Ashley Flis – Final Ph.D. Defence (SPED)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Graduate Student Centre, Room 200

Research Supervisor: Dr. Linda Siegel (SPED)

Supervisory Committee: Dr. Nancy Perry (SPED) and Dr. Sterett Mercer (SPED)
University Examiners: Dr. Cay Holbrook (SPED) and Dr. Margaret Early (LLED)
External Examiner: Professor Phil Abrami (Concordia University)

Title: ABRACADABRA: The Effectiveness of a Computer-Based Reading Intervention Program for Students At-Risk for Reading Failure, and Students Learning English as a Second Language


This study examined the effectiveness of ABRACADABRA (ABRA). ABRA stands for A Balanced Reading Approach for CAnadians Designed to Achieve Best Results for All. This web-based literacy tool was used to target the literacy skills within two groups: grade 1 students who are at risk for reading failure (at-risk group), and students who speak English as a second language (ESL group). One hundred four students were selected to participate in the study within a school district in Ontario. In four elementary schools, students from ten grade 1 classrooms participated. Eighty-two of these students participated in the at-risk group and 22 students participated within the ESL group.

Upon meeting eligibility through a screening process, participants were matched and assigned to one of two conditions: treatment (students received ABRA and regular literacy instruction) and control (students received regular literacy instruction). Literacy skills were assessed before and after the intervention program by six standardized assessments measuring the students’ phonics, phonological awareness, and word reading skills.

The intervention was conducted over a ten-week period, four days per week for twenty-minutes per day. For the at-risk group, the results from a 2×2 repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated that there were no significant interactions between time and condition on and of the measures. For the ESL group, there was a statistically significant interaction between the time and condition for the Word Attack, Blending, and Letter-Word Identification subtests indicating that the ABRA intervention was a direct contributor to the improvement of reading skills among ESL students. A discussion focuses on how findings are consistent with and divergent from previous research and offers implications for future research and practice.