Our research team presents to school cluster

Our research team presents to school cluster

Recently, the Developing in Digital Worlds research team presented at the annual hui of the project’s digitally experienced school cluster. Having collected data from students, teachers and parents in the profiling phase via questionnaires, observations, and discussion board activities, it was our chance to give back by sharing and discussing the findings.

The presentation began with a simple question. Looking seven years forward, the presenters asked, what would it take for 21st century skills to underpin innovation across the curriculum? They offered specifics: what would it take for three sets of 21st century skills to underpin learning improvement and innovation: intrapersonal skills (self-control), interpersonal skills (empathy, perspective-taking, collaboration), and cognitive skills (critical thinking, critical literacy, and argumentation)? As the presenters explained, the Developing in Digital Worlds project is exploring links between these three sets of skills and student outcomes. Moreover, since digital environments provide further opportunities for students to develop these sets of 21st century skills, the link between the skills, digital environments, and student achievement is of even more importance. But consistent effects will depend on teacher augmentation.

The Developing in Digital Worlds team then presented a series of findings:

  • Using well known measures of personality and of more specific behaviours, the research team looked into whether innovating with digital environments and pedagogy over a long period does impact on children’s development of cognitive and social skills. Initial findings are that four out of five personality dimensions (openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion) had stronger ratings by students in the digitally experienced cluster, suggesting that curriculum innovation with digital tools can impact on some aspects of children’s social skills. Other analyses are looking more closely at possible effects on the range of social skills, and the picture that is emerging is that impact is particularly noticeable with areas of self-control (or agency).
  • According to teacher questionnaires collected by the research team, new digital tools do provide more opportunities to promote the three sets of 21st century skills. The classroom observations confirmed that teachers in digitally experienced schools are already building instruction around these skills, but that there is more emphasis on the development of social skills than cognitive skills.
  • Argumentation findings suggest that students face difficulty integrating others’ perspectives to inform their reasoning and decision making. The research team showed how teachers in the school clusters have been creating new ways of supporting dialogic argumentation in response to these findings.
  • In response to limited classroom opportunities for critical literacy practice, the Developing in Digital Worlds team designed the game Astria: Countdown to Impact to provide students with a collaborative game experience. The most recent version of the game gives greater opportunities for teachers to consult analytics and augment their guidance.
  • Updates were given on the design of a Connecting Home & The Schools (CHATS) intervention programme, and the associated Learning@Home website resource. The intervention is being piloted in three classrooms in response to findings from whānau questionnaire responses requesting a) more regular reminders to have learning conversations with students about school learning and cybersmart issues; b) connection with teachers and the school to align digital learning practices at home with the classroom. Future analyses of these data will assist whānau to support their children’s learning in digital worlds and in particular, development of 21st century skills.

To view the full presentation, click on the slide deck below:

We Make the Road by Walking: Dr Cynthia Greenleaf

We Make the Road by Walking: Dr Cynthia Greenleaf

Last week, the Faculty of Education and Social Work hosted visiting academic Dr Cynthia Greenleaf, a key researcher on  the Developing in Digital Worlds project team and the Co-Director of the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd, USA. As well as giving workshops to teachers in Developing in Digital Worlds partner schools, Dr Greenleaf addressed the University community with a lecture titled “We Make the Road by Walking.” What would it take, she asked, to make evidence-based argumentation from multiple sources the very definition of reading comprehension in middle and high school literature, history/social studies, and science classrooms? How can we create this road for others by walking ourselves, first?

Dr Greenleaf is one of the directors of a multi-year, multi-institution, multi-site research project which set out with the aim to make evidence-based argumentation the definition of reading comprehension in schools — Project READI. But reaching such new and ambitious standards in teaching and learning has meant a certain amount of “bushwhacking” to open new pathways forward, she said. By partnering with middle and high school teachers in local inquiry networks, her team co-developed curricula, tools and processes; built on promising practices; developed new routines and learning progressions; supported classroom try-outs and ongoing reflection on student work; studied teacher learning processes; and carried out collaborative design-based research during formal implementation of units.

