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Doctoral project: Response to Intervention – a special didactic model for preventing reading difficulties

This thesis investigated how Response to Intervention (RtI) can function as a special didactic model in primary school, to systematically organize early identification and early intervention in pupils' reading development to counteract reading difficulties.

This doctoral project was concluded in June 2022.

Project information

Doctoral student
Camilla Nilvius
Idor Svensson
Assistant supervisor
Linda Fälth
The graduate school Special Education for Teachers Education (SET), financed by the Swedish Research Council in 2017–2022 (VR UV Dnr 2017-06039)
1 July 2018–30 June 2022
Pedagogy, direction special pedagogy (Department of Pedagogy and Learning, Faculty of Social Sciences)

More about the project

The Response to Intervention (RtI) model originated in the United States. The model aims to prevent learning difficulties through early identification and thus early intervention. The goal is that no student should fall behind; “no child left behind”.

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate how RtI can function as a special didactic model in primary school. It seeks to systematically organize early identification and early intervention regarding students' reading development and thereby counteract reading difficulties.

The first study of the thesis is a meta-analysis that examines the effects of tier 2 interventions on primary school students' word decoding development. A small to medium effect was found; g = .31.

The second study examined the effects of RtI when identifying and intervening students in need of support in their reading development. The study was conducted as a quasi-experiment with grade 2 students (n = 11 + 11). The results showed effect sizes between g = .49 – 1.00 on word decoding and reading comprehension. However, the results were not significant. The teachers' perception of the model was also compiled. They found that RtI worked very well as the students received support and the teachers were given the opportunity to collaborate. They did, however, also find that the RtI model was inflexible and resource-intensive.

The third study was longitudinal and followed students' (n = 113) reading development during grade 1 and 2 within RtI. A significant reduction in students in need of support was noted. In comparison with a reference group (n = 759), there were significantly fewer students who performed below the 25th percentile and fewer RtI students who did not maintain their reading ability. The results showed that RtI seems to function as a special didactic model in accordance with “no child left behind”. Nevertheless, there are students who have received interventions within the model that do not reach age-appropriate levels.

The fourth article discusses the possibilities of combining Response to Intervention and Lesson Study, as the models seem to be able to complement each other. In response to the purpose of the thesis, RtI seems to function well as a special didactic model in primary school to systematically organize early identification and early intervention regarding students' reading development. A fourth Tier of assistive technology is recommended for students who do not develop by traditional methods, as well as recurring collaborative teacher meetings to analyze, plan, implement and evaluate students' development within the model.

The dissertation is linked to a project at the Department of Psychology: Response to Intervention (RtI): Att förebygga läs-, skriv- och matematiksvårigheter, led by professor Idor Svensson. It is also part of the research in the research groups Research in Inclusion, Democracy and Equity (RIDE) and Avdelningen för pedagogisk psykologi.