Dr. Tanya Kaefer (Associate Professor, Thunder Bay) is a co-investigator on a research project that has been awarded a grant by the Inter-University Research Network.
The research project—entitled Vocabulary and Knowledge: Powerful Allies in Redressing the Achievement Gap in Reading Comprehension—focuses on increasing intentional vocabulary instruction as a means of closing academic achievement gaps for children in Nova Scotia who are from lower socio-economic status and/or minority linguistic backgrounds.
“Vocabulary knowledge predicts reading comprehension skills throughout schooling, as well as broader critical thinking skills, and high-school achievement. Unfortunately, these are also areas in which there are striking differences between children from impoverished backgrounds and those from more economically advantaged homes. Because knowledge is exponential, early development of knowledge is key to ensuring academic success for all children. These factors have made developing children’s vocabulary a crucial issue in education research,” Tanya explains.
In the study, Tanya and her co-investigators will examine the effectiveness of intentionally targeting students’ vocabulary learning in schools identified as serving a higher proportion of students from lower socio-economic status backgrounds. Grades 1 and 2 teachers and students from Nova Scotia classrooms will participate, with some classrooms employing targeted, intentional vocabulary-building approaches. Post-test learning, as it relates to students’ initial oral language and comprehension skills, will be used to determine the effectiveness in the targeted instructional strategies in addressing vocabulary underachievement.
The outcomes of this study are expected to contribute to our knowledge of teacher-friendly approaches to vocabulary instruction, to help close the achievement gap in reading comprehension.