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IES Grant

Title: Teacher Metalinguistic Awareness in Writing Instruction: Links among Teacher Knowledge, Teacher Practice and Student Learning
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: McCutchen, Deborah Awardee: University of Washington
Program: Teaching, Teachers, and the Education Workforce      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2017 - 06/30/2021) Award Amount: $1,399,981
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A170112

Co-Investigators: Elizabeth Sanders and Heather Hebard

Purpose: This study will examine upper elementary (grades 4-6) teachers' critical metalinguistic awareness (CMA) and related instructional enactments as potential malleable factors associated with student reading and writing outcomes. Mounting research evidence indicates that students' literacy growth is supported by metalinguistic skill. To initiate their students into the complexities of academic language, teachers need their own critical metalinguistic awareness. The specific aims of the project are a preliminary exploration of whether 1) teachers' CMA and CMA-related instructional practices are measurable, and 2) teachers' variations in CMA and related instructional practices are associated with student writing and CMA-related outcomes.

Project Activities: Researchers will begin with a qualitative analysis of teacher knowledge and practice. They will interview skilled teachers of writing and observe them as they teach. This qualitative work will then inform the iterative development of the written CMA measure via three waves of data collection and a pilot of the observational measure of teacher CMA. Finally, researchers will examine the validity of the new measure by examining the associations between teacher CMA and their related instructional practices and the literacy outcomes of their students.

Products: Researchers will produce preliminary evidence of potentially promising practices around and tools to assess teacher critical metalinguistic awareness, and peer-reviewed publications.  

Structured Abstract

Setting: Participating schools are located in urban districts in Washington State.

Sample: Study participants will be teachers and students in Grades 4 through 6, including about 16 teachers (8 in the fall, another 8 in the spring) in Year 1, 90-100 teachers in the knowledge measure study and 8 teachers in the pilot observation study in Year 2, and 36 teachers across Years 3and 4 (18 per year). Participating students will include 15 students per class (500-600 students, estimated 45% European American, 35% Asian American, 10% African American, 10% other, including EL students and students with IEPs).

Intervention: Malleable factors are dimensions of teacher critical metalinguistic awareness.  

Research Design and Methods: Researchers are using a mixed-methods approach, beginning in Year 1 with qualitative analysis of the knowledge and practice of skilled teachers of writing. Across the fall and spring teacher cohorts, researchers plan to observe and video record teachers across the classroom settings and content areas (e.g., English language arts, social studies, science) in which they are focused primarily on reading and writing expository texts and might be expected to most frequently deploy CMA.

In Year 2, based in the findings from the qualitative study in Year 1, researchers will iteratively develop both a written and observational measure of teacher CMA with a broader sample of teachers.

In Years 3 and 4, researchers will use a 2-cohort correlational mixed-methods design to examine associations between teacher CMA variables and student writing and CMA-related outcomes. Researchers will collect teacher responses to the CMA written measure in the fall, observe teacher instruction midyear (winter) across multiple days using our CMA classroom observation tool, and conduct teacher and student interviews in the spring. Researchers will collect students' writing and CMA-related skills at two time points, in the fall and spring of the school year.

Control Condition: Due to the exploratory nature of the research design, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: Measures include development of a teacher CMA measure and an observation protocol to code instructional practice, and use of a battery of student measures (i.e., Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Achievement; Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test 4th Edition; Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, 3rd Edition, and project-developed measures to assess student literacy-related learning.

Data Analytic Strategy: Year 1 involves qualitative analysis of teacher CMA via interviews and observations of instruction utilizing Atlas.ti software based on codes from pre-existing observational measures such as the PLATO.

Year 2 involves iterative development of the written CMA measure via three waves of data collection and a pilot of the observational measure. Items will be evaluated for difficulty, correlation with the total and subscale scores, and the extent to which they detract from internal consistency. For each wave of data collection, researchers will also conduct an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) across all items to determine whether CMA academic and enactment items statistically correlate as two separable constructs (i.e., CMA academic and enactment) or whether they appear to form a single construct.

Years 3 and 4 involve HLM analysis examining associations between teacher CMA and their related instructional practices and their student literacy outcomes. Researchers will examine the correlations between teacher CMA and student outcomes to determine the predictive validity of the teacher CMA measure.