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IES Grant

Title: Can Literacy Professional Development be Improved with Web-based Collaborative Learning Tools: A Randomized Field Trial
Center: NCER Year: 2004
Principal Investigator: Bryk, Anthony Awardee: University of Chicago
Program: Effective Instruction      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $3,046,054
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305M040086

A large body of research has revealed that teacher training is a critical factor in making a difference in students' literacy learning. A widely used approach to improve teacher quality is professional development delivered through coaching. Districts are also investing heavily in web-based technologies to support teacher learning. Both of these strategies, while promising, lack rigorous evidence about their efficacy.

The goal of the current study is to examine the efficacy of an existent professional development program, the Literacy Collaborative (LC), and whether the efficacy of LC is enhanced through the addition of a web-based collaborative learning environment, the Literacy Coaching toolkit (LCtk). The study examines the efficacy of LC and the supplemental LCtk services on the work of school-based literacy coaches, the professional development of teachers whom these coaches support, and on kindergarten through third grade students' literacy learning. In addition to examining overall efficacy, possible mechanisms that might contribute to variability in LC and LCtk effects among schools and among classrooms within schools, and for different types of students categorized by race/ethnicity and family income, are being explored.

The field trial is being conducted in 18 public elementary schools with significant proportions of African-American, Latino and low-income students. The effects of adding LCtk to the standard LC program is being assessed with a randomized design in which the 18 schools are matched on the basis of selected student and school characteristics, and one of each pair of schools is randomly assigned to receive the standard LC program, while the second school receives the LC program combined with LCtk. Embedded in this study is also a second, quasi-experimental design for assessing the overall effects of LC programs on both changes in teacher practice and student learning. This aspect of the research employs a "value-added" design where the three-year trends in student learning gains and teacher practice in each classroom after the introduction of LC are compared to data from the same classroom during a non-treatment baseline period for this study.

In summary, the goals of the project are to examine the efficacy of providing trained on-site literacy coaches in improving literacy instruction and student outcomes in kindergarten through third grades. The project will also advance the development of a new set of web-based tools to support teacher learning. If these tools prove successful, this research may affect the nature of the services that commercial firms provide to schools. In addition, through the process of designing these tools, the extant knowledge base about the professional work of coaching and its improvement will be deepened.


Book chapter

Atteberry, A., and Bryk, A.S. (2010). Centrality, Connection, and Commitment: The Role of Social Networks in a School-Based Literacy Initiative. In A.J. Daly (Ed.), The Ties of Change: Social Network Theory and Application in Education (pp. 51–75). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Press.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Atteberry, A., Bryk, A.S., and Walker, L. (2011). Analyzing Teacher Participation in Literacy Coaching Activities. The Elementary School Journal, 112(2): 356–382.

Biancarosa, G., Bryk, A.S., and Dexter, E. (2010). Assessing the Value-Added Effects of Literacy Collaborative Professional Development on Student Learning. The Elementary School Journal, 111(1): 7–34.

Hough, H.J., Kerbow, D., Bryk, A., Pinnell, G.S., Rodgers, E., Dexter, E., ... and Fountas, I. (2013). Assessing Teacher Practice and Development: The Case of Comprehensive Literacy Instruction. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 24(4), 452–485.

** This project was submitted to and funded under Teacher Quality: Reading and Writing in FY 2004.