Applications of Research Methodology: Volume 19


Table of contents

(14 chapters)

The contributions of qualitative research to the study of behavioral–emotional disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities, and learning disabilities (the three types of high-incidence disabilities) are relatively recent and far from abundant. This chapter discusses qualitative, or “naturalistic” research by briefly examining the methodology used in such inquiry, reviewing many of the available studies concerning those with high-incidence disabilities, and providing implications from the existing empirical literature. It is not recommended that qualitative research takes the place of quantitative research in special education, but well-designed and executed naturalistic studies can contribute additional knowledge that is worthwhile to the field.

Single subject research has long been employed to evaluate intervention effectiveness with students with learning or behavioral disabilities. Typically, the results of single subject research are presented on graphic displays and analyzed by a method of visual inspection, in which analysts simultaneously consider such data elements as level change, slope change, and variability in baseline and treatment data. However, over the years several concerns regarding visual inspection have emerged, including relatively low inter-rater reliabilities. This chapter reviews the arguments in favor of visual inspection as an analytic tool, and also summarizes the arguments favoring statistical analysis of single case data. The use of randomization tests is recommended, and an example is provided of its use in research with students with learning and behavioral disorders.

Knowledge about cognitive operations and processes (COPs) required for success (1=correct, 0=incorrect) on test items or learning tasks is very important for in-depth understanding of the nature of student performance and the development of valid instruments for its measurement. A key problem in obtaining such knowledge is the validation of hypothesized COPs and their role in the measurement properties of test items. To provide validation feedback for both normally achieving students and students with learning disabilities, it is important to obtain information on the validity of the COPs for students at different ability levels and individual test items (or tasks). To address this issue, the present chapter introduces a method of estimating the probability for correct performance on individual COPs at fixed ability levels thus providing validity information across ability levels and individual test items. When item response theory (IRT) estimates of the item parameters are known (e.g., in a test bank of IRT calibrated items or published research), the proposed validation method does not require information about raw (or ability) scores of examinees. This method is illustrated for algebra test items and reading comprehension test items calibrated in IRT.

Structural Equating Modeling (SEM) is a formal model for representing dependency relations between variables of psychological events and may be used for verifying the structural organization of a theoretical model. “Rules of thumb” for the use of SEM are presented regarding each step of its application: specification of the structural model, measurement of the psychological event, and estimation of the adequacy of the model in representing the event. The investigation of the factorial structure of Greenspan's model of personal competence is presented as an example of SEM application with participants with disabilities.

Missing data are a pervasive problem in special education research. The purpose of this chapter is to provide researchers with an overview of two “modern” alternatives for handling missing data, full information maximum likelihood (FIML) and multiple imputation (MI). These techniques are currently considered to be the methodological “state of the art”, and generally provide more accurate parameter estimates than the traditional methods that are still common in published educational studies. The chapter begins with an overview of missing data theory, and provides brief descriptions of some traditional missing data techniques and their requisite assumptions. Detailed descriptions of FIML and MI are given, and the chapter concludes with an analytic example from a longitudinal study of depression.

With the national emphasis on the use of evidence-based practices in educational settings, intervention research within the field of special education is being scrutinized. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has defined evidence-based practices primarily by research that is based on quantitative, experimental designs (i.e., RCT). Although the use of appropriate experimental designs has an important place in educational research, defining evidence-based practices based on research design alone is limiting. One critical aspect of research that has not received much attention is the importance of rigorous and precise measurement and systematic replication of research findings. The purpose of this chapter is to review issues surrounding measurement and its effect on validity in intervention research in the field of behavioral disorders. Specifically, we discuss how more rigorous measurement can positively influence the internal, external, construct, and social validity of research findings. A review of current trends in behavioral disorders intervention research is discussed as well as implications for future research.

The issue of school violence and antisocial behavior in public schools is, in fact, one of the most pressing concerns in education today. Schools have responded by designing, implementing, and evaluating multi-level models with progressively more intensive levels of support. The foundation of these models is the primary, or universal, prevention program. To date, most investigations have occurred in elementary schools thereby providing limited insight into intervening in secondary schools. This chapter reviews the literature base of school-wide interventions with primary level efforts conducted in secondary schools with an emphasis on methodological considerations. Content includes the findings of a systematic literature review, a discussion of quality indicators in relationship to primary prevention efforts, and recommendations for future inquiry.

