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A rough draft of paper we presented at NRC/LRA sharing results of a PD formative design experiment.

A rough draft of paper we presented at NRC/LRA sharing results of a PD formative design experiment.

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  • 1. Running Head: PD AND IRT
    Professional Development and Internet Reciprocal Teaching
    J. Gregory McVerry
    W. Ian O’Byrne
    Lisa Zawilinski
    University of Connecticut
    Rationale
    To be fully literate in the 21st century students today require new skills (Educational Testing Services, 2003; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2002), including the ability to comprehend online texts (International Reading Association, 2009). In fact the largest review of research on reading comprehension concludes that the Internet requires novel comprehension skills beyond those necessary to read traditional print texts (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002). While a body of research has begun to outline these new skills (Bråten, Strømsø, and Britt, 2009; Graesser, et al., 2007; Lawless & Schrader, 2008; Leu, et al., 2007) we know little about professional development models that help teachers prepare students for online reading comprehension (International Reading Association, 2009).
    This paper describes preliminary findings from an ongoing formative design experiment (Brown, 1992; Reinking & Bradley, 2008) that seeks to create an effective professional development model for improving online reading comprehension instruction in content classrooms. Specifically it looks at the qualitative data collected as part of a much lager mixed method data set to: 1:) help identify factors that help or inhibit the professional development model; and 2:) then describes modifications that may help to achieve our goal in future iterations of the design experiment.
    Theoretical Perspective
    Formative design experiments are an approach to educational research that aligns theory, research, and practice (Hoadley, 2004) to investigate instructional interventions (Eisenhart & Borko, 1993) while acknowledging the complex ecologies of the classroom (Brown, 1992). Reinking and Bradley (2008) suggest that formative design experiments by choosing a pedagogical goal and guiding theory, and then developing an intervention consistent with guiding theory to reach the pedagogical goal. This study sought to identify effective professional development practices that will lead to instruction in online reading comprehension. Our model evolved into a design to increase: 1) teachers’ online reading comprehension skills; 2) teachers’ use of instructional practices that support the development of online reading comprehension; and 3) teachers’ dispositions toward online reading comprehension.
    To explore this pedagogical goal we aligned our efforts with multiple theoretical perspectives (Pressley, Graham, & Harris, 2006), which help to guide the implementation (Reinking & Bradley, 2008) of our professional development model and account for diverse factors in technologically rich classroom ecologies (Labbo & Reinking, 1999). Specifically our pedagogical goals aligned with a new literacies of online reading comprehension framework (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004; Leu, O’Byrne, Zawilinski, McVerry, & Everett-Cacopardo, 2009) and theories of professional learning communities (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004; Lyon & Pinnell, 2001; Murphy & Lick, 2001).
    New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension
    This theory seeks to explain how comprehension continues to evolves as we move from page to pixels (Hartman, Morsink & Zheng, in press) and it frames online reading comprehension as a problem-based inquiry process that involves developing questions, locating information, evaluating information, synthesizing information, and communicating information (Leu et al., 2004). During this process additional online and traditional offline reading comprehension skills are both required, as we now read mouse in hand.
    Research indicates, as the RRSG concluded (2002) that online reading comprehension does require skills above those necessary for offline reading comprehension (Leu, et al., 2009). One study, using think aloud protocols with sixth-grade students (Coiro & Dobler, 2007), concluded that online reading comprehension was complex, and while sharing similarities with offline comprehension new skills were necessary. Furthermore in a study examining the relationship between scores on a state reading comprehension assessment and an assessment of online reading comprehension with good psychometric properties (Leu et al., 2005) found no statistically significant correlation. Finally a third study (Coiro, 2007) found that knowing a students online reading comprehension explained an additional 16% of the variance beyond the amount of variance explained by prior knowledge and offline reading comprehension ability. These findings help to support the conclusion that reading comprehension has evolved with the Internet and educators need new methods for teaching online reading comprehension.
