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.

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