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IES Grant

Title: Sense-Making in the Disciplines: Supporting Reading and Argumentation in Literature and History
Center: NCER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Lee, Carol D. Awardee: Northwestern University
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (07/01/2018–06/30/2022) Award Amount: $1,397,927
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A180463

Co-Principal Investigator: Brown, Matthew

Purpose: High school students are expected to read and understand text in multiple content areas content areas that require discipline-specific ways of reading, interpreting, and conveying information. Additionally, many high school students still need assistance with fundamental comprehension skills. In this project, researchers will refine and expand a digital tool called Sense Making in the Disciplines (SMD) to support 8th and 9th graders' close analytic reading and argumentation in literature and history. The original version of SMD was developed as part of an IES-funded Reading for Understanding project (Reading for Understanding Across Grades 6 through 12: Evidence-Based Argumentation for Disciplinary Learning). In the current project, researchers will refine SMD, expand it from just literature into history, and develop new functionalities for authoring, for helping teachers obtain and use data from the tool, and for using the tool for research purposes.

Project Activities: In Years 1 and 2, researchers will work on refining the current version of SMD and developing new content and functionality, and will conduct studies comparing the comprehension processes of good and poor readers. The research team will use this information to refine the content and the lessons in SMD. In year 3, researchers will test SMD and its associated instructional framework in 8th and 9th grade classrooms and make final refinements. The research team will conduct a pilot study in Year 4 with 8th and 9th grade students using a quasi-experimental design.

Products: The products of this project include a fully developed SMD tool, evidence of SMD's promise to improve student reading and writing outcomes, and peer reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This project will take place in an urban district in Illinois.

Sample: Participants in this study include approximately 810 8th and 9th grade students and their teachers.

Intervention: SMD is a digital authoring tool that allows teachers and curriculum designers to input texts and supports for close reading. Supports include the ability to annotate text, hyperlinks for vocabulary and background knowledge, heuristic organizers, and sets of questions following coherent sections of text that guide the accumulation of meaning across texts. The final version of SMD will include content for both literature and history. Student and teacher dashboards — and functionality for researchers who may want to use the tool — will also be included.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will conduct basic studies on comprehension and development activities simultaneously in Years 1 and 2. Basic studies will include collecting “think aloud” data from students in order to understand how reading in literature differs from reading in history. A second basic study will manipulate the presence or absence of heuristic supports within a discipline. Students will be asked to “think aloud” with or without a heuristic support in both literature and history. A third and fourth basic study will examine the presence or absence of an essay writing support heuristic for literature and history, respectively. For all of the basic studies, the sample will include students who score proficient on assessments of reading and students who score below proficient. Iterative development of the history content and the additional functionality of SMD will also occur during Years 1 and 2. The new functionality and content will be tested for feasibility and usability in a small study in Year 3. After final revisions, the fully-developed SMD will be pilot-tested in Year 4 with a quasi-experimental study involving 200 students who receive the intervention and a comparison group of 200 students selected from other schools in the area who do not receive the intervention.

Control Condition: In the comparison condition, students receive standard classroom practices in place at the school.

Key Measures: Measures for this study include essay prompts, surveys of perceptions of instruction, epistemological beliefs, and beliefs about intelligence. The PSAT will be used as the standardized outcome measure.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use structural equation models to examine the promise of SMD for improving student outcomes. Models will examine the degree to which students who use SMD outperform students who do not use it on measures of reading and writing, and also whether greater use is associated with better outcomes than lesser use. An additional model will take into account the degree to which teachers integrate SMD into classroom instruction.

Related IES Projects:  Reading for Understanding Across Grades 6 through 12: Evidence-Based Argumentation for Disciplinary Learning (R305F100007)