Individualizing Student Instruction Precisely: Effects of Child × Instruction Interactions on First Graders’ Literacy Development


  • We thank Deanna Birdyshaw for her advice and support in the design and implementation of the Individualizing Student Instruction (ISI) professional development protocol; Chantel Huddleston, Ummuhan Yesil-Dagli, and members of the video coding group for the hours they spent coding classroom videos; and David Francis for suggestions regarding the analyses. We also thank the ISI Project team members, as well as Andy Godsberg and Colleen Peterson for their work on A2i and ISIOnline. We appreciate the helpful feedback on early drafts of this manuscript from Stephanie Al Otaiba, Laura Lang, Alysia Roehrig, Sharilyn Steadman, and Jeanine Turner, all from Florida State University. Additionally, we thank the children, parents, teachers, and school administrators without whom this research would not have been possible. This study was funded by Grants R305H04013 and R305B070074, “Child by Instruction Interactions: Effects of Individualizing Instruction” from the US. Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences, and by Grant R01HD48539 from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, and, in part, by a predoctoral training Grant R305B04074, from the Institute of Education Sciences. The opinions expressed are ours and do not represent views of the funding agencies.

concerning this article should be addressed to Carol McDonald Connor, Florida State University, Florida Center for Reading Research, 227 N. Bronough Street, Suite 7250, Tallahassee, FL 3301. Electronic mail may be sent to


Recent findings demonstrate that the most effective reading instruction may vary with children’s language and literacy skills. These Child × Instruction interactions imply that individualizing instruction would be a potent strategy for improving students’ literacy. A cluster-randomized control field trial, conducted in 10 high-moderate poverty schools, examined effects of individualizing literacy instruction. The instruction each first grader received (n = 461 in 47 classrooms, mean age = 6.7 years) during fall, winter, and spring was recorded. Comparing intervention-recommended amounts of instruction with observed amounts revealed that intervention teachers individualized instruction more precisely than did comparison teachers. Importantly, the more precisely the children received recommended amounts of instruction, the stronger was their literacy skill growth. Results provide strong evidence of Child × Instruction interaction effects on literacy outcomes.