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IES Grant

Title: Quality Talk: Developing Students' Discourse to Promote Critical-Analytic Thinking, Epistemic Cognition, and High-Level Comprehension
Center: NCER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: Murphy, P. Karen Awardee: Pennsylvania State University
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (7/1/2013-6/30/2016) Award Amount: $1,230,556
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A130031

Co-Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Alan Greene (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Purpose: Comprehension and critical analysis of text are important skills for success both in and out of school. However, many students struggle to understand and analyze text from print and digital media. While research has shown that classroom discussions can enhance basic cognition and critical thinking, few current models for text-based classroom discussion have been shown to be effective at increasing students' high-level comprehension. In the current project, the researchers will develop a model of discussion, with accompanying instructional materials that emphasizes critical-analytic thinking and high-level comprehension. This work is based on a previous IES-funded project (Group Discussions as a Mechanism for Promoting High-Level Comprehension of Text) which developed an intervention called Quality Talk. This intervention was designed to promote substantive student-led classroom discussion to foster high-level comprehension and critical thinking. The current project will expand and enhance Quality Talk by creating explicit mini-lessons on critical-analytic thinking and epistemic cognition, and by refining the model and instructional materials.

Project Activities: The goal of this project is to iteratively develop and refine Quality Talk. The study will involve iterative development and a quasi-experimental pilot study in the final year. Fourth-grade teachers will participate in designing the mini-lessons, and fourth- and fifth-grade teachers will implement the intervention and provide feedback for refinement. In the third year, eight new teachers and their students will participate in the pilot study. Randomization to treatment or business-as-usual control will occur at the school level.

Products: The final product of this study will be the fully developed Quality Talk intervention, including lessons and instructional materials for fourth- and fifth-grade students. Peer-reviewed publications will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will be conducted in rural school districts in Pennsylvania.

Sample: Approximately 200 to 250 fourth- and fifth-grade students and their 14 teachers will participate in this study.

Intervention: The Quality Talk intervention was conceptualized as a teacher professional development model to promote student-led classroom discussions that foster critical-analytic thinking and high-level comprehension. The final intervention will include instructional mini-lessons that directly address the necessary student discourse skills. Additionally, the model will be adapted for use with informational text. Mini-lessons will cover the following topics: authentic questions and uptake; analysis, generalization, and speculation questions; epistemic cognition; textual and extra-textual connections; elaborated explanations and reasoning words; and exploratory talk.

Research Design and Methods: This project involves iterative development and a quasi-experimental pilot study. During the first year, two fourth-grade teachers will build, implement, and refine the mini-lessons. The second year will include two fourth-grade teachers and two fifth-grade teachers and will involve two iterations and refinement of the intervention. In addition, during the second year, researchers will also examine the model in homogenous and heterogenous reading ability groups. The quasi-experimental pilot study will be conducted in the third year and will involve four fourth-grade teachers and four fifth-grade teachers and their students. Randomization to treatment and control will occur at the school level.

Control Condition: The control condition will be a business-as-usual condition, and schools will be randomly assigned to either treatment or control.

Key Measures: In order to make refinements to the intervention, each mini-lesson will be videotaped and analyzed for usability, feasibility, and fidelity. The Talk Assessment Tool for Teachers (TATT) will be used to analyze video recordings. Teachers will provide input regarding the intervention during monthly half-day workshops. Students' prior knowledge will be assessed using a short two-part researcher-designed assessment for each text used in the mini-lessons. A sentence verification task and a researcher-developed critical-analytic thinking assessment will be used to measure student comprehension. A persuasive essay task will be used as a distal comprehension task. Finally, the Teacher Knowledge of Quality Talk will be used to assess usability, feasibility, and fidelity in addition to the TATT.

Data Analytic Strategy: In order to determine whether revisions need to be made to the mini-lessons, researchers will identify changes in TATT ratings pre- and post-lesson using ordinal regression models. Researchers will assess whether or not the intervention is associated with improvements in student comprehension outcomes using a 2 (pre-test vs. post-test) x 2 (treatment vs. control) mixed analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) design. A separate ANCOVA will be used for each of the three high-level outcome variables: sentence verification task; persuasive essay task; and critical-analytic thinking assessment.

Related IES Projects: Group Discussions as a Mechanism for Promoting High-Level Comprehension of Text (R305G020075)


Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Murphy, P. K., Firetto, C. M., Wei, L., Li, M., and Croninger, R. M. (2016). What REALLY Works: Optimizing Classroom Discussions to Promote Comprehension and Critical-Analytic Thinking. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(1): 27–35.

Murphy, P.K., Firetto, C.M., Wei, L., Li, M., and Croninger, R.M.V. (2016). What REALLY Works: Optimizing Classroom Discussions to Promote Comprehension and Critical-Analytic Thinking. Policy Insights From the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(1): 27–35.