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A study comparing two new reading strategies has earned one of the largest grants ever for the Old Dominion University College of Sciences.

The study, to be conducted by a research group headed by Danielle McNamara, assistant professor of psychology, will receive $3.19 million over the next five years from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The grant is one of a series of awards given under the auspices of the Interagency Education Research Initiative (IERI), which supports research aimed at improving education in reading, math and science from preschool through high school. This second round of IERI awards, totaling $28 million, will fund seven new research studies in six states, as well as 14 planning initiatives throughout the country.

McNamara's research will compare self-explanation, a technique of talking aloud while reading to explain the text to yourself, and previewing, or looking briefly over key words in important parts of a text.

Self-explanation, a training technique McNamara created, has been found to improve reading comprehension and exam scores for science students at the college undergraduate level. The two-hour self-explanation training also has worked well for struggling students, especially those who came in with a low knowledge of the topic.

"We already know that the effectiveness of self explanation depends on the student's prior knowledge," McNamara said. "In this project, we're going to look at whether the effectiveness of previewing depends on knowledge as well. "We're also going to look at students' knowledge and use of strategies that help people understand what they read."

The research will be conducted at public schools in Norfolk, Williamsburg, Floyd County, Ky., and Sumter County, Ga., and will compare results in these ethnically, economically and socially diverse areas.

Old Dominion faculty members Ray Morgan, professor of educational curriculum and instruction, and Irwin Levinstein, assistant professor of computer science, are McNamara's fellow principal investigators on the project.

Subcontractors at Northern Illinois University will provide analysis to be used in an automated computer tutor as part of the research, McNamara said.

Of the 21 IERI grants issued, Old Dominion's award was exceeded by only four others, which went to the University of Maryland, University of Michigan and University of Georgia.

"How well we educate our children depends in no small part on how well we understand education itself," said Neal Lane, President Clinton's science adviser. "In almost every area of our national life, from health to business, the investment in research is substantial. (The IERI) is a good first step toward improving our national investment in reading, math and science education research."

This article was posted on: October 23, 2000

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