The Effect Of Interactive Whiteboard Use On The Engagement Of Students With Intellectual Disability In Early Reading Lessons

Author: Carol Le Lant

Le Lant, Carol, 2015 The Effect Of Interactive Whiteboard Use On The Engagement Of Students With Intellectual Disability In Early Reading Lessons, Flinders University, School of Education

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Reading is an essential life skill in which many students with intellectual disability struggle to achieve functional independence (Downing, 2005). The ability to read is critical for successful engagement in school, for participating in leisure activities and for undertaking daily life tasks (Copeland, 2007; Saunders, 2007).

As reading is such an important life skill, the focus of the project was on the impact of the use of an interactive whiteboard (IWB) on the engagement of students with intellectual disability in reading lessons. The research available at the time this research commenced suggested that implementing IWBs as a tool for scaffolding learning when teaching, would help to increase students’ levels of engagement in lessons (Moss et al., 2007; Tanner & Jones, 2007) and the use of ICT holds the promise of being able to teach students to read and prevent reading difficulties (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Three categories of student engagement behaviours were the focus of the study; task, affective and cognitive engagement. To investigate the impact of IWB use the levels of these engagement behaviours in lessons using an IWB were compared to levels of engagement in lessons using more traditional, desk top activities (non-IWB). Observational ratings of student engagement were undertaken from video recordings of each lesson, using a scale developed by the researcher.

This research project worked with five junior primary students with intellectual disability, all of whom were identified as having major difficulty in reading. Their class teachers first identified the students, then pre-testing was undertaken to identify which skill should be targeted. Ehri’s Phases of Reading Model (Ehri, 1991; Ehri & McCormick, 1998; Ehri & Robbins, 1992; Ehri & Wilce, 1985) was used to guide the researcher as to the skill to be targeted and the type of activities that could be used to help teach the students.

A single-case experimental approach was used, incorporating an Alternating Treatments Design (ATD). The ATD enabled the two treatment conditions to be administered across a sequence of consecutive lessons. Mayer’s multimedia learning model (Mayer, 2001), incorporating Sweller’s cognitive load theory (Sweller, 1999, 2004) underpinned the approach to the design of lessons, while issues identified in the IWB literature were considered so as to maximise the benefits of teaching with the IWB.

The students’ rate of acquisition of reading skills was assessed and compared across the two conditions. For the comparison of levels of engagement in the two conditions three forms of analysis were used: visual analysis which is typically used in single-case experimental research; comparison of the percentage of non-overlapping points in the profile of measurements in the two conditions; and randomisation statistical tests.

The five students all acquired knowledge in the aspect of sounding and blending or letter/sound correspondence that was the subject of their lessons. However, neither condition led to a faster rate of acquisition.

The analysis of levels of engagement indicated that there was no consistent pattern of difference between the IWB and non-IWB conditions across the three domains of task, affective and cognitive engagement. Two students were consistently more engaged in the non-IWB setting. One student showed a tendency to be more engaged in the lessons with the IWB, while the levels of engagement for the other two students showed no consistent differences across conditions for any of the three categories of engagement. Even in this small group of beginning readers, the results suggest that there would be a need for the teacher to make individual decisions about whether or not to use an IWB to optimise level of engagement. The claims for the effects of use of IWBs are discussed in the light of these results.

A considerable difference in language output was observed between the two conditions. Specifically there was evidence of a higher level of relevant verbal elaboration in the non-IWB condition. This result is an important finding as production of language, particularly elaborated or connected language, helps to build knowledge networks and deepen understanding of the task and therefore comprehension. The elaborated language in the non-IWB condition was found to be up to twice the amount of language produced in the IWB condition.

The making of errors or the perception of task difficulty did have an impact on student engagement. One student in particular found it very difficult to become re-engaged with a lesson after he had perceived he had made an error while another student needed to experience a familiar activity before being exposed to a novel activity. Both instances highlight and reinforce the need for lesson structure to scaffold the student from the familiar to the unknown.

Implications of the findings and suggestions for future research are presented. The implications for future research focus on the design of software and the integration of technology into lessons that supports student learning outcomes while developing cognitive skills and promoting relevant, elaborative language production.

Keywords: student engagement, intellectual disability, interactive whiteboards, language production, reading

Subject: Education thesis, Special Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of Education
Supervisor: Emeritus Professor Mike Lawson