Adolescent Reading (REAL) - Reading Engagement for Adolescent Learning


This statement outlines a 5-year collaboration between the University of Maryland and St. Mary's County Public Schools to investigate adolescent reading. Funded jointly by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the University of Maryland, and St. Mary's County Public Schools, this study investigates the motivation, cognitive competencies, and instructional support needed to increase reading comprehension of middle school students.

Problems of Adolescent Reading

It is well documented that reading achievement of middle school students (grades 7 to 9) have declined (PISA) or failed to improve (NAEP) with an unacceptable proportion of students falling "below basic" on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). A major source of declining achievement is a decrease in motivation to read, which is especially evident among male minority students. Most important, there is little evidence from experiments about "what works" to increase reading comprehension for this population.

Purposes of this investigation. The research goals of this investigation include the following:

  1. Increase our knowledge about adolescents' motivations for reading;
  2. Gain knowledge about predicting comprehension from motivation and cognitive competencies;
  3. Identify prototype instructional interventions to increase reading comprehension, motivation, and content knowledge;
  4. Differentiate reading instruction for students with diverse motivational profiles;
  5. Identify essential components of instruction for students with diverse motivational profiles from both mainstream and minority populations.

Educational goals. The investigation includes the following:

  1. Design and implement instruction to increase reading comprehension of middle school students. The instruction will include motivational support consisting of connections, competence, choice, and collaboration (4 Cs) and will include reading comprehension support for fluency, inferencing, and causal thinking.
  2. Design and implement an alternative model of instruction with an emphasis on choice and collaboration (2 Cs) and reading skill instruction.
  3. Provide professional development for teachers that will enable them to implement the instructional approaches of the 4 Cs and 2 Cs.
  4. Provide professional development to scale up these instructional approaches to the whole school district.
  5. Disseminate professional knowledge about effective instruction for increasing reading comprehension through supporting motivational and cognitive development for students with diverse motivational profiles and diverse demographic characteristics.

Participants in the Investigation

Students in this investigation will include all Grade 7 students in St. Mary's County who read below average for the age group. The demographic characteristics will include an equal number of African American and Caucasian students, with equal numbers of males and females.

Participating teachers will include all Grade 7 teachers in all middle schools in St. Mary's County. Some teachers will provide innovative instruction according to the study design, and others will continue providing their current instruction for comparison purposes. Special education teachers and media specialists will be involved as fully as possible.

Personnel conducting this study include John Guthrie, principal investigator, Allan Wigfield, co-principal investigator, Patricia Richardson, policy advisor, and Greg Hancock, statistical advisor. Also included are staff assistants and graduate students at the University of Maryland office. An office in St. Mary's County, hosted by the project, will provide work space for educational specialists, interviewers, and educational staff from SMCPS.

Project Overview

Year 1 will consist of interviewing students and tooling up, which consists of providing new instructional supports for teachers. Year 2 will emphasize building a statistical model of reading comprehension through pre-testing and post-testing students. Year 2 will also include an experimental intervention of CORI 2 (connections, competence, choice, and collaboration) (4 Cs) compared to traditional instruction.
Year 3 will consist of an experimental comparison of CORI 2 (4 Cs) and CORI 1 (2 Cs). These two instructional approaches will be compared for their effectiveness with students having diverse profiles of reading motivation including avid, ambivalent, apathetic, and avoidant (4 As). Year 4 will consist of an experimental comparison of CORI 2 (4 Cs) and traditional instruction in reading in social studies. Year 5 will emphasize providing professional development collaboratively between UMD and SMCPS to scale up effective instructional practices district-wide.

Year 1

Project staff will interview Grade 7 students regarding their reading practices, engagements, and motivations. Subjects will include an equal number of African American and Caucasian males and females in Grade 7. Also included will be two forms of tooling up. This will consist of providing Grade 7 reading teachers with adaptive reading materials for Grade 7 students who read below grade level. Books and texts in science and social studies will be provided at students' reading levels. This will include: (a) computer-based assessment to determine students' reading levels; (b) provision of texts at those levels; and (c) quizzes on each text to allow teacher monitoring of reading comprehension and knowledge development. The second form of tooling up will consist of providing Grade 7 reading teachers with videos that are relevant to social studies and science. This is a web-based service named "United Streaming" consisting of Discovery Channel video material which will be linked to curriculum goals of SMCPS.

Year 2

A Year 2 activity will consist of an experimental comparison between CORI 2 (4 Cs) and traditional instruction. This will be conducted with below grade level students for one month during April and May 2008. Instructional guidelines and materials will be provided to teachers with orientation through professional development. The goals of instruction will be to increase reading comprehension by enhancing fluency, inferencing, and causal thinking with content materials. Motivational goals will consist of increasing students' interest, self-efficacy, ownership, and social interaction surrounding text. The adaptive materials and video support during the tooling up phase will be utilized in the CORI 2 intervention.

In the instructional intervention of CORI 2 (4 Cs), teachers will be explicitly providing reading instruction with an emphasis on: (a) connections (links of text to video aligned with curriculum); (b) competence support (leveled text materials during instruction for all students using adapted materials); (c) choice (consisting of options about reading and learning in subtopics relevant to curriculum goals); and (d) collaboration (interacting with students to understand text and elaborate knowledge gained from reading). CORI 2 will be compared to traditional instruction for Caucasian and African American students. To identify instructional effectiveness, students will be pre- and post-tested on reading comprehension skills of fluency, inferencing, and causal thinking, and reading motivations consisting of interest, self-efficacy, self-direction, and collaboration. Project staff will provide professional development workshops for teachers to assure their confidence competence? and comfort in implementing the interventions.

Year 3

An instructional experiment will compare CORI 2 (4 Cs), as in Year 2, and CORI 1 (2 Cs). This will be conducted during April and May 2009 for African American and Caucasian students in Grade 7 who are reading below average. Students' motivational profiles will be identified through questionnaires to determine whether students are avid, ambivalent, apathetic, or avoidant (4 As) in reading. The effectiveness of CORI 1 and CORI 2 for different types of profiles in the different ethnic groups will be identified.

Year 4

An instructional experiment will be conducted pairing CORI 2 and traditional instruction. This content of instruction will consist of social studies, whereas previous content consisted of science reading materials. The experiment will compare CORI 2 and traditional instruction for students with diverse reading motivation profiles (4 As). The instructional model utilized in CORI 2 will be applied to social studies materials. The outcomes of the instruction will be similar to outcomes defined for CORI 2 in previous years.

Year 5

Professional development will be provided for Grade 7 teachers in reading to enable them to understand and use the instructional approaches identified to be effective in previous years of the investigation. This collaborative professional development between UMD and SMCPS will utilize project resources and staff, as well as SMCPS project resources and staff to be as beneficial as possible for the school district, while utilizing the knowledge gained from the instructional experiments.

Collaborative Activities

This investigation will be collaborative in several respects. The project staff, coordinated by John Guthrie, will be a source of feedback and recommendations from SMCPS personnel regarding each for the following: (a) use of adaptive materials during Year 1; (b) use of instructional videos during Year 1; (c) time and place of student interviews in Year 1; (d) scheduling and content of professional development activities for instructional experiments in Year 2; (e) content and scheduling of professional development for instructional experiments in Years 3 and 4; and (f) joint decision making about the content, scope, and duration of professional development in Year 5, based on outcomes of the previous interventions and investigations of reading for diverse students.