In her lecture, Dr Greenleaf traced the development of the Project READI innovation from collaborative design-based research through to large-scale randomized trial. She spoke about how her team worked within the constraints of the efficacy trial to maintain fidelity to principles of teacher generativity and adaptive expertise, illustrating how lessons learned from the collaborative design and DBR phases informed the intervention design. She also described the tool development that supported teacher learning and adaptive implementation at broad scale, and the positive impacts on teaching practices and student reading comprehension.

You can listen to the lecture recording below, and download the slides in pdf form here.


About Dr Cynthia Greenleaf

Dr Cynthia Greenleaf is Co-Director of the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd, a research, development and service agency in the USA. In this role, she has spent nearly three decades conducting research in adolescent literacy and translating it into powerful teacher professional development and instructional frameworks. She directs an integrated set of research and development initiatives in collaboration with secondary teachers to promote higher level literacy and academic identities for diverse youth. She designs inquiry-based professional development programs and carries out fine-grained studies of both student and teacher learning, integrating the development of both socioemotional dispositions and academic skills. Dr. Greenleaf’s research has been integral to the development of the Reading Apprenticeship framework, the central organizing principle of the Strategic Literacy Initiative.

Most recently, as one of the directors of Project READI, she led the Strategic Literacy Initiative’s participation in a five-year federal research project to improve reading comprehension across the United States. Concurrently, she has co-directed multiple large-scale dissemination grants funded by the Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement to bring the instructional framework, Reading Apprenticeship, to over 2,000,000 middle high school students in U.S. public schools.

Dr. Greenleaf has published major research papers, won highly competitive grants, authored peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and co-authored the bestselling Reading for Understanding. Her dissertation “Computers in Context” was awarded Best Dissertation by the American Educational Research Association, and she has been recognized for her use of multimedia in teacher education with an award from the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Literacy expert Cynthia Greenleaf visits our partner schools

Literacy expert Cynthia Greenleaf visits our partner schools
Dr Cynthia Greenleaf (left) with Developing in Digital Worlds researchers Naomi Rosedale (centre) and Jacinta Oldehaver (right)

Last week, literacy expert Dr Cynthia Greenleaf arrived in Auckland to give a series of workshops at our partner schools. Dr Greenleaf is the Co-Director of the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd, a research, development and service agency in the USA, and also a key researcher on the Developing in Digital Worlds project team!

Of particular importance to the Developing in Digital Worlds research project is Dr Greenleaf’s expertise in argumentation, collaborative reasoning and dialogic classroom practices. Dr Greenleaf is one of the directors of the multi-year, multi-institution Project READI which began with the aim of making evidence-based argumentation from multiple sources the very definition of reading comprehension in middle and high school literature, history/social studies, and science classrooms. Eventually, Project READI expanded from a collaborative design-based research project through to a large-scale randomized trial funded by the United States government.

For our New Zealand audiences, Dr Greenleaf presented two staff development sessions at our partner schools. The first took place at our ‘early adopting’ cluster on September 13, and the other at our ‘later adopting’ English medium schools on September 12.* The aim of these sessions was for teachers to deepen their understanding of the arugmentation profiling findings that the Developing in Digital Worlds study has produced. One of the findings, for example, is that 80% of students who participated in Google Groups discussion boards only articulated a single perspective. Although the project is promoting digital discussion boards as an innovative tool for evidence-based argumentation, how can teachers create an environment that supports ongoing discussion and the integration of others’ perspectives? Working face to face with upwards of 60 teachers at each workshop, Dr Greenleaf facilitated teacher engagement with the Developing in Digital Worlds findings in practical ways.

Examples of Dr Greenleaf’s strategies include the following:

You can find the full slides for Dr Greenleaf’s presentation below:

*‘Early adopting’ means the schools have students who are already in high-usage digital environments in and out-of-school, and ‘later adopting’ schools have students who are at the initial stages of digital interaction.

The unresolved story or scenario example comes from George Hillocks’ essay, “Teaching Argument for Critical Thinking and Writing: An Introduction” published in English Journal (2010, volume 99, issue 6, pages 24-32).

The T-chart is a variant of the Metacognitive Note Takers chart which was published in Leading for Literacy by Cynthia Greenleaf, Ruth Schoenbach, and Lynn Murphy (Jossey-Bass, 2012, page 104). The Metacognitive Note Takers chart is available as a downloadable resource from this page (select “Team Tool 5.7”).

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