    What is an effective method for teaching online reading comprehension that aligns with our theoretical framework? Internet Reciprocal Teaching [IRT] is an intervention that emerged from previous formative design experiments (Leu & Reinking, 2005-2009). Reciprocal teaching (Brown & Palincsar, 1989; Palincsar & Brown, 1984) was chosen as intervention in our earlier formative experiments because it has been shown to consistently improve students’ comprehension of texts (Rosenshine & Meister, 1994) and it gradually transfers the responsibility for modeling comprehension strategies to students.
    Results from the original formative experiment indicated modifications would have to be made to the original reciprocal teaching model. First we noted that one-to-one laptop environment s were necessary. Second grouping of students would have to be flexible, not based on ability, and often use whole class models. Furthermore we would use mainly expository texts and focus on the five clusters of skills used during online reading comprehension. Finally instruction would take place in three distinct phases that moved students from direct instruction to independence.
    Internet Reciprocal Teaching is a three-phase model that moves from direct instruction to student centered inquiry learning. In the first phase direct instruction is used to develop basic computing and Internet skills. In the second phase the teacher models strategy use for students and transfers responsibility through a series of problem challenges. In the third phase students engage in independent or collaborative Internet inquiry projects.
    Results from previous research, using randomization at the teacher level, showed that 7th grade students gained significantly after a 20 week intervention, receiving two hours of instruction in online reading comprehension each week, using the IRT model. Treatment students performed higher on an online reading comprehension assessment (ORCA) compared to a control group, after controlling for the effect of Pre ORCA scores, F(1,320 ) = 6.85 p =.009.
    Professional Learning Communities
    We also used professional learning communities (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005; Hord, 1997) as our other frame to investigate the pedagogical goal of improving online reading comprehension through professional development. Astuto, Clark, Read, McGree and Fernandz (1993) defined a professional learning community as a “community of learners, in which teachers in a school…continuously seek and share learning, and act on their learning. The goal of their actions is to enhance their effectiveness as professionals for the students’ benefit” (p. 26).
    Research has shown that professional learning communities promote “new types of social cohesion and shared understandings that facilitate teachers’ willingness to try new ideas” (SEDL, 1997). They are highly effective for both professional development in literacy and content area subjects (e.g., ASCD, 2004; Lyon & Pinnell, 2001; Murphy & Lick, 2001) and training for technology integration into the curriculum (Gora & Hinson, 2003; McKenzie, 2001; Martin, Hupert, Gonzales, Admon, 2003). Recent attempts to extend these learning communities into online environments through the use of the Internet and web-based discussion forums demonstrate positive impacts on teacher quality and learning (Jonassen, 1995; Treacy, Klieman, & Peterson, 2002; Zorfass, 2001).
    The theory of professional learning communities also guided our model. All teachers who participated built upon and enhanced the existing learning community at the school, an approach with demonstrated success (Garat, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001). Second we used a combination of literacy coaching, peer coaching partners, and web-based learning groups to organize the professional development activities across the project. This, too, helped to support the development of a learning community among the participants and allowed us to test different delivery models. Third, the teachers in this project participated as research collaborators. They worked with the research team as we used the teacher and student data to make changes in the model. We believe this collaborative partnership in using data to inform changes was a distinctive and important aspect of this project. Finally, each week during weekly team meetings, teachers were involved in a period for discussion and conversation about the instructional model. All of these activities helped to develop and sustain an active learning community at the school around IRT.
    Methods
    Participants
    This study included 17 seventh and 8th grade middle school teachers in a Northeast state currently involved in a one-to-one laptop initiative. The teachers volunteered and were drawn from diverse socio-economic school districts across the state. They included English/language arts teachers, science teachers, social studies teachers, carpentry teachers, and technology education teachers.
    Procedures
    The professional development model we created was implemented across four months of the school year. It began in March with a two-day session to introduce online reading comprehension and Internet Reciprocal Teaching. First baseline data was collected. Teachers completed a measure of online reading comprehension and a measure or dispositions of online reading comprehension. Next university researchers provided training in both the skills and strategies of online reading comprehension and the three phases of Internet Reciprocal Teaching.
    The teachers were then broken into three professional development models. The first group used a literacy coaching model and ongoing feedback and the building coach conducted training. The second group used a peer-coaching model and training was completed with a grade level colleague at each school. The final group used an online coaching model conducted with members of the New Literacies Research Team at the University of Connecticut. Each week the coaches (literacy, peer, online) met with their respective groups and teachers would share the lessons they learned.
