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The Uniqueness of Our Research

The research conducted by Dr. Lovett and her team in the Learning Disabilities Research Program (LDRP) at SickKids is one reason why the investigation of reading disabilities is widely recognized as a “cognitive science success story” (Pennington, 1997, p. 13). Lovett is a recognized global leader for advancing the understanding of reading disabilities and reading remediation on a conceptual and practical level.

The LDRP was the first research laboratory to conduct randomized controlled trials to examine the differential effectiveness of different interventions for reading disabilities. The team brought scientific rigour to a field previously informed largely by anecdote and opinion.

Previous to the LDRP’s research, a clear understanding of what went wrong in the learning processes of individuals with learning difficulties did not exist. Using the treatment responses of struggling readers, the LDRP identified the core deficits of RD and re-conceptualized reading disorders. Lovett and the LDRP lead the field in developing treatments that target these underlying deficits, allowing thousands of children with reading difficulties to learn to read and generalize their skills to new learning opportunities. 

Through their significant findings, the LDRP broadened perspectives on the benefits of reading intervention not only for children diagnosed with learning disabilities but also for children whose reading difficulties may be related to environmental and social circumstances. 

Evidence-Based Interventions 

Evidence-based practices are interventions or programs that have been tested, often as part of a controlled research study, and shown to work.  When used with fidelity, following the defined curriculum, one can feel confident that an evidence-based practice will be effective  

Lovett and her team at SickKids have been conducting randomized-controlled research studies for over 30 years (Lovett, Ransby, Hardwick et al., 1989; Lovett, Borden, DeLuca et al., 1994; Lovett, Lacerenza, Borden et al., 2000; Lovett, Steinbach, & Frijters, 2000; Lovett, Lacerenza, Murphy et al., 2005; Lovett, Lacerenza, De Palma & Frijters, 2012).  The Empower™ Reading programs are the result of this research and in total, our research provides strong evidence for the efficacy of the Empower™ Reading Program for students of different ages, backgrounds, and IQ levels (Lovett & Steinbach, 1997; Lovett, De Palma, Frijters et al, 2008; Lovett, Lacerenza, De Palma & Frijters, 2012; Morris, Lovett, Wolf et al., 2012) 

Evidence-informed Professional Development  

Since the 1990's, the team at the Learning Disabilities Research Program (LDRP) has been focused on providing professional development (PD) to teachers in different educational settings, to instruct our interventions with fidelity. While conducting multi-site intervention research in Canada and the U.S., program implementation fidelity was critical in order to evaluate the efficacy of the interventions and draw conclusions from those studies. When commencing the roll-out of Empower™ Reading in 2006 with local school districts, a structured PD model was essential to a successful scaling up of the program. Our PD model (Lovett, et al., 2008), created to ensure the Empower™ Reading programs are implemented with as they were written and designed, as its ultimate goal to improve student outcomes (in this case, basic word identification and decoding skills) by changing teachers’ knowledge and skills, as well as their attitudes and beliefs about teaching reading. 

Our PD model includes full-day, interactive workshops, in-school instructional coaching, and long-term mentorship continuing as long as the teacher instructs students using Empower™ Reading. The conclusions of a 2007 review of teacher PD research (Yoon, Duncan, Lee, Scarloss, & Shapley, 2007) suggest that our PD model includes the components considered to be important in effective PD. This review, having identified 1,343 studies evaluating the efficacy of teacher PD, found that only nine studies met the What Works Clearinghouse standards of credible evidence. Although the paucity of data precluded the ability of the reviewers to draw definitive conclusions, it was possible to identify common components of effective PD from the nine studies, all of which are components of Empower™ Reading PD: 

  • workshops, 
  • subject-specific PD content and practices, 
  • involvement of outside experts, 
  • considerable contact hours/time, and 
  • ongoing follow-up and involvement with coaches

Lovett, M. W., Borden, S. L., DeLuca, T., Lacerenza, L., Benson, N. J., & Brackstone, D. (1994). Treating the core deficits of developmental dyslexia: Evidence of transfer-of-learning following phonologically and strategy-based reading training programs. Developmental Psychology, 30(6), 805–822. 

Lovett, M. W., Ransby, M. J., Hardwick, N., Johns, M. S., & Donaldson, S. A. (1989). Can dyslexia be treated? Treatment-specific and generalized treatment effects in dyslexic children’s response to remediation. Brain and Language, 37, 90–121. 

Lovett, M. W., & Steinbach, K. A. (1997). The effectiveness of remedial programs for reading disabled children of different ages: Does the benefit decrease for older children? Learning Disability Quarterly, 20(3), 189–210. 

Lovett, M.W., Lacerenza, L., Borden, S.L., Frijters, J.C., Steinbach, K.A., & De Palma, M. (2000). Components of effective remediation for developmental reading disability: Combining phonological and strategy-based instruction to improve outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 263-283. 

Lovett, M.W., De Palma, M., Frijters, J.C., Steinbach, K.A., Temple, M., Benson, N.J., & Lacerenza, L. (2008). Interventions for reading difficulties: A comparison of response to intervention by ELL and EFL struggling readers. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 41(4), 333-352. 

Lovett, M. W., Lacerenza, L., De Palma, M., & Frijters, J. C. Evaluating the efficacy of remediation for struggling readers in high school. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 2012, 45(2), 151-169. doi: 10.1177/0022219410371678 

Lovett, M.W., Lacerenza, L., De Palma, M., Steinbach, K.A., & Frijters, J.C. (2008). Preparing teachers to remediate reading disabilities in high school: What is needed for effective professional development? Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(4), 1083-1097. 

Lovett, M. W., Lacerenza, L., Murphy, D., Steinbach, K. A., De Palma, M., & Frijters, J. C. (2005). The importance of multiple-component interventions for children and adolescents who are struggling readers. In J. Gilger & S. Richardson (Eds.), Research-Based Education and Intervention: What We Need To Know (pp. 67-102). Baltimore, MD: International Dyslexia Association. 

Lovett, M.W., Steinbach, K.A, & Frijters, J.C. (2000). Remediating the core deficits of developmental reading disability: A double deficit perspective. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33(4), 334-358. 

Morris, R.D., Lovett, M.W., Wolf, M. Sevcik, R.A., Steinbach, K.A., Frijters, J.C., & Shapiro, M.  Multiple-component remediation for developmental reading disabilities: IQ, socioeconomic status, and race as factors in remedial outcome. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 2012, 45(2), 99-127. doi:10.1177/0022219409355472