MORPH Project

A reading and spelling intervention study

What is the MORPH project?

The MORPH project is an intervention study funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The study is being run by Professor Colin Davis, Professor Jeffrey Bowers and Dr Danielle Colenbrander. We wish to find out whether an intervention called Structured Word Inquiry will help improve reading and spelling abilities in children who experience difficulties with these skills. We also wish to know how this method compares to an alternative method called Motivated Reading.

What is Structured Word Inquiry?‌

Structured Word Inquiry teaches children about the relationship between word parts (morphology), sounds, word origin, meaning, and spelling. Children develop and test hypotheses about spelling, break words into their component parts, and learn how information about word structure and meaning can help them to read and spell more accurately.

Some examples of Structured Word Inquiry are shown in the videos below.

What is Motivated Reading?

Children with poor reading skills may avoid reading, which could cause them to fall even further behind children who are keen readers. Therefore, in the Motivated Reading condition, we aim to increase children’s motivation to read and boost their exposure to literary language by creating a fun, supportive environment in which to read age-appropriate books. Children choose their own reading materials from a selection of interesting books (generously donated by Oxford University Press) and participate in guided discussion and vocabulary learning activities. The Motivated Reading programme was developed in conjunction with Associate Professor Paula Clarke from the University of Leeds.

How is the study being run?

The study is being carried out in cooperation with 12 participating schools. Students at these schools were screened on spelling and reading comprehension assessments last year (when they were in Years 2 and 4), and 10 children from each grade were selected to participate in training. Training programs are currently being delivered by Teaching Assistants at the schools. All participating children will receive both training programs, but have been randomly assigned to receive either Structured Word Inquiry first, or Motivated Reading first.

Each training program is 24 weeks long, and children will receive 20 minutes of training three times a week for 48 weeks in total. Children were pre-tested before training began and will be tested again after each training phase, so that we can measure how well the training programs are working.

Further Information

Please see the published paper for the study

The final report for this research project is available here ‌mpo-nuffield (PDF, 823kB)

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