Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: Fostering Reading Engagement in English-Monolingual Students and English Language Learners Through a History Curriculum
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Taboada Barber, Ana Awardee: University of Maryland, College Park
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,566,603
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A120814

Previous Award Number: R305A100297
Previous Awardee: George Mason University

Co-Principal Investigators: Buehl, Michelle; Kidd, Julie; Sturtevant, Elizabeth

Purpose: National statistics point to a crisis in adolescent reading. According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 70% of 8th graders are at or below the basic level in reading, leaving them unable to make inferences or connections within and across texts, explain causal relations, or analyze text features. Further, only 22% of 8th graders agree that reading is their favorite activity and only 13% agree that they learn a lot from reading books. In this project, the research team will address both the cognitive and motivational aspects of adolescents' reading comprehension through the development of a history-based reading curriculum, United States History for Engaged Reading (USHER). This curriculum will also include specific adaptations for English language learners.

Project Activities: The development of the USHER curriculum will occur in two middle schools located in a suburban Northern Virginia school district with a rapidly growing Latino population. Social studies teachers, their students, and the district literacy specialist will participate in the development and pilot testing of the curriculum. Using observations, self-report questionnaires and interviews, researchers will analyze teacher implementation of practices and student engagement processes to determine the extent to which the curriculum supports these activities. Using standardized measures and researcher-developed measures, student reading achievement and engagement in reading will be assessed at the beginning and end of each school year, both to inform the development of the curriculum and to determine its promise for enhancing student engagement in reading.

Products: Products will include a fully developed United States History for Engaged Reading (USHER) curriculum designed to support reading engagement for adolescents, including English language learners. Other products include professional development materials to support implementation of the curriculum by middle school social studies teachers, measures to evaluate implementation fidelity, and published reports.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in two middle schools in a suburban district in Northern Virginia.

Population: Study participants include eleven teachers of 6th and 7th grade social studies classes, their students (approximately 480 per year), and the district literacy specialist.

Intervention: The USHER curriculum will incorporate cognitive strategy instruction, practices to support motivation, authentic texts, and academic vocabulary instruction into the teaching of history. The curriculum will use Guthrie's original reading engagement model with four important modifications to address literacy development in the context of middle school history courses. The reading engagement model infuses specific motivational processes (e.g., student perceived control and student interest) along with cognitive strategies (e.g., comprehension monitoring or questioning) into literacy instruction. The specific modifications to be made in this research include: 1) the development of practices appropriate for use with young adolescents (6th and 7th grade); 2) the application of these engagement practices to a content domain—social studies with a focus on U.S. history—that has received relatively little research attention; 3) adaptations appropriate for English language learners (ELLs); and 4) the development of three new components—historical reasoning strategies, authentic texts and purposes for reading, and the development of academic vocabulary. Across themes and within lessons, teachers will combine five reading comprehension strategies and four motivation support practices to foster students' engagement in reading and improve reading comprehension, reading motivation, and academic vocabulary. Specific adaptations for ELLs will be specified as needed to support the unique needs of these students.

Research Design and Methods: Over the three years of the project, the curriculum, professional development materials, and implementation fidelity measures will be developed, implemented and iteratively refined through a joint collaboration involving the social studies teachers, the district literacy specialist, and the research team. Observations, self-report measures, and student outcome data will be collected to inform curriculum development and assess promise for improving reading comprehension and engagement. In Year 1, the USHER lessons will be developed and implemented by 11 social studies teachers in 6th and 7th grade, and measures will be refined or modified as needed. In Year 2, the teachers will implement the revised curriculum and contribute to further revisions of the curriculum materials and measures based on lessons learned in Year 1. In Year 3, additional revisions will be made as needed and pilot data will be collected to determine the success of the curriculum for students' reading comprehension and engagement. Throughout this process, attention will be given to potential adaptations for ELLs by comparing data of English monolingual students to that of ELL students. Each summer, teachers will participate in a five-day professional development institute during which they will develop and refine lessons, measures, and professional development materials. As teachers implement the curriculum, the literacy specialist and the research team will provide on-going support and professional development. By the end of Year 3, the goal is to have a fully developed curriculum containing lessons for each history theme in grades 6 and 7 aligned with corresponding trade books, preliminary professional development materials to support teachers' use of the curriculum, and measures to assess implementation fidelity in future efficacy tests.

Control Condition: There is no control condition.

Key Measures: The research team will develop a variety of measures to gauge both implementation feasibility and fidelity, including classroom observation forms, semi-structured teacher interviews, and structured field notes. The Autonomy-Affecting Teacher Behaviors scale will be used to assess students' perceptions of teachers' behaviors that support student autonomy. Students' strategy use will be assessed using rubrics developed in prior research on the reading engagement model, along with a modified version of VanSledright's coding scheme to assess historical reasoning. Reading engagement and motivation will be assessed using the Reading Engagement Index and through semi-structured interview protocols. Reading comprehension will be assessed using the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Comprehension Test, the Measure of Academic Progress, the Virginia Standards of Learning test in Social Studies/U.S. History, and researcher-developed measures of student comprehension of key history themes. Reading motivation will be assessed using the Motivations for Reading Questionnaire. Academic vocabulary and English proficiency will be measured using the Gates-MacGinitie Vocabulary Test, a measure of academic vocabulary developed by the teachers and researchers, and school English for Speakers of Other Languages classifications.

Data Analytic Strategy: Multivariate repeated measures analyses will be used to examine changes in student reading within and across school years, along with specific comparisons of ELLs and monolingual English speaking students. Case studies of "successful readers" and "struggling readers" will be developed from teacher-identified resistant readers who do and do not change during the intervention.


Book chapter

Taboada-Barber, A., Richey, L.N., and Buehl, M.M. (2013). Promoting Comprehension and Motivation to Read in the Middle School Social Studies Classroom: Examples From a Research-Based Curriculum. In R.T. Boon, and V. Spencer (Eds.), Adolescent Literacy Strategies for Content Comprehension in Inclusive Classrooms (pp. 13–28). Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Barber, A.T., Buehl, M.M., Kidd, J.K., Sturtevant, E.G., Nuland, L.R., and Beck, J. (2015). Reading Engagement in Social Studies: Exploring the Role of Social Studies Literacy Intervention on Reading Comprehension, Reading Self-Efficacy, and Engagement in Middle School Students With Different Langauge Backgrounds. Reading Psychology, 36(1): 31–85.

Barber, A.T., Gallagher, M., Smith, Peet, Buehl, M.M.,and Beck, J.S. (2016). Examining Student Cognitive and Affective Engagement and Reading Instructional Activities: Spanish-Speaking English Learners' Reading Profiles. Literacy Research and Instruction, 55(3): 209–236.

Beck, J.S., Buehl, M.M., and Barber, A.T. (2015). Students' Perceptions of Reading and Learning Social Studies: A Multimethod Approach. Middle Grades Research Journal, 10(2): 1–16.

Taboada Barber, A., Buehl, M.M., Beck, J.S., Ramirez, E.M., Gallagher, M., Richey Nuland, L.N., and Archer, C.J. (2018). Literacy in Social Studies: The Influence of Cognitive and Motivational Practices on the Reading Comprehension of English Learners and Non-English Learners. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 34(1), 79–97.