Level 2: Implementing A Specific Reading Programme - ARROW

Teacher as Researcher - Action Research Project


NBSS research has pointed to the association between failure with reading and behaviour difficulties. For example, an exploration of the reading ages of students (N=2187) receiving NBSS Level 3 behavioural support from the Spring Term 2009 to the Spring Term 2012 revealed that 66.3% (N=1450) of students were reading three or more years below their chronological age. Additionally, 4.3% (N=96) of the students receiving NBSS Level 3 support had reading ages of 7 years or less.

The negative effect of poor reading skills are well documented and wide ranging, for example poor academic achievement, low self-esteem, lower motivation to read, disengagement with learning and school, and behavioural problems.

Greg Brooks (2007) in his review of ‘What works for pupils with literacy difficulties’, noted that ‘although good classroom teaching is the bedrock of effective practice, most research suggests that children falling behind their peers need more help than the classroom normally provides. This help requires coordinated effort and training’. For some students, a tightly focused group intervention will be sufficient to allow them to develop their reading skills and build their confidence to engage more actively in the learning process, while other students need intensive and individualised interventions.

The diversity of student needs, learning style, teaching style and classroom conditions that exist in any school means that no one ‘right’ strategy or programme holds the answer to addressing literacy difficulties. However, using evidence-based programmes as ONE element of targeted support can play an important role in a school’s repertoire of prevention and intervention supports for students. ARROW is one of several interventions that NBSS partner schools implement to support reading and literacy skills development - other interventions include, for example, the use of Catch Up Literacy; Corrective Reading; Toe by Toe; Acceleread Accelewrite; Rapid Plus; Vocabulary Enrichment; Bridge to Vocabulary; SNIP Literacy programme; The Wordsworth programme; Spell Write Right, among others.


A.R.R.O.W. (Auditory, Read, Respond, Oral, Write) is an ICT-based programme. It is a multi-sensory learning system for the improvement of reading, spelling, speech and listening skills. The programme is based on learning through self-voice techniques whilst undertaking various programmes covering reading, spelling, dictation, speech and listening skills.

A.R.R.O.W. has been used in a range of settings including primary and secondary schools, colleges as well as adult education centres and with students experiencing literacy problems, dyslexia, hearing impairment, speech/language disorders and neurological disorders. The purchase of the programme also includes training in its use.


As an element of NBSS Academic Literacy support to schools eight partner schools were offered teacher training in the ARROW programme. This involved two days of training as well as followup support provided to a total of 20 teachers, some of whom additionally worked in their schools’ Behaviour Support Classrooms. Each teacher worked with 1-5 students during 20-40 minute sessions, for approximately 6-10 hours on the programme.


  • In the academic year (2009-2010) 111 students across eight schools took part in the ARROW programme. For the purpose of conducting a measurement of central tendency, incomplete data sets submitted by trained teachers (e.g. those that were missing spelling or reading pre and post test results) were removed from the analysis with the result that the analysis was conducted on pre and post results for 105 of the students.

  • At the commencement of the programme the mean chronological age of the cohortacross the eight schools was 13.9 years (with a median age of 13.7 and a mode of 13).
  • At the time of their post-intervention testing the mean chronological age of the students was 13.10 years (with a median age of 13.9 years and again, a mode of 13 years).
  • Pre-intervention the mean spelling age was 9.5 years (median of 9.6 years with a mode of 10 years). Post intervention, the mean had increased to 9.11 years (with an identical median and a mode of 11.9).
  • The initial reading assessment before the programme demonstrated that the mean age of the cohort was 9.9 years (with a median of 10 years and a mode of 8 years). Analysis ofthe post-test produced a mean reading age of 10.9 years (with a median of 10.11 years and a mode of 12.8).
  • Additionally an analysis was conducted by the NBSS on the data submitted by ARROW teachers to measure the degree of change achieved by the cohort in percentiles. The table and figure below present this analysis.

Table 1:

Degree of Change Reading Spelling
Negative 6.3% (N=7) 7.1% (N=7)
No Change 3.6% (N=4) 9.0% (N=9)
1-6 months 21.6% (N=24) 46.5% (N=46)
7-12 months 22.5% (N=25) 25.3% (N=25)
13-18 months 27.1% (N=30) 12.1% (N=12)
19 months or more 18.9% (N=21) 0.0% (N=0)
Total 100.0% (N=111) 100.0% (N=99)




Teacher A: 

" We had two days training where the three of us went to another school. And there were three staff there in the other school as well for the training. And we found the whole experience very, very positive, very energising. We came back and to be very colloquial we were very buzzed up about it. Even after the first day of training. And after the second day we were knocking on management’s door saying we have to do this, we have to get this up and running and what we need is…and they came on board completely."

Teacher B:

"There were a couple of girls in my third year class. I did a couple of them as a pilot group as well. Just at the start to get us familiar with it. One of them is also dyslexic. And she got a B in her English Pre for her Junior Cert. She was beaming. She got a B and she is dyslexic and that is without a spelling and grammar exemption. So that was a massive boost. And there is another first year who would have a very bad speech impediment, she is in the weaker class and she has loads of learning difficulties. And the difference. Now I don’t know if it is ARROW or just as the year has progressed, but you meet her in the corridor now and she will now speak to you. Now she is still a very poor speaker, but she has way more confidence…"

Teacher C:

"But even with my third year class…it was November, October or November that we first did the ARROW with them. Their pre’s were in March. And they were getting the B’s. Two girls in particular were getting B’s both with dyslexia…so it has continued. They have handed me up work corrected – so it has continued. The simple spelling mistakes that they used to make they are not making now. They are going back over reading their work cause the ARROW you have to go back and correct your own work. Which they are doing. Which is really important. You know, I always say, when you finish something go back and read over it. And they aren’t any longer just handing up a class test…they have finished it but they are sitting reading over it. I think they got that from ARROW." 

Teacher B:

"But who it has worked best with actually are the foreign nationals. We did three or four this year and I am talking two and a half or two years. It is unbelievable. "