Reading and Writing Education Research

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University of Connecticut Project Abstract
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Current information about this program can be found under the Education Research program.

Principal Investigator: Donald Leu
RFA Goal: Development Project
Title: Developing Internet Comprehension Strategies Among Adolescent Students At Risk to Become Dropouts

Purpose: Improving reading comprehension among poor, minority, and often low-achieving adolescents is a critical national issue, particularly because academic achievement is dependent on the ability to read and comprehend at high levels. As the Internet becomes an increasingly important source of information, it presents new challenges for reading comprehension, as well as new opportunities for reaching students who have struggled because of their limited ability to comprehend printed materials. Although reading on the Internet can pose new challenges--as it demands new, higher-level comprehension skills--it also has the potential to increase students’ engagement with learning, creating a context that permits renewed attention to reading and to instruction in reading comprehension strategies. The purpose of this project is to develop a research-based adaptation of reciprocal teaching to support poor, minority, adolescent youth in acquiring reading comprehension skills. At the conclusion of this project, the researchers will have developed instructional materials that can be used to teach comprehension while students read on the Internet.

Setting: This project takes place in largely minority, poor school districts in urban Connecticut and in rural South Carolina.

Population: More than 1,000 7 th-grade students are participating in this research project over three years.

Intervention: The intervention being developed in this project is titled Internet Reciprocal Teaching (IRT). Adaptations made to traditional reciprocal teaching include specific instruction about unique strategies used to locate, evaluate, synthesize, and communicate information on the Internet. In addition, students bring their own comprehension problems when reading on the Internet into the classroom.

Research Design and Methods: During Year 1, the research team gathers foundational information about Internet use among the target population. Both survey data and in-depth verbal protocols are being collected from participating 7 th graders. A pilot test of the preliminary model of IRT is being conducted as well. In Year 2, the researchers build on the information gathered during Year 1 to refine Internet Reciprocal Teaching and then field test an implementation of IRT by conducting a design experiment aimed at identifying key factors associated with successful implementation and outcomes across diverse contexts. Eight purposively sampled English/Language Arts classes are participating in the design experiment, four as experimental classes and four as comparison classrooms. Building on the findings from the design experiment, a true experiment is being carried out in Year 3 to test the potential effectiveness of IRT. In the true experiment, 12 7 th-grade English/Language Arts classes are being randomly assigned to one of three conditions in order to test the potential effects of their adapted reciprocal teaching approach. In one condition, students participate in telecollaborative projects. In a second condition, students participate in the same telecollaborative projects but with the addition of instruction using Internet Reciprocal Teaching. The control condition is described below.

Control Condition: During the design experiment in Year 2, data are being gathered from four comparable classrooms that are using the Internet to some extent. During the true experiment carried out in Year 3, control children receive normal instructional practices used to meet district and state standards in English/Language Arts.

Key Measures: Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected in both the formative and experimental phases of the project. Quantitative data will include experimenter-developed online reading comprehension assessment measures; reading, vocabulary, and word analysis subtests of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills; and assessments of engagement with reading and in school learning. Qualitative data include detailed “thick descriptions” of intervention use in classrooms and schools.

Data Analytic Strategy: Both qualitative and quantitative data analyses are being conducted. Descriptive results from the survey of Internet use are tabulated. Data collected during the formative experiment are analyzed using t-tests and ANOVA to test for pre/post differences between means of the experimental and control classrooms. Data gathered during the true experiment in Year 3 are being analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM). This development project is intended only to obtain evidence of the potential effectiveness of the intervention; the study is under-powered for analysis at the unit of random assignment (classroom) and will be analyzed at the level of the student.

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Last Modified: 11/30/2006