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In conversation with Johny Daniel

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Dialogue has been in conversation with Dr Johny Daniel from our School of Education to find out more about his research and his contribution to Open Education Week 2023.

Open Education Week took place at the beginning of March and to mark the occasion, Open Education Global, a non-profit organisation based in Massachusetts, United States, highlighted open-education resources offered through universities from around the world.

Dr Johny Daniel
Dr Johny Daniel

Dr Daniel’s contribution has been a link to a teaching reading resource website, which provides user-friendly resources focused on the various components that contribute to reading comprehension development among students at risk for reading failure.

These resources were developed using funds obtained through ESRC's IAA Impact Grant.

We asked Dr Daniel a bit more about his research and what the future holds.

Tell us about your research and what inspired you to do it.

My research focuses on understanding the development of pupils’ reading skills, identification of students with reading disabilities, and creating instructional programmes to support reading growth in students with reading disabilities. Over the past two decades, research in the field has developed a body of literature providing evidence on the type of instruction or programmes that work in improving reading outcomes for students with reading disabilities. Unfortunately, this research has not translated into practice. In other words, students with reading disabilities generally do not receive evidence-based instruction to support their reading growth. 

What are the next steps in your work?  

I spent six years in the United States studying and working at two of the premiere institutions in the field of special education: Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and The University of Texas at Austin. I tapped into my experiences working on different government-funded projects to develop a series of open educational lesson plans that are currently being implemented in schools in the North East of England and in India.  

We are now interviewing teachers implementing our programme and preliminary results show that teachers have a positive attitude towards these resources. They have reported students' engagement with the text, which is a great indicator and one I find motivating. Teachers have also observed growth in students’ reading skills. Together, this amounts to very positive feedback thus far.   

Currently, the lessons support students with reading difficulties in Years 3 and 4. Our next step is to expand the scope of support to other year levels. I have also put in a grant bid with the Nuffield Foundation to conduct a randomised controlled trial to test the efficacy of the developed programme in improving reading outcomes. Results from this study could potentially build on the qualitative evidence we have on the benefits of this programme, and subsequently reach more students with reading difficulties. Finally, my aim is to continue to translate research into practice and make knowledge accessible to anyone who wants to use it by providing free access to high quality learning materials.   

What was your thinking behind developing this teaching reading resource website?  

During my postgraduate work in the United States, I found that special education teachers working with students with reading disabilities were either using non-evidence-based websites such as Pinterest or paying for commercial programmes with little evidence to support their use (Daniel & Lemons, 2018). This led me to believe that teachers are trying to support their students but lack evidence-based resources that are freely available. We also have to understand that teachers have limited time and sometimes limited information on how to support students with additional reading needs. Thus, the idea was to create a database of open educational resources that are easy to use, based on theory and evidence, and tap into topics that students would find interesting to read.   



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