{{2(1 - {r_i})}}{{{n_{{C_i}}}}}} \right)\left( {\frac{{{n_{{C_i}}} - 1}}{{{n_{{C_i}}} - 3}}} \right)\left( {1 + \frac{{{n_{{C_i}}}d_{{C_i}}^2}}{{2(1 - r)}}} \right) - d_{{C_i}}^2 \\\end{gathered} $$

    Where r i is a correlation between pretest and posttest score; d T and d C are standardized mean difference between pretest and posttest for treatment and control groups.

  5. 5.

    The correlation of 0.5 is often used as a default to compute the variance of the standardized mean-change for studies which do not provide it (Netz, Wu, Becker, & Tenenbaum, 2005). However, we imputed missing values using the average of the reported correlation values of 0.63, which can be better estimate of missing correlation coefficients between pretest and posttest.

  6. 6.

    The random-effects model incorporated additional uncertainty to the effect variances, which was estimated using the methods of moments as \( \hat{\sigma }_\delta^2 = (\sum {{{({d_i} - \bar{d})}^2}/(k - 1))} - \bar{v} \) where \( \bar{v} \) is the average of within-study variances (\( {v_{({d_i})}}_{_i} \)) across the k effects in the analysis. Thus, the weights for random-effects (\( w\frac{ * }{i} \)) were computed as \( w_i^* = 1/({v_{{d_i}}} + \hat{\sigma }_\delta^2) \), where \( \hat{\sigma }_\delta^2 \) was estimated using the method of moments estimation.

  7. 7.

    The mixed-effects model with categorical moderators incorporated additional uncertainty within each level of categorical moderators, whose weights were computed as \( w_{ij}^* = {{1} \left/ {{({v_{({d_i})}}_{_i}}} \right.} + \hat{\sigma }_{\delta { _j}}^2) \) for effect i in the level of moderators j.

  8. 8.

    Effect sizes from two studies (Harris 2007; Robinson & Hesse, 1981) were extremely huge. After cross-checking of statistics that are associated with unbelievably huge effect sizes, we deleted two effect sizes obtained from Harris (2007) and Robinson and Hesse (1981). We suspect that these large effects stem from reporting errors of statistics.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Maria Carlo for her guidance and review of earlier versions of this manuscript. In addition, they would like to thank the reviewers of this manuscript for their helpful feedback.

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Goodwin, A.P., Ahn, S. A meta-analysis of morphological interventions: effects on literacy achievement of children with literacy difficulties. Ann. of Dyslexia 60, 183–208 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11881-010-0041-x

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Keywords

  • Learning disabilities
  • Literacy achievement
  • Morphological intervention
  • Reading disabilities
  • Reading instruction