Blended Professional Learning at Scale:
Middle School Literacy
The Reading Apprenticeship: Writing Connections (RAWC) project was awarded a three-year Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop and test a blended online and in-person program of teacher professional development. The project built on Reading Apprenticeship’s in-person institutes and its new online models of teacher professional development.
The goal of RAWC was to improve the effectiveness of middle school teachers by helping them integrate reading, writing, and subject-area instruction in science, history, and English Language Arts. In particular, middle schools that fed into high schools already engaged in Reading Apprenticeship projects were encouraged to participate in order to provide students a seamless transition from middle school to high school.
RAWC By the Numbers
Blended Professional Learning for Middle School Teachers
- 3 years: 2013-2016
- 86,719 middle school students
- 1,195 teachers
- 222 middle schools
- 4 states: California, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania
- 3 subject areas: English Language Arts, Science, History
Praise from RAWC Participants
“Our school’s 8th grade students really improved this year—75% were proficient on the MSTEP for Spring of 2016. They were the top in Saginaw County. I firmly believe that Reading Apprenticeship has so much to do with this!”
— Julie Sadilek, 8th Grade ELA Teacher
Chesaning Middle School
“Now, students look for information themselves instead of asking me. They spend more time engaged in reading/finding information/learning than listening to me lecture or read to them.”
— Middle School Teacher
“Our students are interacting with text more than ever. This is evidenced when students get new text, they talk to it. They know the importance of writing down what they are thinking.”
— Craig Smith, Assistant Principal
Chapel Hill Middle School
The Blended Model: Live and Online Professional Learning
Teachers participated in Reading Apprenticeship professional learning in three ways:
- Traditional face-to-face institutes in the summer and winter
- Online learning during the school year (Ignite sessions, Google Hangouts, and text-based dialogue)
- Team meetings with colleagues at school site
The design of this learning experience was intended to ground teachers in the Reading Apprenticeship framework, and then support their practice during the school year through online and on-site peer communities.
The RAWC Blended Learning Calendar for 2015-16
|Summer 2015||Opening Institute (live, 3 days)|
|Fall 2015||Online learning (4 hours per month)|
|Winter 2015/2016||Winter Institute (live, 2 days)|
|Spring 2016||Online learning (4 hours per month)|
|Summer 2016||Closing Institute (live, 2 days)|
|All school Year||Monthly school team meetings led by teacher leaders|
The Professional Learning Experience
How teachers experienced RAWC professional learning throughout the year:
I. Live Institute
School teams attended live institutes with about 30 teachers from their region to experience immersion in the Reading Apprenticeship Framework and practice new teaching routines. They left the institute with practical knowledge to begin integrating new literacy routines and strategies for supporting social emotional learning into their classrooms.
II. Online Learning
A. Ignite Sessions
Teachers met in “Ignite Sessions” online to continue Reading Apprenticeship learning, reflect on their own teaching and student work, and support one another.
B. Reflecting on Practice in Small Learning Communities
Teachers met up in Google Hangouts to inquire into their own practices together, to assess their changing literacy practices, and to understand the impact those changes were having on student learning.
C. Text-based Discussion Forums
Teachers continued Reading Apprenticeship inquiry and reflection on their practice in asynchronous, independently scheduled text-based conversations. These sessions were held on Canvas and guided by prompts such as the one above on the metacognitive conversation
III. Additional Local Support and Literacy Leadership Development
School Team Meetings Led by Teacher Leaders
Participating school teams selected one teacher to receive additional Reading Apprenticeship training as “Teacher Leaders.” These leaders convened their school teams for monthly meetings, classroom visits, student work analysis, and reflection on how their literacy practices were evolving. The image above is an artifact from Teacher Leaders reflecting on their roles.
Please note that the RAWC project has concluded, but educators looking for a professional learning experience with Reading Apprenticeship can find information about current opportunities on our Services page.
Overview and Context of the RAWC Evaluation
RAWC included an evaluation to provide project leaders with data for the purposes of program improvement and impact assessment of this new blended model of discipline specific professional learning. The evaluation included a randomized controlled trial (RCT) on a subset of 27 of the more than 200 participating schools to more closely examine the impact of Reading Apprenticeship on students’ academic reading and writing skills and dispositions.
Data sets and measures included: relevant state standardized literacy tests; an ETS-developed computer-administered reading and writing test; and a student survey of metacognitive literacy knowledge and dispositions toward literacy and learning.
RAWC allowed SLI to design and test a model that shortened our professional learning model and explore the potential of online technologies for ongoing learning and implementation support. As such, it shortened the time for teacher learning from two years to one year.
To carry out a rigorous impact evaluation of this model within the three-year grant cycle, it was necessary to begin the RCT in the first year of the hybrid program development and implementation. Further, to enable control teachers to participate in the professional development opportunities at the completion of data collection, it was necessary to measure student learning impacts in the same, first year of teacher learning, before teachers had completed the entire program of professional learning. The design of the RCT was therefore unlike previous efficacy studies of Reading Apprenticeship professional development in several ways. It enabled program developers to examine questions that would shed light on ways to streamline the model, such as:
- Could teachers learn to implement new pedagogies as the school year ran along, and do so well enough to impact student learning outcomes in the same year?
- Could the hybrid elements offer enough ongoing support to accomplish the deep changes in instructional practice that have previously been measured over two years?
Findings and Limitations of the Study
Not surprisingly, given the grant timeline constraints, attrition, small number of participants, and other limitations noted by the evaluator (evaluating the project in a pilot year, studying teacher practice change prior to completion of the professional learning, and inconsistent issuing of the student assessment), the RCT did not find statistically significant impacts on all aspects of implementation and student achievement. Nevertheless, many positive impacts of the project for teachers and students were noted and align with Reading Apprenticeship efficacy studies.
Selected Findings from the RCT and Scale-Up Survey
Although not statistically significant, evaluators found moderate to large positive effect sizes for the following teaching practices and student activities:
- Fostering student independence
- Student practice of metacognitive inquiry strategies
- Student practice of comprehension strategies
- An increase in time students engage in collaborative activities
- Student engagement (proportion of students who completed homework and/or paid attention in class)
The findings described above were supported by results of the scale-up survey issued to all teacher participants. Below are a few of these results:
- 91% of teachers increased the number of classroom assignments that including reading and writing activities
- 90% reported that the quality of their students’ work improved
- 86% said they raised their expectations for students’ reading comprehension level
- 83% raised their expectations for students’ subject area learning
- 83% reported that Reading Apprenticeship helped them support diverse learners, especially the students who are frequently ‘disengaged’
- 82% of teachers agreed that students increased active participation in class
The full evaluation report is available from IMPAQ, Int.