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IES Grant

Title: Improving the Teaching and Learning of English Language Learners: The Instructional Conversational Model
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Portes, Pedro Awardee: University of Georgia
Program: Policies, Practices, and Programs to Support English Learners      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $2,935,846
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A100670

Co-Principal Investigator: Karen Samuelsen

Purpose: This study will examine the effects of the Instructional Conversation (IC) model for improving the academic development and achievement of upper elementary English language learners (ELLs) from high poverty schools. In the IC model, the teacher structures small-group instruction to stimulate and guide a conversation with students on a current topic from the curriculum. The teacher listens carefully to student views and judgments and provides guidance through questioning and restating of student comments. Each small-group meeting has a clear instructional goal. The main purpose of this project is to study the efficacy of this model to improve reading comprehension and other areas of academic development for ELLs. In previous quasi-experimental studies, the IC model was found to improve the academic achievement of both ELLs and native-English speaking students, but a rigorous experimental evaluation of this model has not been completed to date. In addition, researchers will explore hypotheses surrounding the mechanisms through which affective, cognitive, and English language development influence the impact of the IC model on student achievement.

Project Activities: Teachers will be trained to implement the IC model in their classrooms with both ELL and non-ELL students. This training will take place during a summer workshop and will be reinforced with weekly coaching throughout the academic year. Teachers will participate in 2 years of training in the IC model, and efficacy in improving student outcomes will be evaluated in Year 2.

Products: Published reports describing the evidence of the effects of the IC model on cognitive and literacy skills for ELL and non-ELL students will be the products of this research. In addition, evidence of the impact of the IC model on more proximal measures of student writing and conversation will be reported.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study will take place in 18 schools in Northeast Georgia.

Population: Participants will include third and fifth grade ELLs who are predominantly Latino and who attend schools with a high percentage of ELLs.

Intervention: The IC model is designed to increase the rate and intensity of vigorous interactions with peers and expert teachers. Instructional Conversations occur as regularly scheduled, teacher-led events with three to seven students, and typically last about 20 minutes. The IC model is intended to provide intensive and differentiated experiences for students in key areas for second language acquisition and academic development.

Research Design and Methods: Third and fifth grade teachers within each school will be randomly assigned to the IC or control condition. Teachers will receive professional development and coaching to improve implementation of IC and will also complete an online course from the National Education Association on effective teaching in diverse classrooms. A critical elements checklist will be developed to assess fidelity of implementation. A full year of practice with feedback will be provided to teachers, and the impact of the IC model will be assessed in the following school year. Pre- and post-test measures of student outcomes will be collected.

Control Condition: Students in control classrooms will receive instruction from teachers who have not received IC professional development.

Key Measures: The key student outcome measures include Georgia‘s Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, state English proficiency test scores , and the large-scale test, Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners. Other student outcome measures include the Psychological Sense of School Membership inventory, Harter's Self Perception Profile for Children, and the Cognitive Abilities Test. In addition, a fidelity checklist will be developed and implemented.

Data Analytic Strategy: The impact of IC will be assessed using a multilevel model that takes into account the grouping of students in classrooms and schools. To investigate whether students in IC classrooms exhibit qualitative differences in response to questions than students in control classrooms, item responses from the ITBS or CRCT will be analyzed using a mixed Rasch model to identify latent classes.

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Mellom, P.J., Straubhaar, R., Balderas, C., Ariail, M., and Portes, P.R. (2018). 'They come with nothing:' How Professional Development In A Culturally Responsive Pedagogy Shapes Teacher Attitudes Towards Latino/A English Language Learners. Teaching and Teacher Education, 71, 98–107.