Research & Evidence

Project READI

Reading for Understanding Across Grades 6–12: Evidence-Based Argumentation for Disciplinary Learning (2010–2015)

What does it mean to “read for understanding” in a competitive, complex, 21st century world? How can teachers support students to read, compare, and evaluate for reliability and relevance the unprecedented amounts of information now available? What will enable a secondary student and future citizen to understand, select, and use textual information to address inquiry questions, solve problems, and make decisions?

The Project READI research team defined “reading for understanding” as the capacity to engage in evidence-based argumentation that draws on multiple text sources—within a discipline. Disciplinary literacy involves complex critical analysis processes as well as close attention to text. The research team proposed a model that captured these processes while attending to the psychological and social challenges of adolescence. Central to this model is the necessity of viewing evidence-based argumentation as an activity situated in a sociocultural context.

The Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI) at WestEd collaborated with researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and elsewhere, to understand the cognitive processes students need to draw on in the course of developing evidence-based arguments, to design the instructional interventions that will support students, and to design research studies to measure the efficacy of the project interventions.

Research Questions and Methodology

Different research questions and methodologies focused the project during three phases of work. These were based on a two-part theory of change: educate and support teachers in disciplinary argumentation so that they, in turn, can support student learning.

Cognitive Studies: In the basic cognitive studies, researchers will examine the skills and processes students engage in when building text representations from multiple sources, the kinds of task supports (instructions, examples, feedback) that promote effective task interpretation, and criteria for “optimal” effectiveness across knowledge, skill, age, and disposition levels across the grades.

Intervention Development Studies: Researchers will observe and videotape in classrooms where selected disciplinary literacy instruction (Reading Apprenticeship, Disciplinary Literacy, or Cultural Modeling) is already in place. Analysis of that instruction will contribute to the development of READI instructional materials, formative assessments, and teacher professional development tools and materials.

Efficacy Studies: Final versions of the interventions will be tested in middle and high school classrooms using a cluster-randomized design, with randomization at the teacher level. Outcome measures will include standardized measures of English language arts, the Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation (GRADE), the Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies Inventory, and the Metacomprehension Scale, as well as assessments developed by the Reading for Understanding assessment team. Fidelity of implementation will be assessed using classroom observations, lesson logs, and instructional artifacts.