Guest post by Cindy Ortega, Sherry Wangen and Sara Walton

BACKGROUND: Our summer CTLE grant focused on data analysis of MyReadingLab, administration of a reading faculty survey, and evaluation of the Accu-Placer New Generation test-taking skills.  

The reading department has used MyReadingLab for two and a half years, and collected data from the Lexile measurement assessments and activities. The data has been reported for the department assessment for the past two years. The motivation for this grant was to examine our reading instructional tools at a deeper level. Our data analysis for the past two years shows that using MyReadingLab with a contextualized textbook provides the differentiated instruction and support students need to raise their individual reading Lexile scores.

Lexile refers to a scientific approach used to match readers with text using word frequency and sentence length. In MyReadingLab students are matched to text within their Lexile range. They choose from a list of reading selections and complete a diagnostic and exercise; based on their scores, the program then adapts to this level by assigning lower or higher Lexile selections. Students can review their answers and we conference with students to analyze their errors and adjust the strategies being used.

The Reading Department faculty set a goal for an average increase of 100 points in Lexile level for each developmental reading course. As exemplified in this chart, our results surpassed our initial goal! The chart shows the average initial Lexile scores for each reading class, as well as the average ending Lexile scores.

We created and conducted a survey for all residential and adjunct reading faculty to get multiple perspectives on the use of MyReadingLab in all developmental reading classes. Nineteen out of twenty-two faculty responded. Overall, the survey demonstrated that the majority of instructors found MyReadingLab to be a useful and appropriate tool for developmental reading courses. Below is a snapshot of our results.

Do you think MRL should be required of ALL reading instructors? 79% Agree
Do you think we need a consistent tool to measure students’ reading growth? 84% Agree
Do you think MRL helps students progress to the next level reading course? 95% Agree

A serendipitous discovery was the level of correlation between the work in MyReadingLab and the textbooks. In the faculty survey, the responses supported that our textbook is directly supported by the work done in MyReadingLab.

Although not in our original plan, with all the questions regarding developmental student placement with the Accu-Placer New Generation test, we decided to take the test. We took it as a team, analyzing each question and the responses. We identified the course competency associated with each question and the skill or strategy needed to respond correctly. We created an item analysis and list of testing tips to share with our department faculty and testing services.  

We broke down the types of questions into five categories that directly align with the course competencies: vocabulary (using context clues and other strategies to determine word meaning and use), identifying main idea and author’s purpose, making inferences, and doing a close read of example questions. In addition, there were questions that pertained to interpreting figurative language; a strategy many of us teach with novel studies and other fiction reading.

Based on this analysis, we concluded that the Accu-Placer New Generation Test accurately aligns with the skills and strategies we teach in developmental reading courses. Anecdotally, we find students struggle with answering test questions and the strategies we compiled help them become better test-takers.

This list of test-taking tips can be utilized by instructors in any class.  

Tips for Taking the Test:

  • FIRST, Read and identify the key words in the question. (Make sure you know what the question is asking.)
  • Eliminate the 2 that are wrong, then go back to the text.
  • Look at the headings & definitions given to understand the passages better.
  • Close read the passages a number of times and take your time.
  • Read the entire passage(s) (even for questions that address a specific sentence.)
  • Pay attention to the source to help determine purpose.
  • Don’t skim, read carefully and intently.
  • Count sentences carefully (if they are not numbered.)

In the most recent issue of Innovation Abstracts from NISOD, the author states:

A common strategy used to differentiate the “process” in the classroom is by moving the classroom from being instructor-centered to student-centered. In the more traditional instructor-centered learning environment, the instructor is the center of the learning experience and he or she takes the “active” role of teaching, while the students assume a more “passive” or receptive role. In contrast, in the student-centered learning environment, the interests of the students take center stage and students take on more “active” roles in their education experiences.


At our department Assessment Day on August 10, 2018, we shared our findings and Aha! moments with our reading colleagues. We shared a webinar on Digital Literacy that stressed the importance and need to intentionally teach students the difference in navigating print vs. online text. The main takeaway from this grant was confirmation that the instructional tools we are using are helping students be successful. We are grateful for the opportunity to delve deeper into the data and information we collect for instructional design that helps close the assessment loop. Our results point to the effectiveness of MyReadingLab for our reading students.

MyReadingLab gives us the platform to be student-centered and to differentiate instruction. Reading faculty have developed reports and other materials to give students an understanding of their progress and growth in reading skills and applications. The record-keeping also helps students stay interested because they want to see how they are doing. Students respond with positive feedback (sampling from fall 2017 and spring 2018):

  • I think that my reading lab is a great way to learn and to build up mental strength in reading. KC
  • The more I continue to improve my Lexile, the more I feel like my brain is being woken up. KK
  • My reading has improved since I started my reading lab and I use these reading exercise strategies to help me with my other classes. NT
  • …I felt confident when completing my lexile assignment. I improved by 318 points…constantly reading and involving myself in the stories I read, I believe enhanced my reading skills. VA


Collins, Lamar. Differentiated Instruction Leads to Increased Student Engagement. Innovation Abstracts. Volume XL, No. 32 | October 4, 2018 Retrieved from

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