CBER Monthly Featured Project- Project “CALI”

Project CALI (Content-Area Literacy Instruction) is a Goal 2 development grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.  

The purpose of Project CALI is to develop a middle school co-teaching professional development program that improves collaboration between general (content-area) and special education teachers and, ultimately, reading skills and content-area knowledge of students with disabilities. Over the course of three years, the Project CALI team has observed what was happening in middle school co-taught content area classes, developed methods to improve literacy instruction in those classes, and is now testing to see whether the developed Project CALI methods are effective in improving student literacy outcomes in those classes.

The Project CALI framework consists of several strategies, including:

  • Text Selection guidelines
  • World Knowledge (background knowledge)
  • Word Knowledge (vocabulary instruction)
  • Getting the Gist (a powerful, evidence-based summarization strategy)
  • Student Support (individualized support for students with disabilities and those with typical achievement).


Dr. Devin Kearns, co-Principal Investigator, uses Lightboard technology to record professional development videos.


Marney Pollack, lead project coordinator and instructional coach presents a scaffolded reading comprehension strategy to co-teachers.

In addition, Project CALI provides teachers with instructional techniques to support student literacy. These include teaching methods that support learning, strategies for maximizing co-teaching, and tips for creating and maintaining a positive classroom environment. Teachers implement these strategies with Helper Support, or assistance from a trained instructional coach.

Project CALI training includes evidence-based professional development, which consists of videos explaining content developed by experts in the field, interactive activities to process content and check for understanding, and teacher and student materials. It also includes ongoing technical assistance. A ‘CALI Helper’, or instructional coach, provides systematic support for all participating teachers as they plan for CALI lessons, implement CALI lessons, and reflect with co-teachers to enhance future lessons.


Cheryl Lyon, project coordinator and instructional coach reflects with a participating co-teacher following implementation of a CALI lesson.

Principal Investigators include Dr. Devin Kearns (Assistant Professor of Special Education and CBER Research Scientist at the University of Connecticut), Dr. Jade Wexler (Associate Professor of Special Education at the University of Maryland), and Dr. Chris Lemons (Associate Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University). Additional project staff at UConn include Marney Pollack and Cheryl Lyon (project coordinators), Amanda Waltman and Michael Li (student research assistants), and Hanna Marchini (graphic designer).

To learn more about Project CALI, please visit www.projectcali.uconn.edu.

To watch a short informational video about Project CALI, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNSKISpglEs or watch the video below.