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IES Grant

Title: PurpleState 2.0: Investigating the Impact of a Virtual Internship on Argumentative Reading and Writing in Civic Education
Center: NCER Year: 2019
Principal Investigator: Stoddard, Jeremy Awardee: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Program: Civics Education and Social Studies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2019 – 06/30/2022) Award Amount: $1,356,611
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A190476

Co-Principal Investigators: Chen, Jason; Tutwiler, Shane; Shaffer, David

Purpose: In this project, researchers will develop and pilot an online intervention (Purple State) to promote high school students' civic skills. Many young people lack skills for informed citizenship, including the ability to critically read, comprehend, and evaluate information, especially when accessed through social media.

Project Activities:In the first three years of this project, researchers will complete a series of iterative studies where the intervention will be developed and refined based on feedback by students and teachers. In Year 4, they will conduct an underpowered efficacy trial to measure the promise of the intervention to improve students' civic skills.

Products: The final products of the project will include Purple State, an online intervention for use in high school civics and government classrooms, a professional development toolkit, and peer reviewed publications.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The iterative studies will take place in small rural high schools in Wisconsin and a large diverse urban-suburban district in Virginia. Pilot research will take place in 40 high schools in the same geographic area that had not participated in the iterative development of the intervention.

Sample: Participants in the iterative development in Years 1 to 3 will include small groups of high school students and teachers. Participants in the Year 4 pilot study will include 40 teachers, 120 classes, and approximately 3,000 students. The sample will reflect the overall population of the two states in demographic characteristics for ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

Intervention: Purple State will be an online intervention where high school students participate in a simulated virtual internship at a political communications firm with a goal of collaboratively designing a media campaign on a policy issue. The intervention will include curricular materials focused on state-level public policy issues, the simulation structure for testing hypotheses and for developing argumentation, and the interface and backend structure to guide the collaborative learning simulation. The intervention will operate across different delivery platforms and will be able to be completed within ten class periods. The website will provide a professional development tutorial for participating teachers.

Research Design and Methods: To develop the intervention, the researchers will use a design-based implementation procedure whereby iterations of research and development will occur until feasibility, usability, and learning aims are met. In Year 4, to assess the impact of classroom implementation on students' civic skills after development is complete, the team will conduct an underpowered cluster randomized controlled study with teachers and their classrooms assigned to either use the intervention or not. The study will take place over 10 weeks. Researchers will collect multiple sources of data, including surveys and log data.

Control Condition: Teachers whose classrooms are assigned to the control condition in the cluster randomized design will follow a standard curriculum that focuses on the same content as in the treatment.

Key Measures: The studies will employ researcher-developed as well as standardized assessments, and student-user logs. In the pilot study, researchers will investigate the degree to which the quality of students' persuasive essays, summaries, and source-based essays improve as function of interacting with the simulation. Pre and post surveys will measure the feasibility, usability, and fidelity of implementing the simulation in civics and government classroom settings. The randomized control trial pilot study will include researcher developed measures for argumentative reading and writing skills, knowledge of public policy issues, and self-efficacy for civic engagement and media analysis, and standardized reading assessments.

Data Analytic Strategies: The research team will use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative analytic methods to analyze the data.To gather information about usability and engagement in the student and teacher interview data from the design phase, the researchers will employ etic and emic coding procedures. To assess the impact of treatment condition on outcomes of interest, the researchers will conduct multi-level regression models using combinations of random and fixed effects to account for student clustering by teacher, school, and state. Researchers will assess the complexity of argumentation in the pilot study using epistemic network analyses of selected groups of students. Results will inform the transition into classroom practice.

Cost Analysis: Researchers will determine the costs associated with implementing the intervention using the "ingredients method." This will entail systemically collecting and analyzing all expenditures on personnel, facilities, equipment, materials, and training.