    Each week participants in the study would provide two full class periods using the IRT model. The lessons were embedded into their existing curriculum. For example a social studies teacher conducted a lesson on finding historical images and the carpentry teacher conducted a lesson on evaluating product reviews for a band saw. At the end of each week the teachers would complete a structured questionnaire via email.
    A second full day professional development session was conducted at the midpoint of the school year. This session began with focus group discussions about the implementation of Internet Reciprocal Teaching. These discussions and email interviews informed the format of the session. Teachers were then provided additional training in using checklists for formative assessment, providing phase II lessons in the areas of critical evaluation, and were introduced to phase III of Internet Reciprocal Teaching.
    A third two-day professional development session was conducted at the end of the year. This session involved focus group discussions about the professional development model. The goal of the session was to collect post measures on teachers and to develop a list of pedagogical changes for the implementation of the model next year.
    Data Sources
    This study reports on qualitative data collected during the formative experiment. In order to reduce the fallibility of using a single artifact and to increase the credibility and quality of findings multiple data sources were used (Denzin, 1989). Evidence analyzed in this study was gathered from teacher survey responses at each professional development session, weekly interviews, and transcripts of focus group discussions.
    Data Analysis
    Matrix analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994) was used to compare the efficacy of the professional development model. First responses on surveys were analyzed. Due to the low sample sizes only frequencies and percentages were considered. Next the interviews were parsed into propositions. Each question became a column in the matrix and participants the row. A separate matrix was created for each weekly interview. We then summarized participant responses and they were placed in their respective cells. Finally the focus group interviews were transcribed and grouped by professional development model and added to a matrix.
    Results
    Baseline Internet Use
    Across the seventeen participants use of the Internet during instruction varied. On average participants reported using the Internet during 26.33% of instructional time. Commonly the Internet was viewed as a resource for auxiliary materials. 25% of the teachers used the Internet to deliver extra content. These included online versions of the books such as Call of the Wild, activities on Read-Write-Think, or a list of links around content area instruction. Most telling of the teachers who use the Internet to deliver content only six percent use multimedia texts and 12% had students creating online content.
    The most frequent use of the Internet in the classroom was for conducting research. 31% of the participants reported they assigned research projects using the Internet. At the same time, however, only six percent of the participants, two teachers, reported providing any instruction in online reading comprehension. Students were being required to use the Internet as a text but received no instruction in reading online.
    Student Strategy Use
    As the professional development model began weekly interviews reflected the growing level of student skills and strategy use. By the fourth week most teachers were focusing on searching strategies while trying to integrate Internet Reciprocal Teaching within their content areas. Searching lessons included the use of booleans during a science lesson to research trebuchets and Newton’s laws of physics or using specialized search engines like Google News to look for examples of prejudice.
    The biggest struggle teachers faced early on was trying to complete a full inquiry cycle in a class period. For example an English teacher about to read The Outsiders had students research cliques and gangs and found it was too much for one class and students were not prepared to synthesize multiple online sources. A social studies teacher tried to have students define culture but found students needed more search practice before she could use the Internet as a classroom text.
    As the weeks of professional development continued the teachers reported students using more search strategies and mastering communication skills. The majority of teachers, even at the conclusion of the professional development, reported students still not exhibiting critical evaluation and synthesis strategy use. As teacher two stated, “ evaluation is a tough one. Students still read and believe.” Teacher one noted that students struggle with websites and see information as cut and paste procedure. Teacher nine stated that critical evaluation was the most challenging skill for students, and teacher six summed it up best by stating, “as a whole they need room for improvement.
    Synthesis strategy use, as reported by the teachers, was also a difficult challenge for students. Teacher 10 stated he needed help in developing synthesis lessons. Teacher two noted that students have a “wide range of abilities…and need help organizing information.” Teacher 12 said the students can take notes and do citations, but noted that the students are not really combining information.
