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IES Grant

Title: STEPS to Literacy: An Integrated Digital Writing Space for English Language Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Kleifgen, JoAnne Awardee: Columbia University, Teachers College
Program: Education Technology      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,586,147
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A090476

Co-Principal Investigator: Charles Kinzer

Purpose: The goal of this project is to develop an intervention program with a curricular approach to support and increase English Language Learners' (Ells) academic writing attainment in English. Researchers will develop a multimodal, web-based software based on an anchored instruction/situated model that incorporates the best knowledge about teaching writing and the ELL adolescent population. This intervention program is called STEPS to Literacy. The STEPS to Literacy approach guides students in a thoughtful exploration of the world through the lenses of Science, Technology and the social studies (Economic, Political, Social and Geographic), thereby incorporating school-subject content into web-based writing instruction. The Web-based writing environment will be designed to afford access to tools, materials, and guidelines that assist ELLs in using the STEPS program for academic writing in selected content areas. Supportive writing tools, multimodal resources, and writing activities that are meaningful and engaging will be created. Resources will be built around themes in the eighth-grade curriculum. The materials will be compiled and translated to give students access to all resources in Spanish and English.

Project Activities: In order to develop the STEPS to Literacy intervention, researchers will follow a "user-centered design" process, an iterative process focusing on the "end user" from the beginning, to design the curriculum and the software. Content, curriculum, technology and instructional design experts will be consulted, and two groups of Ell children and their teachers will test the intervention at each iteration of the curriculum and web-based interface. One group will consist of ten students who will act as ongoing participant-consultants to the project as the system is being developed. Another group will consist of a classroom cohort of students who will test the implementation within a typical instructional situation. Both quantitative and qualitative measures will be used in feasibility/formative testing and to match the academic writing standards in NY State standardized tests, which will be used to assess the intervention in four classrooms in project year 3. In addition, researchers will develop, formatively evaluate, and test the feasibility of their approach, based on prior research and pilot work.

Products: Products include a fully developed STEPS to Literacy intervention program. Published reports of the findings will also be produced.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The project will take place at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York and link two entities, the Center for Multiple Languages and Literacies (CMLL) and the Program in Communication, Computing and Technology in Education (CCTE).

Population: Participants will include groups of Latino children from a public middle school in Bronx, New York.

Intervention: STEPS to Literacy will focus on teaching writing to ELLs by integrating web-based technology and a proven curricular framework, called the STEPS+G model. The name is an acronym for Social, Technological, Economic, Political, Scientific and Geographic, which serves as an organizing framework and mnemonic that reminds students of the perspectives and knowledge sources required to more fully understand story setting information and elements of historical events. The intervention will include a digital writing space, software supports such as speech recognition, grammar aids, and Spanish translation, and multimedia resources.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers in year one will begin the development process by 1) reviewing current research on ELL literacy instruction and development, 2) conducting an assessment of existing language and literacy software, 3) examining speech recognition in language learning systems, and 4) initiating the design of an age-appropriate digital writing space using the STEPS model. In year two, researchers will continue the development process by 1) populating the digital space with multimodal resource material, 2) using the NY State guidelines for writing and writing assessments to construct activities based on the STEPS model, and 3) refining the development of the software, adding support such as speech recognition features, grammar aids, and Spanish translation of content. In year three, researchers will finalize the development phase by constructing multimedia resource material and writing activities, with translations, to extend the system to improving students' writing while positively influencing acquisition of interdisciplinary content knowledge (i.e., in science), and developing accompanying material for teachers, including video demonstrations of how to use the software and the STEPS curriculum, and conclude the project by completing feasibility and impact evaluations. When the research team looks at the usability of the various components of the interface, qualitative methods and measures will be used. When determining the effect of the intervention on participants' academic writing, researchers will use appropriate quantitative measures.

Control Condition: During year 3 testing, two classrooms of students will be randomly assigned to receive writing instruction as is mandated by the school district. They will not receive the developed intervention.

Key Measures: Key measures include observations, interviews, tracking logs, and informal techniques. In addition to observations, interviews, tracking logs, etc., and informal techniques used to answer the research questions , several dependent measures will be collected. These are intended to provide formative feedback that will yield information to be incorporated back into an iterative design process and therefore, will not be administered within randomized, control-group designs. Rather, researchers will collect data from two groups of students chosen in consultation with NY City school personnel. Both quantitative and qualitative measures will be used in feasibility/formative testing and to match the academic writing standards in NY State standardized tests, which will be used to assess the intervention in four classrooms in project year 3. Student outcome measures to be collected include knowledge outcomes, transferability of knowledge, and student attitudes toward the STEPS technology. Pre- and post- test scores on the New York State standardized writing assessment will also be collected.

Data Analytic Strategy: To determine usability of the various components of the interface, a qualitative strategy will be employed and effectiveness of the intervention will be evaluated using quantitative methods. For the classroom cohort of students, pre- and post- test scores on the NY State standardized writing assessment and project-created informal instruments will be statistically compared, while pre- and post-intervention interviews and observations will be coded, analyzed, and compared.