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IES Grant

Title: Group Discussions as a Mechanism for Promoting High-Level Comprehension of Text
Center: NCER Year: 2002
Principal Investigator: Wilkinson, Ian Awardee: Ohio State University
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $786,372
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305G020075

Co-Principal Investigators: Anna Soter, and P. Karen Murphy, The Pennsylvania State University

The goal of this project is to identify which types of communication enhance understanding during discussion and validate empirically the use of group discussion as a means to enhance high-level comprehension in 4th and 6th grade students.

Structured Abstract

Purpose: Students often lack the necessary skills to comprehend complex text, and a primary goal of reading instruction in upper elementary school is to foster the development of these skills. There is not, however, consensus as to the best way to foster the development of these high-level comprehension skills. This research, therefore, will synthesize what is known about one instructional tool thought to foster critical, reflective thinking about text: group discussion. The researchers will identify which types of communication enhance understanding during discussion and validate empirically the use of group discussion as a means of enhancing high-level comprehension. Educators can use the results of this research in two ways: as guidance when making choices about instructional techniques and as a means of assessing high-level text comprehension.

Due to rapid technological changes, people entering the work force face increasing demands that they be highly literate, including that the ability to comprehend and reflect on complex text. Recognizing this need for high-level literacy, the researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of group discussion at fostering critical, reflective thinking about text in fourth and sixth grade students. The purpose of this project is to identify converging evidence on the use of group discussions to promote high-level comprehension of text and to advance understanding of how teachers can implement discussions and assess their effects in ways that are address instructional goals.

Research Design and Methods: The specific objectives of the project are to: (a) develop a conceptual framework to help teachers understand different approaches to conducting group discussions of text; (b) examine evidence of the effects of different approaches to conducting group discussions, including estimation of the magnitude of effects and analysis of indicators of quality discussions; (c) implement a professional development program for teachers to facilitate quality discussions; and (d) develop tools for assessing individual students' cognitive and affective processes during discussions as well as their higher-level responses to texts.

In summary, three activities will be completed. First, the researchers will synthesize research on group discussions designed to promote high-level comprehension of text. Second, they will validate and extend the findings from the synthesis by evaluating the discussion approaches on a common set of discourse features known to characterize 'quality' discussions. Finally, the research team will use the conceptual framework and model of group discussion, derived from the research synthesis and discourse analysis of 'quality' discussions, in an experimental design to examine teachers' implementations of this model in 4th and 6th grade language arts and other content area classrooms, and examine tools for assessing the impact of discussion on students' high-level comprehension of text.

Related IES Projects: Dialogic Teaching: Professional Development in Classroom Discussion to Improve Students' Argument Literacy (R305A120634) and Quality Talk: Developing Students' Discourse to Promote Critical-Analytic Thinking, Epistemic Cognition, and High-Level Comprehension (R305A130031)


Book chapter

Soter, A.O. (2007). The Use of Discussion as a Pedagogical Tool in the University Context. In J. Donnermeyer (Ed.), Talking About Teaching: Essays by Members of the Ohio State University Academy of Teaching (pp. 30–43). Columbus, Oh: Ohio State University Academy of Teaching.

Soter, A.O. (2008). Engaging Readers: Variations on Reader Response. In A.O Soter, M. Faust, and T. Rogers (Eds.), Interpretive Play: Using Critical Perspectives to Teach Young Adult Literature (pp. 33–36). Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.

Wilkinson, I.A.G. (2009). Discussion Methods. In E.M., Anderman, and L.H., Anderman (Eds.), Psychology of Classroom Learning: An Encyclopedia (pp. 330–336). Detroit, MI: : Gale Cengage.

Wilkinson, I.A.G., and Hye Son, E. (2009). Questioning. In E.M. Anderman, and L.H. Anderman (Eds.), Psychology of Classroom Learning: An Encyclopedia (pp. 723–728). Detroit, MI: Gale Cengage.

Wilkinson, I.A.G., Soter, A.O., and Murphy, P.K. (2010). Developing a Model of Quality Talk About Literary Text. In M.G. McKeown, and L. Kucan (Eds.), Bringing Reading Research to Life: Essays in Honor of Isabel L. Beck (pp. 142–169). New York: Guilford Press.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Murphy, P.K. (2007). The Eye of the Beholder: The Interplay of Social and Cognitive Components in Change. Educational Psychologist, 42(1): 41–53.

Murphy, P.K., Wilkinson, I.A.G., Soter, A.O., Hennessey, M.N., and Alexander, J.F. (2009). Examining the Effects of Classroom Discussion on Students' Comprehension of Text: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3): 740–764.

Soter, A.O., Connors, S., and Rudge, L. (2008). Use of a Coding Manual When Providing a Meta-Interpretation of Internal-Validity Mechanisms and Demographic Data Used in Qualitative Research. Journal of Ethnographic and Qualitative Research, 2: 269–280.

Soter, A.O., Wilkinson, I.A.G., Murphy, P.K., Rudge, L., Reninger, K., and Edwards, M. (2008). What the Discourse Tells Us: Talk and Indicators of High-Level Comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research, 47(6): 372–391.