    Measuring Student Growth
    Patterns in the focus group data and weekly interviews suggest teachers would like greater training in measuring student outcomes. Specifically they wanted multiple formats of assessments for the end of each phase. Many teachers commented that they found the skills checklists very helpful. Greater emphasis on assessment was reported, however, in the literacy coaching and online coaching groups. For example a member of the online literacy coach group stated the checklist of skills, “was a wonderful tool that allowed me to see the progression of needed skills in a specific but somewhat flexible sequence.” A member of the literacy-coaching group stated, “the checklist is an excellent tool to continually monitor student progress at students work with IRT lessons.” Teachers also commented that they would like more training in using specific tools such as Apple Remote Desktop to improve assessment and instruction.
    Professional Development Model
    This formative experiment included three coaching models: peer coaches, online coached, and literacy coaches. During the focus groups participants in each model were asked to describe what IRT looked like in their classroom, what they liked about their professional development model and what they would improve in future iterations.
    Peer Coaching. The peer-coaching model matched a content area teacher and a language arts teacher. Based on focus group interviews the teachers enjoyed the opportunity for collaboration. The majority of the coaching meetings revolved around “sharing successes” and “brainstorming solutions.” The teachers took the opportunity to provide, “constructive feedback.”
    Except for one peer group all of the teachers found working with a peer to be enjoyable and beneficial. The teachers commented that they liked team teaching and it provided an opportunity for inter-disciplinary teaching. Overall the sessions provided an opportunity for reflective teaching practices. As one member noted, “ to share the workload of developing lessons…and being able to implement with either one or both [teachers] present helped us succeed.”
    Many of the groups, however, also felt they needed greater direction. One member of the peer discussion group commented that, “they felt a bit disorganized with this approach” and wished they had formalized the meetings. Another member commented “other curricular demands prevented us from meeting.” One peer group felt that the workload was not evenly distributed. To sum it up a member of a peer team commented, “ I would keep the part of the model that keeps teachers working together, but I think it is important to have someone to report to.”
    Online Coaching. The online coaching group describes a more formal process that revolved around two weekly meetings and a Monday meeting after school with teachers around the state and researchers from the University of Connecticut. The teachers, not the researchers, suggested the agenda for the meeting each week. The participants describe that the goal of the meeting was to, “discuss our weekly IRT lessons, success within the lessons, and challenges encountered during the week.” Once teachers became familiar with the IRT model they “chose to move on to posing a question or concept to bring back to the Monday meetings.”
    Overall the teachers involved in the online coaching model found the experience rewarding. The success of the model did involve enthusiasm of being “part of a research project at the university level,” but the teachers also helped to establish a formal protocol and a basic professional learning community. As one teacher noted, “it helped to ease the isolation I sometimes feel with new instructional models.” She contrasted the model with the PD usually conducted with a “day here or there.” Another member of the group commented that he “felt [he] had a support system that was listening to my successes and challenges. He commented that it was nice to see to adapt others ideas and to have his ideas used by others.
    The online coaching group also faced unique challenges. Often these difficulties revolved around technology. They commented how four person videochats would sometimes freeze. They also noted that the audio would “be jumpy” and it was very easy to miss what was said. One teacher commented that more flexible meetings with the question posed ahead of time, was better than a rigid agenda. Two out of the four participants in the online group noted that the model needed a full year for full implementation.
    Literacy Coaching. The literacy-coaching model varied by school across the study. This has to do with the availability of the coach as a resource. In one school the literacy coach and the teachers met each week to plan IRT lessons. In another school the teachers report that it “was difficult to collaborate schedules and pull in the [literacy coach].” Another group reported that the model was more a peer model because the coach, “is not in our building on [a] regular basis. The literacy coach in this school noted that they did not meet every week and saw her role as “participating in the planning sessions and…determining the next steps.”
    All participants involved in the literacy-coaching model noted the power of team teaching with a colleague from another discipline. They discussed how this allowed them to model strategies for the students using two teachers. Participants also cited the importance of being able to “share activities…process our experiences...and [keep] focused on weekly task. Teachers who worked closely with the literacy coaches noted how beneficial it was when coaches provided instruction in technology tools such as Apple Remote Desktop. Overall successful literacy coaching models allowed.
