Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Mindful Instruction of Nonmainstream Children
Center: NCER Year: 2008
Principal Investigator: Anderson, Richard Awardee: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $2,984,069
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A080347

Purpose: This project will test the efficacy of a fully developed intervention, Collaborative Reasoning, that is designed to boost the conceptual understanding, thinking skills, language, and motivation of learners, particularly African American and Latino/a students. Collaborative Reasoning activities include both discussions and group work and are designed to promote open, free-flowing, peer-managed discussions that are intended to help develop critical and reflective thinking. By participating in Collaborative Reasoning, students' achievement in essay writing and reading ability is expected to improve.

Project Activities: The research team will implement Collaborative Reasoning with a content-based curriculum designed specifically for use with Collaborative Reasoning. The Wolf Management Unit, where students learn about the ecology of wolves, was developed with prior IES funding. The classroom discussion based intervention is designed to promote collaborative efforts among students in order to stimulate and promote critical thinking and reading skills. Thirty-six classrooms will be randomly assigned to one of three conditions in order to test the efficacy of this intervention at supporting student outcomes. Several learning outcomes will be examined, such as mastery of subject matter, transfer of concepts to new situations, knowledge of the characteristics of a sound argument, and improvements in reading, oral language ability, and motivation. In addition, students' activities will be video-recorded, allowing for microgenetic analysis of classroom interactions.

Products: The products of this project include published reports regarding the efficacy of the Collaborative Reasoning intervention at developing and improving critical thinking and reasoning skills among elementary school students.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The participating classrooms are in Illinois.

Population: The study will include about 700–800 fifth graders from low-income families in 36 classrooms. These classrooms are composed primarily of either African American or Latino/a students.

Intervention: The intervention to be deployed in this efficacy trial focuses on an approach to classroom discussion, called Collaborative Reasoning. In Collaborative Reasoning discussions, students reason and deliberate with one another about the multi-faceted issues raised in the text(s) they read. The discussion is a process of teasing out and working through "big" issues; handling of ambiguity and opposing viewpoints; and reasoning, exploring, evaluating and building of arguments. These activities are intended to stimulate critical reading and thinking, and to be personally engaging. The activities will be implemented using a content-based curriculum, the Wolf Management Unit. In this curriculum, students learn about the ecology of wolves, and have an opportunity to discuss the "big" issues that arise in relationship to wolf management.

Research Design and Methods: The 36 participating classrooms will be randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions (12 classrooms per condition), matched on prior academic achievement and percentage of students qualifying for subsidized meals. In one condition, the students will receive a version of environmental science instruction featuring Collaborative Reasoning along with other collaborative group work. In the second condition, students will receive the environmental science instruction featuring whole-class, teacher-directed instruction and individual seatwork. In the third (business-as-usual control) condition, students will receive whatever instruction is normally available in their school (and will receive the environmental science instruction after the efficacy testing is completed). Group transactions and other classroom activities will be compiled by recording high quality videos in each classroom.

Control Condition: Students in the control condition during the efficacy testing will receive standard classroom practices but will receive the intervention of environmental science instruction featuring Collaborative Reasoning activities after testing is completed.

Key Measures: The efficacy of the intervention will be assessed using scores on science and social science concepts and information using the Sentence Verification Technique. Pre- and post-test assessments of reading comprehension using the Illinois Standard Achievement Test will also be used. Experimenter-derived measures of transfer of science and social science concepts to a new situation, knowledge of the characteristics of a sound argument, transfer of reasoning strategies from oral discussion to written argument, oral language proficiency, and motivation and engagement will also be evaluated.

Data Analytic Strategy: Hierarchical linear models will be used for the analysis because the basic data structure involves students nested within classrooms, with treatments administered to classrooms. Students and classrooms will be regarded as random effects with treatment as a fixed effect. The microgenetic phase of analysis involves a dynamic multilevel model, in which rhetorical moves are nested within students, which in turn are nested in classrooms. The classroom-level baseline reading comprehension will sometimes be used as a covariate.

Project Website:

Related IES Projects: Improving Comprehension and Writing Through Reasoned Argumentation (R305G030070)


Book chapter

Jadallah, M., Miller, B., Anderson, R.C., Nguyen-Jahiel, K., Archodidou, A., Zhang, J., and Grabow, K. (2009). Collaborative Reasoning About a Science and Public Policy Issue. In M. McKeown, and L. Kucan (Eds.), Bringing Reading Researchers to Life: Essays in Honor of Isabel L. Beck (pp. 170–193). New York: Guilford Press.

Miller, B., Sun, J., Wu, X., and Anderson, R.C. (2013). Child Leaders in Collaborative Groups. In C. Hmelo-Silver, A. O'Donnell, C. Chan, and C. Chinn (Eds.), International Handbook of Collaborative Learning (pp. 268–279). London: Taylor & Francis.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Jadallah, M., Anderson, R.C., Nguyen-Jahiel, K., Miller, B.W., Kim, I., Kou, L., Wu, X., and Dong, T. (2011). Influence of a Teacher's Scaffolding Moves During Child-Led Small-Group Discussions. American Educational Research Journal, 48(1): 194–230.

Lin, T., Anderson, R.C., Hummel, J.E., Jadallah, M., Miller, B.W., Nguyen?Jahiel, K., Morris, J.A., Kuo, L-J., Kim, I-H., Wu, X., and Dong, T. (2012). Children's Use of Analogy During Collaborative Reasoning. Child Development, 83(4): 1429–1443.

Reznitskaya, A., Kuo, L.J., Clark, A.M., Miller, B., Jadallah, M., Anderson, R.C., and Nguyen-Jahiel, K. (2009). Collaborative Reasoning: A Dialogic Approach to Group Discussions. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(1): 29–48.

Reznitskaya, A., Kuo, L.J., Glina, M., and Anderson, R.C. (2009). Measuring Argumentative Reasoning: What's Behind the Numbers?. Learning and Individual Differences, 19(2): 219–224.