Musings about language and literacy and learning

A Multicomponent Approach

I am a nerd, and I skim through a fair number of research papers, both to keep current for my professional role, and because I just like learning about literacy and language.

While I use Zotero to organize some of what I come across, I tend to read through papers on my phone on buses/trains to and from work, or to print out something to read later, so I am not systematic or well-organized about what I pick up from what I read, unfortunately. I do post quotes from articles as I read them on social media, so I can search through my own past feed to find links to research I read. So while I might build my own schema about things as I read more and more stuff, I don’t retain the specific sources.

One of the things I have had in my head regarding literacy interventions is that multicomponent approaches in English tend to be more effective than single component approaches for students who are learning English at school (ELL), and for many other populations as well.

But is this right?

What is a Multicomponent Approach?

Before we go any further, let’s pause to define what we mean by a multicomponent approach.

Language and literacy are composed of many components, such as the following:
Language & Literacy components

In a multicomponent approach to instruction, multiple components of literacy and language are tackled in tandem or in succession, as the case may be, such as in the following aspects:
A Multicomponent approach

Most typically, a multicomponent approach is in reference to a reading intervention, but I think there is saliency to core instruction as well. Many upper elementary and above teachers note that they serve students who need foundational and other skills, and they may not know what to do to meet their needs daily. A multicomponent approach may be a useful lens in such circumstances.

Are Multicomponent Approaches to Intervention More Effective?

So let’s return to where we started: is a multicomponent approach to literacy intervention more beneficial for ELLs, and potentially other students?

The Expanded Simple View of Reading

If you consider the Simple View of Reading (SVR), this makes logical sense, given that by definition an ELL is learning the English language, so even when an ELL requires more intensive phonemic awareness, decoding, or fluency supports in English, they simultaneously require explicit instruction with and opportunities to use morphology, syntax, and text-level comprehension and oral language in English. Furthermore, it makes sense even when considering the needs of students with dyslexic profiles, where phonemic awareness and decoding are specific targets for need, given that a significant number of children with dyslexia demonstrate comorbidity with speech or language comprehension difficulties.

reading profiles

However, as we explored in a paper by Keith Stanovich, building an understanding of reading with what might make sense (a coherence approach) can be misleading if it’s not firmly based on empirical evidence (a correspondence approach). So recently I set out to confirm or refute the following:

TL;DR From my amateur review of some of the extant research, the answer appears to be yes to be both questions.

A Review of the Research

I should note that some of the research I have listed below were indicated in the chapter on multicomponent interventions in the very useful book Structured Literacy Interventions: Teaching Students with Reading Difficulties, Grades K-6, edited by Louise Spear-Swerling.

In favor of multicomponent approaches are the following sources:

There were a couple of meta-analyses that were directly contrary, however:

This topic is a good example of how research is rarely easily interpreted — some of the same authors on one side are listed on the meta-analysis on the other side, for example! The question is rather where does the evidence converge across multiple studies?

In this case, the weight of the converging peer reviewed evidence appears (from my limited amateur review) to fall on the side of the benefits of a multicomponent approach to literacy intervention, both for struggling readers at large, and for ELLs in particular.

What Does a Multicomponent Approach Look Like?

Examples of a multicomponent approach

Dr. Alfred Tatum, whose book Teaching Black Boys in the Elementary Grades I have written about before, provides concrete examples of what a multicomponent approach in core instruction could look like, based on what Dr. Tatum calls his “Multidimensional Reading Model” (MDRM). While his lessons are designed explicitly for Black boys, I think these approaches can be beneficial for many other children as well.

For interventions, there’s a few other solid resources, starting with the book I mentioned earlier, Structured Literacy Interventions: Teaching Students with Reading Difficulties, Grades K-6 edited by Louise Spear-Swerling, in Chapter 10: Multicomponent Structured Literacy Approaches for Mixed Reading Difficulties.

In that chapter, there’s also a nice lesson planning tool that lists each component and possible time suggestions.

Another great recent resource is the WWC Practice Guide: Providing Reading Interventions for Students in Grades 4–9. While it isn’t explicitly about a multicomponent approach, it provides very concrete and useful approaches to multisyllabic decoding, fluency, and comprehension.

Associated resources to the WWC Practice Guide:

What is your experience or thoughts about a multicomponent approach to instruction, whether in core instruction or in intervention?

#multicomponent #intervention #literacy #reading #ELLs #research #literaturereview