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Masters in Educational Practice: Literacy


Literacy intervention


Principles of good intervention

Even with well planned, incremental and cumulative programmes of teaching literacy, some learners will experience difficulty and the question of literacy intervention will be raised.

In 2013, The Dyslexia – SpLD Trust commissioned a piece of research authored by Greg Brooks entitled: What works for children and young people with literacy difficulties? This report on interventions (external link) includes an invaluable critique of a range of intervention programmes.

Whilst it is not possible to discuss every available commercial scheme in this resource, it is worthwhile considering the best pedagogical approaches to be used when implementing intervention schemes.

Principles of good practice

In the 2011 document Effective Intervention for Language and Literacy in the Early Years, Carroll et al., identified five principles of best practice when teaching intervention programmes. In the following activity you can reflect on these points.

Activity 9.5

In this activity you can see a model where the principles of best practice provide a scaffold for learning and teaching through intervention programmes.

Target setting

The principles of setting SMART targets have been outlined in previous subtopics, it is essential to set these kinds of targets when using intervention programmes. This is so that precise teaching and accurate tracking and assessment can take place. It is only through this approach that the maximum gain can be achieved.

Activity 9.6

Select a small group of learners with literacy difficulties from your educational setting. Together with a colleague, check existing targets or write targets for these learners. Examine the targets carefully to make sure that they are SMART.

You may find this video on SMART targets (external link) helpful.

Reflect on how the targets will translate into learning and teaching – how will the learner best achieve the next identified step.

Once the next steps have been identified and quantified through a SMART target, it is necessary to consider the types of teaching that may prove most helpful.

You may like to research some of the teaching strategies listed here:

  • precision teaching
  • synthetic phonics
  • morpheme training
  • cued spelling
  • comprehension strategies.

Support your research by reading these intervention case studies (external link).

Evaluating the impact of intervention

Intervention can be judged to be successful when the learner achieves fluency and automaticity in literacy skills outside the intervention programme. This means that transferrable skills have been embedded and functional literacy has been achieved. The most common form of measurement is to use standardised scores which will indicate whether the gap between the learner and peers has narrowed. Brookes (2007) suggested using a formula for calculating 'ratio gain' when measuring the effectiveness of intervention:

Figure 1: Brookes (2007): Ratio Gain
Figure 1: Brookes (2007): Ratio Gain
Numerical formula
Numerical formula

Figure 2: Brookes (2007): Ratio Gain
RG of 4 or above remarkable impact
RG between 3 and 4 substantial impact
RG between 2 and 3 useful impact
RG between 1.4 and 2 modest impact
RG between 1.4 and 2 impact of doubtful educational significance
RG of 1.0 exactly standard progress

(Source: Brooks, 2007)

Of course, this is an example of summative assessment and it would be unacceptable to wait until the results of standardised tests revealed whether intervention had useful impact. Formative assessment should be used as the day-to-day measurement of impact and the teaching adjusted accordingly to meet individual needs.


In this subtopic you have considered the principles of intervention and have looked at areas of best practice for learning and teaching. You have been directed to documents which offer a critique of particular programmes and by using this type of research you can begin to make evidence based judgements. You have also looked at one method of measuring ratio gain as a form of summative assessment.

Further information regarding intervention strategies can be found on the Learning Wales website and on the website of The Dyslexia-SpLD Trust (external link).

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