An analysis of factors that affect struggling reader's achievement during a technology-enhanced STEM astronomy curriculum

Jul 2, 2013, 13:06 PM
Marino, M. T., Black, A. C., Hayes, M. T., & Beecher, C. C. (2010). An analysis of factors that affect struggling readers’ achievement during a technology-enhanced STEM astronomy curriculum. Journal of Special Education Technology, 25(3), 35-47.


  • One thousand one hundred fifty-three middle school students with reading difficulties participated.
  • This study evaluated how the use of a technology-based astronomy curriculum impacted student achievement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
  • The Alien Rescue software program was used in the study, which guided students through the scientific inquiry process as they determined the appropriate habitats for various types of aliens.
  • The program included many universal design features that allowed students to access a number of help tools in each room (e.g., a copy of the periodic table, animated tables, 3-D tools).


  • The curriculum instruction took place at four middle schools in the northeast U.S.


  • Participants were categorized into 4 reading level groups prior to the beginning of the intervention for data analysis purposes.
  • Students took a pretest and posttest measure of their knowledge of scientific concepts.
  • Students had four weeks to complete the program and sessions were divided so that they fit into students’ 50 minute science class.
  • During the last 10 minutes of each session, students would share their progress with the program and generate questions to answer during future classes.
  • At the end of each session, teachers were asked to document the activities that took place during class.


  • Students at all reading levels made statistically significant gains in their knowledge of scientific concepts on the posttest measure.
  • Having a higher socioeconomic status, having a computer at home, and increased teacher presence all led to greater student performance, as did more frequent use of the program’s universal design features.
  • Students at the lowest reading level in two of the schools demonstrated gains similar to those of the students at a higher reading level.
  • Results suggest that technology-enhanced science curriculum with universal design features may be beneficial for students with reading difficulties.
  • STEM