McMahon, D., Wright, R., Cihak, D. F., Moore, T. C., & Lamb, R. (2016). Podcasts on mobile devices as a read-aloud testing accommodation in middle school science assessment . Journal of Science Education and Technology , 25 (2), 263–273.

Journal Article

McMahon, D., Wright, R., Cihak, D. F., Moore, T. C., & Lamb, R. (2016). Podcasts on mobile devices as a read-aloud testing accommodation in middle school science assessment. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 25(2), 263–273.


First published online (11/9/15)


Learning disabilities; Middle school; No disability; Oral delivery; Oral delivery, live/in-person; Recorded delivery (audio or video); Science; Technological aid; U.S. context




Effects of the oral delivery accommodation, as delivered via recorded podcast—with both audio and video features—were compared to in-person test administrator read-aloud accommodation, and to standard administration (without accommodation).


The participants were 47 grade 6 students with reading difficulties at a school in an urban part of a southeastern state in the U.S. Of those 47 students, 16 were identified with disabilities and had previously and routinely received oral delivery accommodations provided by in-person test administrators. Participants' demographic data, such as gender and ethnicity, were also reported.

Dependent Variable

Performance scores on three versions of a 30-item science assessment under the three different conditions were collected and analyzed.


The mean performance score across all participants was highest when students took the podcast-delivered science test (57%), and the second-highest mean score was oral delivery by teacher (54%), in comparison with the non-accommodated condition (46%). The difference between the podcast condition and the standard condition—that is, the effect size—was medium and significant (.59), and so was the effect size for the teacher read-aloud condition (.52). The difference between the two accommodated conditions was not significant. Group mean comparisons between students with reading difficulties who were not identified with disabilities and students with disabilities yielded different results. Students without disabilities scored significantly higher than students with disabilities in the standard administration and the teacher-read test delivery, but only a bit higher (less than 10 percent) and not significantly different in the podcast-delivered test. Participants' teachers commented anecdotally that students seemed more focused and had less wait-time in the podcast testing condition, due to increased time management provided when each student could choose when and how much to listen to certain test items. The researchers noted that all of the participants had reading difficulties, and that the oral delivery accommodation conditions supported all of these students accordingly. The researchers suggested possible explanations for factors that led to these results. They also noted that "the UDL approach of multiple representations allowed both groups of students to access the test content" (p. 8 of 11). Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.