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IES Grant

Title: Designing Open-Access Curricular Supports to Deepen Discussions in World History
Center: NCER Year: 2022
Principal Investigator: Iwatani, Emi Awardee: Digital Promise Global
Program: Civics Education and Social Studies      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (09/01/2022 – 08/31/2026) Award Amount: $1,999,879
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A220457

Co-Principal Investigators: Reisman, Abby; Hardy, Angela; Phillips, Rachel

Purpose: This project team will develop and pilot curricular and training materials to support high school world history teachers' facilitation of text-based discussions (online or in-person) and foster students' historical thinking skills. Student-to-student discussions are essential for promoting historical thinking skills, yet there currently are no discipline-specific, curriculum-embedded resources that support world history teachers to facilitate productive discussion.

Project Activities: In the first 2.5 years of this project, researchers and teachers will iteratively design, implement, and research the intervention, using a design-based research approach. During the final 1.5 years, the intervention will be piloted to assess its promise for improving class discussion opportunity, duration, inclusivity, and quality, and subsequently, student historical thinking skills. Researchers will also disseminate the resources through national networks of districts and world history teachers.

Products: The final products of the project will include Deeper Discussions, a suite of discussion curricula and scaffolds, a professional development toolkit (self-paced professional development modules with self-assessments, videos, readings, reflection and planning activities), blogs and white papers for practitioners, and peer-reviewed publications. The curricular resources will be freely available both through Digital Promise, and through the World History Project (an open-access curriculum by OER Project) in which they will be embedded.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The iterative design-based studies will be coordinated by Digital Promise, OER Project, and field tested in twelve 9th and 10th grade world history classrooms across the nation. Pilot research will take place in districts that did not participate in the development of the intervention.

Sample: Three design teams will conduct R&D in the first 2.5 years, each consisting of a small group of researchers, discussion-expert teachers and discussion-novice teachers. Participants in the Year 3 pilot study will include at least 40 teachers, 70 classes, and 140 discussions involving approximately 1,400 students. All design and pilot participants will be from 9th or 10th grade non-AP/IB world history classes in high-needs schools with a high proportion of students of color, representative of world history class settings where rich classroom discourse and teaching of historical thinking skills are most needed.

Intervention: Deeper Discussions will be a suite of discussion protocols, lesson resources, student scaffolds, and teacher guides designed to be used in conjunction with readings, videos and activities within the World History Project course, an open-access high school world history curriculum. Aligned with the Framework for Facilitating Historical Discussion the suite will support teachers in: engaging students as sense-makers in global history, orienting students to the discipline, orienting students to each other, and orienting students to historical texts. The materials will also promote culturally responsive teaching, engaging students' empathy and criticality, while building their skills in historical contextualization and sourcing. These materials will be hosted within OER Project's free online platform and on Digital Promise's website, both of which attracts thousands of educators across the nation. Professional development tutorials that orient teachers to Deeper Discussions and explain the purpose, mechanisms and best practices of student-to-student discourse in world history will also be designed.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will develop the intervention using Understanding by Design's backwards design methodology, with guidance from experts on historical analysis, world history content, productive classroom discourse and culturally responsive curriculum development. Development will happen in twelve sites and materials that meet feasibility, usability and learning aims will be piloted in two school districts in Year 3. The pilot study will randomly assign teachers to Deeper Discussions, using baseline discussion quality/substantiveness as a blocking variable.

Control Condition: Teachers whose classrooms are assigned to the control condition will follow the World History Project curriculum that focuses on the same content as in the treatment, but without the Deeper Discussions supplement.

Key Measures: The key proximal outcome measures for the pilot study include teacher comfort with discussion, discussion opportunity, student air-time, discussion inclusivity, discussion quality, historical empathy and student engagement/appreciation of discussions. Teacher comfort and student engagement will be self-reported from surveys, discussion quality and historical empathy will be measured with holistic rubrics for discussion transcripts, while the remaining measures will entail automated coding of classroom discussion audio. The distal outcome of students' engagement in world history will be measured by a survey, and their historical thinking skills will be measured by scoring students' culminating essays using a historical argumentation rubric. To investigate usability of the toolkit, researchers will design a customized rubric and also interview teachers and students during the design phase.

Data Analytic Strategies: The R&D teams will use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative analytic methods for data analysis. During the iterative design phase, small teams of researchers and practitioners will examine audio transcripts using the aforementioned rubrics to identify where discussions were/not productive and what additional curricular supports and resources may be helpful to improve the quality of the discussion. For the pilot study, trained experts who are blinded to the treatment condition will apply established coding schemes to the discussion audio recordings and end-of-unit essays to identify occurrences of dialogic discussion, historical reasoning, and argumentation. Multiple linear regression will be used to identify whether the use of Deeper Discussions is associated with these and other outcomes. The researchers will examine shorter-term outcomes as potential mediators for longer-term outcomes, and teacher-level outcomes as potential mediators for classroom-level outcomes. The researchers will also examine whether characteristics of the teacher or of the discussion, or classroom-level student demographics moderate the outcomes. Quantitative results will be analyzed separately for subgroups of interest, such as classes with high proportions of English learners and teachers with limited pedagogical range at baseline. If there are significant differences, the researchers will look more closely at the coded discussion transcripts and teacher survey and interview data to try to understand reasons for these differences.

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