    Challenges faced by participants in the literacy model usually revolved around interpersonal relationships and the protocols already in place for literacy coaching. One participant went as far to say, “I don’t see a place for the literacy coach to be helpful.” The coach involved in this group noted that the role and expectations of the literacy coach should be clarified. She noted that working closely with the group was impossible because, “[she] has to be in two buildings.” Groups more successful with the literacy-coaching model noted that more time was need for full implementation and that scheduling issues also made meeting with coaches difficult.
    Discussion
    A major goal of a formative experiment is to identify factors that enhance the intervention (Reinking & Bradley, 2008). Across all the data sets it seems collaboration, reflective teaching, clear goals, and ongoing training greatly improved the professional development model. The teachers all noted that having the ability to co-teach across disciplines allowed them to share ideas, successes and challenges as they implemented Internet Reciprocal Teaching. The teachers also felt having a checklist of skills and the three-phase model provided clear learning goals and directions. They felt that knowing the skills students needed to learn helped them model online reading comprehension strategies. Finally teachers felt that the professional development model was better than the usual PD sessions taught in isolation.
    Formative experiments also help researchers identify factors that inhibit interventions (Reinking & Bradley, 2008). The data analyzed in these preliminary results suggest that teachers would like to balance autonomy with authority, want a longer intervention, and feel unprepared for technology use. The teachers, especially in the peer-coaching group felt there needed to be a greater authority who oversaw implementation of Internet Reciprocal Teaching. Many of the teachers felt starting the intervention in March did not allow for enough time. As a member of the coaching group stated, “this model is really going to just start to infiltrate our school…rather than ‘change’ the model we need to extend the model.” Finally teachers felt inhibited by a lack of technical skills. Specifically they wanted more training in using Apple Remote Desktop and communication tools.
    Examining factors that enhance and inhibit the intervention allows researchers to recommend modifications for future iterations (Reinking & Bradley, 2008). In this study these recommendations emerged from both the data and from teacher feedback. The first modification revolves around the format of the coaching model. Due to districts having different personnel and technology resources it was decided that each school district will choose the between online, literacy, and peer coaching models. Districts may also decide to use a hybrid approach. The teachers however would like districts to include a formal plan of support for any model in the areas of administration, content area literacy, and technology support.
    The second modification to the intervention revolves around assessments. The original intervention included pre and post assessments of student online reading comprehension abilities, Internet use habits, and dispositions. Teachers would like summative assessments for the end of each intervention based on the checklist for each phase. This will include the development of a phase III checklist. Teachers would also like training in the creation of formative assessments. As assessments that inform practice () these assessments will not be scripted. Instead participants would like assistance in developing methods to quickly note strategy use among students.
    The third modification involves greater involvement in school leadership. The participants noted a need for greater oversight of the Internet Reciprocal Teaching model. In the next iteration involvement of schools will require a commitment of local leadership. Specifically school leadership teams will conduct observations and offer feedback and adequate time for technology training.
    The fourth modification to the professional development model requires increased training in specific Internet Reciprocal Teaching lessons. The teachers asked for specific training in lessons at each phase. To address this concern video examples of successful IRT lessons will be included in the initial full day professional development. Students may also be invited to the second and full day professional development sessions to off input. Teachers will also post video examples of their lessons and student feedback to an online communication tool.
    Conclusion
    New technologies require new demands on readers (Hartman, et al., in press) and to provide instruction in these new skills and strategies professional development models need to evolve (International Reading Association, 2009). This study reported on a formative design experiment that had a pedagogical goal of increasing teachers’ ability to teach students to read online. By aligning this pedagogical goal with theories of new literacies of online reading comprehension and professional learning communities an effective model is beginning to emerge. Future research will continue the iterative process of formative design. The modifications that emerged from this iteration will be included in future models.
    Formative design experiments have often been described using an engineering metaphor (Reinking & Bradley, 2008; Reinking & McVerry, 2007). This study built on the blueprints of past research (Leu & Reinking, 2005-2009) and utilized teachers to improve the model. The participants were not simply passive recipients of one day training. Instead they were handed a hard hat and helped to design a professional development model for the 21st century.

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