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:
- Collaborative norm setting: creating a series of classroom norms with students that supports their participation in discussion.
- Critical reasoning task: providing an unresolved story or scenario for which students become the investigators.
- T-chart to make reasoning visible: using a specialized chart with “evidence” from the scene on one side, and the significance of each piece of evidence on the other.
- Debrief to “Go Meta!” and refine/augment norms: prompting students to think about how they engaged in the “investigation” exercise.
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”).