i-SMART: Intervention to Support Mindset and Reading Together


The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) is partnering with researchers at Michigan State University to develop a reading intervention that integrates evidence-based, growth-mindset practices for struggling readers in Grades 4 and 5. The middle grades (4-5) represent a critical period for many students with reading difficulties (RD) and is also a period when students’ reading motivation drops substantially. Whereas much is known about what works in early reading intervention, relatively less is known about effective reading intervention for older students with RD beyond primary grades. The researchers will develop and test a user-friendly, integrated approach to improve students’ motivation for learning.

Development Process (Years 1 and 2)

We will develop i-SMART in collaboration with end users (teachers and students) through an iterative development process across Years 1 and 2. This development work will consist of (1) lesson development through collaboration with elementary teachers and feedback from students with RD, (2) structured field implementation with fidelity observations and user surveys, and (3) use of qualitative and quantitative data to inform lesson revisions. In Year 1, elementary teachers, teaching and/or reading specialists who provide instruction for students with RD, and their students will participate in the first cycle of iterative development. In Year 2, teachers will then implement the model lessons and deliver them to their small groups of students. To inform lesson development, teachers and students will provide feedback through ongoing discussions, focus group interviews, and surveys about the instructional contents, components, and logistics of the intervention.

Intervention Study (Year 3 and 4)

Study Design

In response to the need for supplemental reading interventions that can be feasibly implemented in schools, we will assess the efficacy of i-SMART as a small-group reading intervention in a randomized control trial (RCT). We will then assess the efficacy of i-SMART and its impact on students’ mindset, as well as their reading motivation, engagement, and reading comprehension, through a pilot study in Years 3 and 4. Students will be assigned randomly to one of three conditions: (1) i-SMART instruction (mindset and reading), (2) reading-only instruction, or (3) business-as-usual-comparison condition.


Reading interventionists, reading specialists, classroom teachers, and special education teachers are eligible to participate in providing the reading intervention to students in Grades 4 and 5. Fourth- and fifth-grade students with RD will participate in the study. The research team will screen students identified with reading problems using the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test. Students will be identified using the criterion of the standard score at or below 85 on the GMRT.

Instructional Approach

The i-SMART curriculum highlights five key components:

  1. Building vocabulary and content knowledge
  2. Explicit reading comprehension strategy instruction
  3. Cooperative learning
  4. Building growth-mindset knowledge through text-based activities
  5. Application of growth-mindset knowledge to reading activities

The fully developed i-SMART intervention will use explicit instruction routines and the gradual release of responsibility to support independent reading. The innovation of this project lies in the integration of evidence-based growth-mindset content and practices within an existing reading intervention with demonstrated efficacy as a mechanism for improving reading comprehension outcomes.


We are currently developing our instructional materials. We will post them here when available.

Interested in Participating in this Project?

Please contact Philip Capin.