A persistent literacy crisis continues to be reflected in international (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2013), national (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2015), and local literacy outcome data. Educators, including speech-language pathologists (SLPs), are called upon to collaborate to support students who struggle with academic language/literacy. However, few studies have operationally defined collaboration and investigated the effects of collaboration on student achievement. As a result, there is insufficient guidance for educators about ways to design, implement, and assess the effectiveness of collaboration models, defined in terms of their effects on student outcomes. There were two main objectives of this research. The first objective was to investigate whether literacy partnerships between SLPs and third-grade general education teachers, who used a systematic collaboration protocol, yielded better vocabulary outcomes for students than teachers instructing without collaborating with SLPs. The second objective of the study was to examine collaborators' progress toward adopting the collaboration protocol. The quasi-experimental design involved a collaboration treatment condition (n = 2 collaborative pairs; n = 34 students) and a comparison condition (n = 2 non-collaboration teachers; n = 34 students). In both conditions, similar versions of a specific vocabulary technique were implemented over seven weeks. Students' vocabulary knowledge was measured at pretest and posttest using three researcher-created vocabulary assessments adapted from previous measures in vocabulary research. A two-factor split-plot analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed a statistically significant interaction effect on the Words-in-Context measure. The significant effect from pretest to posttest within the entire matched group changed as a result of condition; the group mean increase in the students' scores from pretest to posttest was higher in the collaboration condition than the comparison condition. Additional key findings were: (a) a statistically significant increase in group mean scores from pretest to posttest on all three measures within the entire matched group (n = 68) and (b) non-significant interactions between the collaboration and comparison groups on two of the vocabulary measures (Synonyms and Non-Examples). When Cohen's d effect sizes were calculated within each condition, there were large effects for all three tasks in the collaboration condition. In the comparison condition, there were large effects for the Synonyms task, and medium effects for the Words-in-Context and Non-Example tasks. The findings of this study also revealed that collaborators achieved high fidelity of the collaboration protocol within a seven-week collaboration segment. Collaborators demonstrated Routine use of a specific collaboration protocol according to the tools of the Concerns Based Adoption Model (Hall & Hord, 2015); however, they expressed concerns around managing the task demands of the collaboration protocol. Taken as a whole, these findings are promising. Collaboration between SLPs and third-grade general education teachers using a systematic collaboration protocol with a specific vocabulary technique resulted in student vocabulary gains; on one measure, the gains were significantly larger than those made by students in classrooms where teachers did not collaborate with SLPs. The findings have potential to inform a research and practice agenda for SLPs and other educators in schools. Clinical implications and specific research directions are discussed.

Graduation Date





Ehren, Barbara


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education and Human Performance

Degree Program

Education; Communication Sciences and Disorders









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Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)