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IES Grant

Title: A Technology-Rich Teacher Professional Development Intervention that Supports Content-Based Curriculum Development for English Language Learners
Center: NCER Year: 2010
Principal Investigator: Burstein, Jill Awardee: Educational Testing Service (ETS)
Program: Education Technology      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $1,434,760
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305A100105

Purpose: English language learners (ELLs) are taught both by specialists and by regular classroom teachers. Many states acknowledge that all teachers need to know how to support the unique needs of ELLs. The purpose of this project is to develop a teacher professional development curriculum and software package that will improve teachers' ability to instruct their ELL students and prepare materials designed to support students learning English.

Project Activities: The project team will develop new features for a web-based software tool called Text Adaptor. The tool will leverage advances in computerized natural language processing to analyze linguistic characteristics of texts. The tool will then automate the creation of new support materials designed to promote comprehension by ELL readers. For example, the researchers envision that the software will adapt documents to provide scaffolded support for ELLs including translations into Spanish of key words, contextual examples, and simplified prose. Training on how to use the tool and course readings relevant to the linguistic and reading comprehension needs of English learners will be integrated into a teacher professional development course. Studies will be conducted to measure the potential efficacy of the software tool on improving student reading outcomes. Additionally, studies will measure the potential efficacy of the teacher professional development course on improving teachers' understanding of linguistic features that affect text comprehension of all readers, including ELLs. Finally, studies will measure teacher confidence and attitudes toward adapting texts for English learners and what affect these texts have on student outcomes.

Products: Two products will be developed in this project. The first is an updated web-based software package, Text Adaptor 3.0, which will assist teachers in adapting materials for their ELL students. The second product is appropriate course content for in-service teachers designed to help teachers use the to-be-developed software package and improve their ability to provide instruction to ELLs.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The teacher professional development component will be tested with in-service teachers enrolled in certificate-granting courses at Stanford and George Washington Universities.

Population: Approximately10 teachers will be used as consultants during development phases and 150-170 teachers will test the developed intervention with students in the entire classroom. ELL students will also participate in this research project.

Intervention: The intervention consists of two components. The first component consists of curricular materials presented to in-service teachers enrolled in teacher professional development courses aimed at improving their ability to provide instruction to ELL students. The second component is a software package that assists teachers in adapting materials for ELLs.

Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, the researchers will implement a pre/post research design. They will collect a variety of measures at the start of the teacher professional development course and then conduct a within-subjects comparison at the end of the course to measure changes in knowledge, behavior, and attitudes. Following an iterative design process each year, the research team will be able to leverage results of testing to repeatedly revise and improve content of the teacher professional development and software technology. In Year 3 the team will examine the effect of the intervention by comparing performance of ELL students whose teachers participated in the professional development to those who did not. Feasibility and implementation data will be collected in all years.

Control Condition: There is no control condition for the studies conducted in Years 1 and 2.. However, for the final study that assesses the potential effects of participating in the intervention on student outcomes, the control condition will be teachers who are not using Text Adaptor 3.0, and are not participating in the teacher professional development course.

Key Measures: Key measures include: teachers' knowledge of course-related content (e.g., awareness of which linguistic features make comprehension more difficult); skills at adapting text for ELLs using the software tools; attitudes and perceptions of the full teacher professional development package; implementation data of adapted text with their students; and evidence of ELL students benefiting from the materials prepared by their teachers using Text Adaptor 3.0.

Data Analytic Strategy: Descriptive statistics will be used in this project. The data collected from the pretest-posttest experimental design will be analyzed with repeated measures Analysis of Variance.


Book chapter

Burstein, J., Sabatini, J., and Shore, J. (in press). Developing NLP Applications for Educational Problem Spaces. In R. Mitkov (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Computational Linguistics.


Burstein, J., Sabatini, J., Shore, J., Moulder, B., and Lentini, J. (2013). A User Study: Technology to Increase Teachers' Linguistic Awareness to Improve Instructional Language Support for English Language Learners. In Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop of Natural Language Processing for Improving Textual Accessibility (NLP4ITA) (pp. 1–10). Atlanta, GA: Association for Computational Linguistics.

Journal article

Burstein, J., Shore, J., Sabatini, J., Moulder, B., Holtzman, S., & Pedersen, T. (2012). The “Language Muses” System: Linguistically Focused Instructional Authoring. ETS Research Report Series, 2012(2), i-36.

Burstein, J., Shore, J., Sabatini, J., Moulder, B., Lentini, J., Biggers, K., & Holtzman, S. (2014). From Teacher Professional Development to the Classroom: How NLP Technology Can Enhance Teachers' Linguistic Awareness to Support Curriculum Development for English Language Learners. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 51(1), 119-144.