I wanted to review the Wilson’s Fundations program, as it is often paired with the Wit and Wisdom program. I gave the Wit and Wisdom a low grade because it had no program specific research and because, despite it being a program that included k-3, it included no foundational skills during that time frame (foundational skills being phonemic awareness, phonology, and morphology.
There are to the best of my knowledge no meta-analyses on Wilson programming. I searched the Wilson website, Google, Sage Pub, and Education Source. I was able to find, 4 quantitative studies done on Wison phonics programming; however, they were all for its' tier three programming and not its core instruction programming. One by Reuter, Et al, in 2006, one by Torgesen, Et al, in 2007, one by Wanzek Et al in 2012, and one by Fritts Et al, in 2016. Of these 4 studies I had access to all of them except the Reuter study, which is not in any of the journals I have subscriptions to. Of these studies, I conducted a very small meta-analysis. I calculated effect sizes using a Hedge's g formula.
The results were quite weak. However, there may be a few reasons as to why we need to be cautious in interpreting this data. Firstly, it is only three studies and while this is more than say Amplify, it’s still not very significant. Secondly, all three of the studies were on dyslexic students, which tends to drive down results. While the NRP meta-analysis found a mean result of .69 for phonics, they found an ES of .32 for dyslexic students. Most of the studies included in this meta-analysis were above grade 2. While the NRP meta-analysis showed that phonics instruction was not effective for students older than grade 2, with an average ES of .27.
Despite the experimental evidence for Wilson being weak, the program is Research Based. Moreover, on a qualitative note, I really like the scope and sequence of the program. It starts with phonemic awareness, and single sound phonics, then slowly builds into more and more complex skills, such as blends, fluency, and comprehension. The program also uses a synthetic phonics approach, which has been shown to outperform regular phonics instruction by an ES of .45, according to the NRP meta-analysis. Admittedly, while these foundational skills have been shown to be very high yield in the literature, they tend to produce low results for older students. For these reasons, I actually think the Wit and Wisdom program is likely better for non-remedial students grade 4 and up. However, the Fundations program is far better for students K-3. That being said, there is no reason the program cannot be paired with the Wit and Wisdom program.
The Fundations program uses direct instruction and mastery pacing to teach the following components: phonemic awareness, synthetic phonics, handwriting, morphology, comprehension, composition, grammar, and spelling. I was able to find a meta-analysis effect size for all of these components except teaching grammar. There is a meta-analysis on the topic of grammar instruction, but it appears to be removed by the author from academic journals. Most of these ideas are evidence-based, they are especially evidence-based when we consider the pacing, which orders these concepts by difficulty in the primary grades, using mastery pacing. The only aspects of this program that lack evidence is the direct instruction of composition and vocabulary. Neither concept has even moderate evidence within the meta-analysis literature. However, I am sure they still need to be taught to some extent. It is likely that they just need to be taught in lesser amounts, during the primary grades (a nuance possibly missed within the literature).
According to Hattie’s 2022 meta-analysis, 536 studies on phonics found a mean ES of .57, 652 studies on direct instruction found a mean ES of .59, and 784 studies showed a mean ES of .61 for mastery based pacing. According to a 2010 meta-analysis by Graham, Et al, the direct instruction of writing methods had an ES of .18, the direct instruction of spelling had an ES of .79. According to a Filderman, Et, al 2021 meta-analysis of 64 studies, comprehension interventions showed a mean ES of .59. According to Ehri’s 2001 meta-analysis, 259 studies on phonemic awareness instruction showed a mean ES of .75. According to Ellerman’s 2019 meta-analysis of vocabulary instruction, 37 K-12 studies showed a mean ES of .21. According to Feng’s 2019 meta-analysis, 19 K-3 studies showed a mean ES of ,43 on literacy outcomes for handwriting instruction.
Final Grade: B
The program is research based, as there are no high impact, direct studies, but most of the program principles are well evidenced, within the meta-analysis literature.
Qualitative Grade: 8/10
The program includes the following evidence based principles: phonics, scaffolding, individualized instruction, fluency instruction, comprehension instruction, phonemic awareness instruction, spelling instruction, and sight word instruction.
Written by Nathaniel Hansford
Last Edited 2022-07-25
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