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Wit and Wisdom 

Program Description: 

According to the creators website, “Each module focuses on a topic or theme that builds students’ content knowledge through the use of rich interdisciplinary grade-level texts. Essential topics strategically reoccur, empowering students to deepen their understanding of core knowledge across Grades K–8. Wit & Wisdom leads students to develop reading, writing, speaking and listening, vocabulary, and language skills in concert. Instead of addressing standards one by one, in isolation, Wit & Wisdom arranges for students to practice required language arts skills in the context of module content. Instead of leveled readers that limit engagement and deeper learning, students are invited to read content-rich and complex texts that will build their knowledge of important topics as they master literacy skills. The selected core texts are wide-ranging and varied and provide a careful balance of literary, informational, and fine art texts.”

 

I read through the curriculum outline of the program and found the program used the following principles and pedagogies: repeated reading, vocabulary instruction, direct instruction, inquiry based learning, comprehension instruction, providing background knowledge, and morphology instruction starting in grade 7. Some of these strategies are high yield according to the meta-analysis literature, including, repeated reading, direct instruction, morphology and comprehension instruction.It should be noted that Wit and Wisdom is unique from other ELA knowledge building programs, in that it is more culturally relevant. It therefore, could be a viable alternative to programs like CKLA, for those who find it not culturally relevant enough. However, unlike CKLA Wit and Wisdom does not include foundational skill instruction and therefore needs to be paired with a program that does like, Fundations, Jolly Phonics, or 95%. 

 

Studies: 

I previously searched on google, the company website, and Education source for experimental studies on Wit and Wisdom. While I found many case studies, I did not find any experimental studies. That said, I recently realized I had missed one large scale quasi-experimental study conducted by John Hopkins University. While the study was not an RCT, the authors used propensity matching to ensure that the samples were equivalent. All pre-test effect sizes were below .05. The study compared students in more than 100 schools that used Wit and Wisdom to schools nearby that did not and examined grades 1-5. All assessments used were standardized ELA tests. The study showed that all grades out performed the control group by .43%-1.24%. “In fourth grade, W&W students gained an average of 0.03 standard deviations, as compared to their matched peers. In fifth grade, W&W students gained an average of 0.04 standard deviations.” These results suggest a very small but positive benefit for the Wit and Wisdom curriculum. According to the original paper “Estimates in third through fifth grades are positive, but statistically insignificant.”

 

It should be noted that the John Hopkins study also found that teachers “struggled to teach some aspects of the curriculum. [...] many teachers struggled to use W&W with fidelity. Only 40% of teachers in the W&W schools reported that they used every component of W&W “always.” A larger percentage of teachers, 67%, used all W&W materials at least “most of the time.” [...] Observers also noted that, given the lessons observed in the late spring, few

teachers were likely to finish all four W&W modules before the end of the academic year.

These findings suggest that both using materials with fidelity and pacing were challenges

to teachers during their first year of W&W implementation.”

Discussion: 
The biggest problem with this literacy program of course is that it does not include any phonological instruction of any kind. The authors have also noted this and admitted that a good literacy program should require the direct instruction of foundational skills like phonics. However, they therefore recommend users of their program pair it with a foundational skills program for younger grades. 

Grade: B-
The principles of this program are research based, so long as it is paired with another high quality program that covers foundational skills. A rigorous study conducted on Wit and Wisdom, by John Hopkins University, found positive, but statistically insignificant benefit for the use of the Wit and Wisdom program. 

Written by Nathaniel Hansford

Last Updated 2023-06-18

References:

John Hopkins. (2021). Implementing Wit & Wisdom: An Evaluation Research Report. Institute for Education Policy. 

Filderman, M. J., Austin, C. R., Boucher, A. N., O’Donnell, K., & Swanson, E. A. (2022). A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Reading Comprehension Interventions on the Reading Comprehension Outcomes of Struggling Readers in Third Through 12th Grades. Exceptional Children, 88(2), 163–184. https://doi.org/10.1177/00144029211050860

Feng, L., Lindner, A., Ji, X. R., & Malatesha Joshi, R. (2019). The roles of handwriting and keyboarding in writing: a meta-analytic review. Reading & Writing, 32(1), 33–63. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lakeheadu.ca/10.1007/s11145-017-9749-x

Ehri, Linnea & Nunes, Simone & Willows, Dale & Schuster, Barbara & Yaghoub-Zadeh, Zohreh & Shanahan, Timothy. (2001). Phonemic Awareness Instruction Helps Children Learn to Read: Evidence From the National Reading Panel's Meta-Analysis. Reading Research Quarterly. 36. 250-287. 10.1598/RRQ.36.3.2. 


Elleman, A.M., Lindo, E.J., Morphy, P., & Compton, D.L. (2009). The impact of vocabulary instruction on passage-level comprehension of school-age children: A meta-analysis. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2(1), 1–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/1934574080 2539200

J, Hattie. (2022). Meta-X. Visible Learning. Retrieved from <https://www.visiblelearningmetax.com/influences>. 

N, Hansford. (2021). Morphology: A Secondary Meta-Analysis. Pedagog Non Grata. Retrieved from <https://www.pedagogynongrata.com/morphology>. 

Great Minds. (2022). Wit and Wisdom. Retrieved from <https://greatminds.org/english>. 

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