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Designing a Vocabulary Intervention with the Boston Public Schools Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) American Educational Research Association Claire White April 10, 2007
Plan • Research Context: pilot schools • Assessment data: establishing the need • Survey data: teacher perspectives • Effective vocabulary instruction • “Word Generation” intervention • Pre-test results • Criteria for effective implementation of WG
Steps Forward Pilot WG Organizational Survey Now WG pre-test SERP sub-group develops WG GRADE data Teacher Survey Fall, 2005-2006
Westfield Middle School 80 % Black 16% Hispanic 1.8 White 1.6 Asian 29% Special Education MCAS Reilley Middle School 62% Black 18.1 % Hispanic 9.3% White 8.9 % Asian 25% Special Education MCAS Pilot Schools/Demographics
Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) Results 2006 (ELA) • Westfield • Reilley
GRADE data/6th grade • Reilley – 6th: 4.4 (mean stanine score) • 29% scored at the 3rd stanine or below (more than 1 standard deviation below the national mean) • Westfield- – 6th: 3.6 (mean stanine score) • 49% scored at the 3rd stanine or below (more than 1 standard deviation below the national mean)
Pilot Schools- Survey data • Reilley: high internal accountability; strong teacher responsibility for student learning, strong instructional leadership 2. Westfield: low internal coherence and accountability; weak teacher trust of colleagues and leadership; limited responsibility for student learning and student achievement
School profiles and assessment data confirm the need for an instructional intervention • The internal trust and cohesion level of individual schools provided us with context for intervention design and implementation (level of support, etc.)
Research on Vocabulary Shows… • Poor comprehension outcomes in middle school not necessarily a product of poor word reading but lack of vocabulary and academic language (e.g., Buly & Valencia, 2003; August & Shanahan, 2006) • Lack of knowledge of the middle and lower frequency “academic “words encountered in middle and secondary school texts impedes comprehension of those texts (e.g., Stahl & Nagy, 2006; Stanovich, 1986; Carlo, 2005)
Vocabulary Instruction in the Middle School Years • must be based on an understanding of the interrelatedness of content-area knowledge and academic language (e.g., Graves, 2006; Scarcella, 2003; Stahl & Nagy, 2006) • should occur through oral, reading, and writing activities throughout the content areas • should allow deeper explorations of language and should be rooted in text (e.g., Beck et al. 2002)
Challenges to Vocabulary Instruction Our initial classroom observations in BPS revealed: • Vocabulary is not usually taught • Instruction is fragmented between content areas • Texts fail to engage adolescents
Word GenerationProgram Goals: • Build the vocabulary of middle school students through repeated exposure to high frequency academic words in various contexts; • Promote regular use of effective instructional strategies among teachers; • Facilitate faculty collaboration on a school-wide effort.
Word GenerationProgram Features: • Focus on the Academic Word List (AWL); • Materials designed for flexible use across the curriculum; • An expectation that schools will dedicate at least 10 instructional minutes a day; • An opportunity for each school team to design a practical implementation plan that suits its own particular school context.
Word Generation: Materials • 20 weeks, each focused on a set of 5 words • Controversial topics include: global warming, censorship, dress codes and schools, steroids and sports, junk food and schools, the ethics of cloning, etc. Monday Paragraph introduces words Tuesday-Thursday Content-area word activities Friday Writing with focus words
Pre-launch Vocabulary Assessments 1. Vocabulary Self-Check (VSC) • student gauges his/her own level of knowledge about a word (40 items= 30 WG words and 10 non-words 2. Multiple Choice (Pre-WG) • 30 WG words chosen from 100 WG words to be taught over 20-week intervention “I do not “I have “I know something “I know it well know it” heard of it” about it” and can use it.”
Multiple Choice (Pre-WG) Sample items 1. She indicated that she was hungry. □ a. denied □ b. thought □ c. showed □. d. indeed 2. He will analyze the information. □ a. ignore □ b. anchor □ c. remember □ d. examine
Westfield: Multiple Choice Scores • Average Performance by Grade • 6th 60% correct • 7th 67% correct • 8th 72% correct • Total % Correct across Grades: 66%
Reilley: Multiple Choice Scores • Average Performance by Grade • 6th 63% correct • 7th 66% correct • 8th 66% correct • Total % Correct across Grades: 65%
Self-report on the same words • interpret: up to 85% said they knew it well • sufficient: up to 74% said they knew it well • diverse: up to 86% said they knew it well
Where are we with WG? • Implementing Week 12 • Collecting and coding writing samples • Collecting and coding teacher feedback • Gauging effective implementation through various data sources
Criteria for Effective Implementation of WG • Focus on criteria for effective implementation and outcomes at: • Student level • Teacher level • School level
Student Level • Effective use of words in natural interactions and weekly writing paragraph • Improvement in content-area language and vocabulary • Improved performance on post assessments
Teacher Level • Improved knowledge of effective vocabulary strategies • Increased responsibility for teaching content through language and language through content • More opportunities provided by teachers for students to use academic language • Productive feedback/sharing of concerns through meetings and weekly evaluations on WG materials and activities for revisions
School Level • Higher level of cohesion and internal accountability (cooperation across the content areas) • Greater involvement by principals in disseminating and overseeing intervention • Shared commitment by leadership, teachers and students to developing and sustaining a school-wide word culture
Next steps • Continued documentation of effective implementation (classroom observations, interviews, video-recording) and effective instructional practices and word learning • Post –survey? • Post-assessment(May/June 2007)
Thanks to • Joanna Christodoulu- Harvard Graduate School of Education • Michael Kieffer- Harvard Graduate School of Education • Michelle Forman- Harvard Graduate School of Education • Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez- Harvard Graduate School of Education • Sarah Meacham- SERP • Lasse Isakson- Harvard Graduate School of Education • Catherine Snow- Harvard Graduate School of Education • Jennifer Zeuli- Harvard Graduate School of Education