More than ever before, researchers and policymakers expect general education classroom to be the first line of defense in efforts to prevent reading difficulties. Preventing reading difficulties through evidence-based beginning reading instruction research features prominently in the 2002 No Child Left Behind legislation (NCLB; P. L. 107-110) and in the 2004 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). The purpose of this chapter is to describe the experimental and quasi-experimental methodological approaches that have been used to examine the effects of professional development in reading on teachers’ instructional practices and students’ reading outcomes and to evaluate the chain of causal linkage in the more recent studies. The first section of the chapter provides a brief history of relevant research. The second section summarizes findings of the National Reading Panel (NRP, 2000) Report and those of a recent review of the literature (Clancy-Menchetti & Al Otaiba, 2006). The final section synthesizes what we have learned from the research.

The present study analyzed the performance of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when carrying out reading comprehension and written composition tasks. Thirty children with ADHD and 30 normally developing children without ADHD, matched on age, IQ, word retrieval and spelling, were selected. All of the subjects were evaluated using four types of reading comprehension tasks (literal comprehension, inferential comprehension, a fragment ordering task, and recall of story content), and a composition writing task. The results indicate that the two groups (ADHD and without ADHD) do not differ on literal comprehension or inferential comprehension. Nevertheless, our results show that children with ADHD perform significantly worse than the group without ADHD on the fragment ordering task, the recall of story content, and on different indicators of written language production, which depend primarily on self-regulation abilities necessary for organizing information and maintaining the level of effort. The findings suggest that the deficit observed in reading comprehension and written composition skills in children with ADHD may reflect deficiencies in executive processes. The methodology used in this research on the reading comprehension and written composition problems of children with ADHD presents a series of strengths and weaknesses. The reflections on the limitations identified in the study serve as a basis for establishing directions for future research.

Integrative reviews are an important method for understanding research in the field of special education. Reviews can help practitioners decide what methods to use in the classroom, researchers clarify directions for new research, and policymakers guide education improvement programs. We discuss the steps for conducting an integrative review, illustrating the process with a case study of an integrative review of large-scale testing accommodations for students with disabilities.

This chapter synthesized some of the published literature comparing the cognitive functioning of children with math disabilities (MD) with (1) average achieving children, (2) children with reading disabilities (RD), and (3) children with comorbid disabilities (RD+MD). Twenty-one studies, which yielded 194 effect sizes (ESs), indicated that average achievers outperformed children with MD on measures of verbal problem solving (M=−0.58), naming speed (M=−0.70), verbal (M=−0.70) and visual-spatial working memory (WM, M=−0.63), and long-term memory (LTM, M=−0.72). The results further indicated that children with MD outperformed children with combined disabilities on measures of literacy (M=0.75), visual-spatial problem solving (M=0.51), LTM (M=0.44), short-term memory (STM) for words (M=0.71), and verbal WM (M=0.30). Children with MD could only be clearly differentiated from children with RD on measures of naming speed (−0.23) and visual-spatial WM (−0.30). The magnitude of ESs was persistent across age and severity of math disability. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) indicated that the magnitude of ES in overall cognitive functioning between MD and average achievers was due to verbal WM deficits when the effect of all other variables (e.g., age, IQ, reading level, other domain categories) were partialed out. The results are discussed within the context of defining MD by level of severity of WM abilities.

In recent years, there has been an extraordinary accumulation of qualitative research in special education. However, as yet, there has been little accumulation of the understandings gained from these studies. This omission has important implications for knowledge development, the utilization of findings in practice, and providing implications for policy. In this chapter, we review and discuss perspectives and procedures from other fields with respect to aggregation of qualitative data. Additionally, we propose a specific method for the meta-synthesis of qualitative research in the area of special education. This synthesis would not be a numerical compilation of outcomes, as in traditional meta-analysis, but would treat individual research reports as “informants,” and employ procedures, such as analytic induction and the constant comparative method to develop higher understandings across individual cases. Such efforts are thought to be essential to reaching higher analytic goals and also to enhancing the generalizability of qualitative research. It is argued that meta-synthesis efforts could do much to promote the impact of the shared understandings gained from individual qualitative research efforts.

Publication date
Book series
Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN