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JODI LYN WHEELER-TOPPEN (Under the Direction of David Jackson)


This design-based research study embodied the conjecture that reading could support and extend inquiry work in science classrooms if students had the reading skills necessary to access the text. Four classes of seventh grade Life Science students participated in a series of Lab Cycles, based on the Science Writing Heuristic, that involved lab investigation, reading, and writing an explanation. Four additional classes participated in the Lab Cycles and reading comprehension instruction. No significant difference was found between the two groups on reading comprehension or content measures. Qualitative analysis explored the students’ interaction with the science texts as well as the sources of knowledge for their written reports. Findings included that students integrated information from the text and lab work less often than expected, and that gaps in prior knowledge were a major factor hindering students from making full use of the text. Additionally, the construct of taking an inquiry stance on the text was introduced to describe the behavior of using a textual idea to create an explanation of an observed phenomenon.





JODI LYN WHEELER-TOPPEN B.S., Samford University, 1998 M. Ed., Wake Forest University, 1999

A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of The University of Georgia in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree



© 2006






Major Professor: David Jackson

Committee: Bob Fecho

Malcolm Butler Thomas Koballa

Electronic Version Approved: Maureen Grasso







Overview of the Study and Research Questions ...6


Design-Based Research...8

Models of Reading ...12

The Importance of Monitoring to Reading Comprehension ...16

The Influence of Prior Knowledge on Reading Comprehension ...19

Reading Interventions in Science...20

Components of the Reading as Investigation Intervention ...22

The Role of Writing ...25


Toward a Theoretical Basis for Using Mixed Methods ...30


Context and Participants...33

Procedures Related to the Intervention ...37

Procedures Related to Data Collection...43

Procedures Related to Data Analysis ...50


Constraining and Supportive Factors in the Context...59

Changes in the Design Over the Course of the Intervention...63

Student Experiences with the Intervention...74

Summary ...84


Quantitative Results ...87

Qualitative Results ...92

Observations Across All Assignments...121


Summary of the Results ...122

Contributions to Research ...127

Implications for Future Research ...130

Implications for Teaching ...133




A Enacted Intervention ...147


C Lab Cycle Student Handouts ...160

D Reading Materials ...179

E Focus Group Materials...201

F Questions from the Content Knowledge Test...213




Table 1.1: Analogous Science and Reading Skills ...4

Table 2.1: Science Writing Heuristic: Student Template ...28

Table 3.1: Number of Students By Race and Gender in Each Group...35

Table 3.2: Number of Students in Each Group with Special Needs...35

Table 3.3: Demographics of the Focus Group Participants ...37

Table 3.4: One Section of the Strategies Chart...41

Table 3.5: Leslie and Caldwell’s Coding Scheme...53

Table 4.1: Procedure Given to Group Leaders ...68

Table 5.1: Number of Meaning Changing Miscues/ Words Provided by the Interviewer in the Cloud and Convection Readings ...93

Table 5.2: Revised Coding Scheme...101

Table 5.3: Evidence of an Inquiry Stance in the Think Aloud Interviews and Written Explanations ...111

Table 5.4: Monitoring Behaviors in the Think Aloud Interviews ...113

Table 5.5: Examples of the Four Writing Considerations ...117

Table 5.6: Examples of the Sources of Knowledge...118






One of the defining characteristics of the “information age” in which we find ourselves is the prevalence of text. We are surrounded by it. However, many of our students are not prepared to read it. The typical trajectory of reading education in the United States is for students to spend the early part of elementary school learning to read. Then, at about fourth grade, students are asked to move from learning to read to reading to learn. Many students are not successful in that transition, which has come to be called the fourth grade literacy ceiling (Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, & Hurwitz, 1999). The NAEP 1998 Reading Report Card for the Nation and the States (Donahue, Voekl, Campbell, & Mazzeo, 1999) confirms that while most students in fourth, eighth, and twelfth grades can read at a “basic” level, they lack the skills needed to read and learn from the kinds of higher level texts encountered in subjects such as science.

Middle and high school teachers, frustrated by their students’ inability to make sense of science texts, resort to teaching content without asking students to read (Schoenbach et al., 1999). In science, many teachers prefer hands-on investigations to help students learn (Barton & Jordan, 2001). However, text has the potential to allow students to think more deeply about hands-on investigation, because text holds ideas in place to be revisited and reflected upon (Norris & Phillips, 2003).


designing and interpreting an experiment. While the SWH has been effective in helping students understand the function of claims and evidence in science, it has not been as effective in helping students connect laboratory experiences to canonical science knowledge (Wallace et al., 2004). Part of the difficulty seems to stem from students’ inability to read science text and integrate what they have read with their observations from lab. The purpose of this study is to examine a method to improve students’ reading comprehension of science text and ability to integrate read material with lab experiences.


If teachers are using other methods to teach science content, especially worthwhile methods like hands-on experiences, why should we be concerned about whether or not students can read science text? To this question, I offer a four-fold answer.

First, the ability to read and understand science text is part of scientific literacy. Scientific literacy is often cited as a major goal of science education, although authors differ in the meaning they intend (Driver, Newton, & Osborne, 2000;

National.Research.Council, 1996; Palincsar, Anderson, & David, 1993; Wallace et al., 2004; Yore, Hand, & Bisanz, 2003). Most of them, however, refer to derived senses of the word. In its fundamental sense, scientific literacy is the ability to read and write science. In this fundamental sense, scientific literacy is essential to the practice of science (Norris & Phillips, 2003). As Postman (1979) has said, ““Biology is not plants and


work that allows others to critique it and build upon it (Norris & Phillips, 2003). The proliferation of scientific journals indicates the important role that reading plays in the development of science. Students, who are learning to model science in investigations, should also learn to model the way that science uses text to build on existing ideas.

Second, being able to read science is important because reading is a common form of continuing education in the sciences for non-scientists (Dimopoulos & Koulaidis, 2003; Jarman & McClune, 2002; Pellechia, 1997). Science knowledge is changing

rapidly, and formal schooling cannot teach everything about science that may be important in the future. Citizens in a democracy will need to understand how science impacts decisions in areas such as health, the environment, and economic policies. Even the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council,1996)

acknowledge that reading, especially of media reports of science, is an important skill for students of science, saying students should be able “to read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and to engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions” (p. 22).


not occurring. A similar self-regulation process takes place as a scientist develops and tests a hypothesis (Baker, 1991).

Table 1.1

Analogous Science and Reading Skills (from Padilla, et al., 1991)

Science Skill Reading Skill

Identifying the problem Identifying the topic and activating background knowledge

Carrying out an experiment Reading a text

Interpreting results Making inferences

Drawing conclusions Drawing conclusions

Indeed, Gee (2001) argues that we use language to think about and act on the world, and we cannot separate reading and writing from thinking about the world. The ways in which a person uses language to interpret his or her world will affect the ways in which that person understands what is read. Gee claims, “reading the word and reading the world are, at a deep level, integrally connected -- indeed, at a deep level, they are one and the same process” (p. 718). Norris and Phillips (2003) agree, saying that “the


Finally, we should be concerned about students’ ability to read science because the Discourse of science is part of the power structure of our society. Gee (1996) distinguishes between the concepts of discourse and Discourse (with a capital D). Whereas discourse refers to specific language used in communication, Gee defines Discourse as

a socially accepted association among ways of using language, other symbolic expressions, and ‘artifacts’, of thinking, feeling, believing, valuing, and acting that can be used to identify oneself as a member of a socially meaningful group or ‘social network’, or to signal (that one is playing) a socially meaningful ‘role’ (p.131).

There are two important Discourses in a science classroom. Students are using the Discourse of school, but they are also practicing the Discourse of science. Both

Discourses at various times involve combining information from multiple sources into explanations supported by evidence. Students whose home Discourse is most similar to school and science Discourses will pick up on these Discourses most easily. In fact, parents tend to help their children develop aspects of public-sphere Discourses that they value (Gee, 1996). Therefore, some students will come to school with a marked

advantage over others in their preparation for using academic texts in general and science texts specifically. Indeed, in 1998, students receiving free or reduced lunch were more than twice as likely to be reading below the basic level than their peers who were not eligible (Donahue et al., 1999). Helping all students learn to read science texts


students’ chances of accessing the power structures that successful use of those Discourses provides.

Overview of the Study and Research Questions

This study was conducted using design-based research methodology, in which an intervention is refined while exploring the interactions between the intervention and the specific context (Design-Based Research Collective, 2003). The intervention in this study, discussed in more detail in Chapter Three, is built around the metaphor of Reading as Investigation (RAI), and is designed to prepare students to use texts to support their inquiry investigations. Although specific reading strategies were taught, the primary purpose of the intervention is to help students develop the metacognitive awareness needed to actively monitor their reading. As Loxterman, Beck, and McKeown (1994) wrote, “some researchers have questioned whether instructional interventions would be necessary if the goal of reading as an active search for meaning could be kept in mind” (p. 354).

Participating classes were placed in two groups: Science Investigation Only (SIO) and Reading As Investigation (RAI). The SIO group participated in five Lab Cycles, based on the Science Writing Heuristic (SWH), over several units. The RAI group also participated in five Lab Cycles, with the reading intervention interspersed throughout. The groups were compared on quantitative and qualitative measures, in order to answer the following research questions:

1. How does the Reading as Investigation (RAI) intervention affect students’ reading comprehension of expository text?


3. What is the nature of the students’ interaction with science text?




Design-Based Research

This research project takes place within the framework of design-based research, which was developed as a research methodology to help bridge the gap between

educational research and practice (Design-Based Research Collective, 2003). As design-based research is relatively new, arising within the last decade, I will take some time here to describe the nature of this methodology. Design-based research recognizes that

education is fundamentally interventionist by nature (Bell, 2004), but that these interventions take place in rich contexts where hundreds, maybe thousands, of interplaying variables affect the outcome. Interventions that are designed in carefully controlled laboratory studies may not work in real classrooms. Interventions that are studied in real classrooms are faced with confounding variables that make it difficult to connect outcomes to specific practices. Therefore, design-based research, also known as design research and design-based experiment, seeks to operate within the systems, the “complex learning ecologies” (Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003), that make up classrooms and schools.


cultivating an ongoing partnership with practitioners (Bell, 2004). These practitioners advocate for the particular learning needs of their students in their context, which must integrated with the research goals. An interacting system forms between what is brought in by researchers (the exogenous design) and the teachers, students, and social practices already in place (the endogenous design) (Tabak, 2004). Teachers create procedures for helping their classroom run smoothly, they decide from their knowledge of their students how to form groups and what to say to which students when, and they interact with students in relationships that have formed in the classroom prior to the intervention and in the hallways and at school events. Students come with myriad previous experiences and attitudes, and have their own social history with their peers and with classrooms in general. School-wide expectations and events affect the intervention unfolding in the classroom. For example, an assembly or a brawl earlier in the day can greatly affect the dynamics of a lesson. All of these endogenous elements have the potential to interact with the intervention, and may even hold keys to its success or failure. Design-based research balances these exogenous and endogenous factors.

Second, design-based research is iterative. Cobb (2001) describes the process of minicycles and macrocycles, illustrated in Figure 2.1. Minicycles take place during the course of the intervention. The research team, including researchers and participating teachers, discuss the events of the lesson and use those to decide on tweaks and changes to future plans. Although these mini-cycles have been criticized for changing the


depth in order to make structural changes for the next iteration. Analysis during the mini-cycles contributes primarily to addressing the learning needs in the immediate teaching environment, while analysis during the macrocycles contributes more to the development of learning theory. The research described in this dissertation encompasses one

macrocycle, with the anticipation of future macrocycles.

Figure 2.1. Design-Based Research is Composed of Mini-cycles and

Macro-cycles (adapted from Cobb, 2001)

Third, design-based research must account for how the design functions in authentic settings. That is, it must provide an explanation for how the interactions in the intervention lead to learning. This explanation may include any of the aspects of the designed environment, from the tools and activities to the organization of the tasks and the social participation structures that are in place (Sandoval, 2004). In order to achieve this, the fourth feature must be in place: research methods must be used that can


ability to improve practice in other specific contexts (Design-Based Research Collective, 2003).

From this description, design-based research may sound similar to program evaluation. I will briefly describe the characteristics that differentiate it. Program evaluation generally seeks to separate the “product” from the context. The goal is a particular artifact or program that may undergo similar cycles of design during

development, but is then held constant. In design-based research, the goal is a model of innovation that is seen to come from an interplay of intervention and context (Design-Based Research Collective, 2003). In addition, design-based research focuses on theory development. Bell (2004) writes that program evaluation,

without the theory work and rigorous empirical research, sometimes leads to the design of products that are genuinely useful, but such work does not stand to inform the nature of the specific educational phenomena at hand....this “theory work” is a defining feature of the design experimentation enterprise. (p. 245) One way this “theory work” proceeds is through thoughtful, theory-based design.


outcomes. To the extent that connections between these aspects of the design and the desired outcomes can be documented, this provides evidence of the validity of the underlying conjectures. Studying where the design breaks down provides not only evidence for redesign, but reason to examine the underlying conjectures more closely. In careful study of students’ interaction with the design, new aspects of learning that need to be accounted for are unearthed, and new questions about both theory and design can be asked (Sandoval, 2004). It is in its contribution to learning theory that design-based research is most generalizable (Cobb et al., 2003). In the next sections, I discuss the research that has led to the formation of the conjectures that are embodied in the Reading as Investigation intervention.

Models of Reading

Students in middle and secondary classrooms often struggle to read and make sense of science texts (Alexander & Kulikowich, 1994; Norris & Phillips, 2003; Yore et al., 2003). Even students who can say each of the words on the page are often unable to draw an overall meaning. This is largely because reading is an inferential process; meaning must be inferred from what is written along with other information that the reader brings to the text (Norris & Phillips, 2003). The inferential nature of reading can be seen by examining the layers of meaning making in various models of the reading process.

Reading consists of an interaction between bottom-up and top-down processes. Bottom-up processing draws on visual input to identify letters and words in the text. Piece by piece, the reader assembles the visual data into understandable units


information, about 5 letters per second, and can only store about seven independent chunks in short term memory. At this rate, about sixty words per minute would be the maximum reading speed, which is too slow for effective comprehension (Smith, 1985). Bottom-up processes must interact with top-down processes. Top-down processes refer to the involvement of non-visual input in reading. Fluent readers make continual predictions about the meaning of text based on their established schemas and prior knowledge

(Alvermann & Phelps, 1998). Visual input, or bottom up processes, are used to verify or reject those predictions.

Rosenblatt (1994), working in literary criticism, proposed a theory of reading that merged the bottom-up and top-down processes of reading. Her transactional theory of reading argues that three aspects transact to give meaning in reading. The first aspect is the reader. The reader draws from his or her linguistic-experiential reservoir to make predictions and derive meanings for words. The linguistic-experiential reservoir comes from the reader’s cultural, social and personal history with words and ideas. Therefore, the meaning of a word varies from person to person and is based on all of the experiences a person has had and all of the contexts in which that person has encountered the word.

The second aspect is the text. As the reader proceeds through the text, he or she creates an evocation, a mental representation of the text, for himself or herself. It is really the evocation with which the reader transacts, rather than the text itself. The third aspect of Rosenblatt’s transactional theory is the context. The context participates in the


Other attempts have been made to identify the steps a reader takes in

comprehension. There are many of these models, but Kintsch’s model, drawing from schema theories and linguistic theories, exemplifies many of the shared components (Richgels, 1982). Kintsch (1994) proposes that there are many levels of comprehension, that can determine if a reader simply remembers the text or truly learns from a text. During reading, the reader translates the surface structure of the text into a text base that encodes the words, phrases, and semantic relationships between them. This step is sometimes called decoding. The reader may be able to recall much of this meaning without connecting it to other learned information. However, the reader may also elaborate and integrate this text base with prior knowledge to form a situation model.

He gives this example. If a science text reads, “When a baby has a septal defect, the blood cannot get rid of enough carbon dioxide through the lungs. Therefore, it looks purple” (p. 295), the text base involves an understanding of the words and the semantic relationships between them. A situation model might include concepts of circulation and heart structure that the reader brings to the text. Kintsch explains:


that fills in the information necessary for understanding that was not made explicit in the text. (p. 295)

I would add to Kintsch’s comment that the reader must also choose to take the mental energy to integrate this information, and to do so, must recognize the value of such an endeavor.

There are obvious similarities between Kintsch’s and Rosenblatt’s model. Rosenblatt’s evocation is similar to Kintsch’s text base, and Kintsch’s background

knowledge could include elements from Rosenblatt’s linguistic-experiential reservoir and context. Kintsch names the resulting interpretation the situation model, although it is more commonly called the text representation (Cote, Goldman, & Saul, 1998; Long & Bourg, 1996; Richgels, 1982). For this research, I will refer to the low-level


The Importance of Monitoring to Reading Comprehension

During reading, good readers pay attention to whether or not they understand what they are reading. This ability to monitor comprehension seems to be the most important characteristic separating successful readers from less successful readers (Alvermann, 1984; August & et al., 1984; Baumann, Jones, & Seifert-Kessel, 1993; Thiede, Anderson, & Therriault, 2003).

Comprehension monitoring is a metacognitive process. First described by Flavell (1976), metacognition “refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive

processes and products or anything related to them” (p.232). Definitions of metacognition are varied, but two components are widely accepted: regulation of cognition and

knowledge of cognition (e.g., Flavell, 1976; Flavell, 1979; Georghiades, 2004a; Hacker, 1998; Schraw & Moshman, 1995; Yuruk, Ozdemir, & Beeth, 2003). When these

components are considered in the area of reading comprehension, regulation of cognition involves knowing whether or not the text is being understood. Knowledge of cognition refers to having strategies to restore comprehension if it is lost (Baumann et al., 1993).

Degrees of Metacognition

Georghiades (2004b) introduced the term “situated metacognition” to describe the classroom practice of inserting activities that stimulate metacognitive thought into

traditional instruction. He used classroom discussions, learning diaries, annotated drawings, and concept mapping in a quasi-experimental design to demonstrate that students engaged in situated metacognition developed more durable concepts of


their cognitions on the subject of electricity and circuits, but did not require students to be explicitly aware that they were considering their cognitions.

Yuruk, Ozdemir, and Beeth (2003) suggested that this distinction be included as a separate component of metacognition, in which “metacognitive knowing” would refer to reflection on existing knowledge, and “metacognitive knowledge” would refer to

reflections on oneself as a learner, or tasks and strategies in general. I believe that this is a useful distinction for teaching reading comprehension. In reading comprehension,

metacognitive knowing would refer to monitoring comprehension during reading,

although the processes involved in that comprehension may take place without conscious thought. Metacognitive knowledge would refer to consciously checking for

comprehension and thinking about the value of comprehension strategies. Students may learn to use strategies that stimulate comprehension and use them when told to do so by a teacher. But for students to be able to direct their own learning, they must be led to consider how strategies that are initially teacher directed can be utilized for personal learning. This would be a move from metacognitive knowing to metacognitive knowledge.

Metacognition in Reading Comprehension Interventions


through sixth graders who were taught summarizing strategies as well as metacognitive concepts improved on reading comprehension more than groups that got strategy alone or no intervention. Metacognitive knowledge, like other knowledge, must be constructed, therefore readers need the opportunity to think metacognitively about their reading.

The current intervention is heavily influenced by two interventions that have been successful in promoting metacognition to increase learning from text. The first, reading apprenticeship, is based on Vygotsky’s theory of social constructivism. Vygotsky (1986) described the zone of proximal development in which a learner can solve a problem with scaffolding by an expert. In a reading apprenticeship, teachers and peers serve as expert readers who talk about their reading processes in order to make the invisible parts of reading visible (Schoenbach et al., 1999).

Throughout a reading apprenticeship, purposes and goals are made explicit for the students. For example, students are introduced to the term “metacognition” and asked to begin to observe their own metacognition. Reading serves the purpose of learning from the text itself, and also as an opportunity for the students and teachers to inquire into their own reading and thinking processes. The class begins a metacognitive conversation that supports four dimensions of learning: cognitive, knowledge building, social, and personal (Schoenbach et al., 1999). I believe this explicitness in addressing reading issues has much potential for struggling readers of science.


summarizes the segment, and elicits predictions from classmates. Students are taught to request clarification as needed (Palincsar & Klenk, 1992). Reciprocal teaching fits well in a reading apprenticeship framework, because both teachers and peers serve as models for expert reading strategies. A number of studies have shown that reciprocal teaching is more effective than strategy instruction alone (e.g., Cote et al., 1998; Palincsar & Klenk, 1992; Palincsar, Ransom, & Derber, 1988; Palinscar & Brown, 1984; Rosenshine & Meister, 1994).

Both of these interventions stress the importance of helping students become purposeful readers and learners. Any intervention to improve reading comprehension in science must help students internalize the concept of reading as an active search for meaning (Loxterman et al., 1994). Therefore, the RAI intervention seeks to engage students in metacognitive knowledge.

The Influence of Prior Knowledge on Reading Comprehension

As discussed earlier, both the text base and prior knowledge affect the text representation created by the reader. Prior knowledge is especially important in


Indeed, many texts assume that readers share a certain knowledge base. If readers lack that background knowledge, it may not be possible to comprehend the text, even by using reading comprehension strategies (Caldwell & Leslie, 2004). In science reading, students may not know enough of the terms, symbols, or mathematical expressions used in the text (Finley, 1991). In physics texts in particular, students may not have enough facility with mathematical equations to move between the verbal and mathematical representations (Alexander & Kulikowich, 1994).The more topical knowledge a reader brings to science texts, the better the text is understood and the more likely it is to interest the reader (Alexander & Kulikowich, 1994).

Alternatively, background knowledge that conflicts with the text can also hinder comprehension. The negative effects of incorrect background knowledge, or

misconceptions, is well documented for science learning in general. These effects occur for learning from reading as well. Readers often fail to recognize that their conceptions are in conflict with the text. They approach the text with an “illusion of knowing” (Finley, 1991, p.25) and use their initial beliefs to construct the text representation (Alvermann et al., 1985). Often, only knowledge that is consistent with their previous conceptions is added (Alvermann & Hynd, 1995; Finley, 1991). Prior knowledge, then, is an essential feature for readers to consider when approaching text, especially science text.

Reading Interventions in Science


organization of texts, the importance of accessing prior knowledge, setting purpose and monitoring progress, using context to define words, identifying the main idea, and summarizing. In addition, they practiced selecting the appropriate strategy in a given situation. Scores on tests of metacognitive awareness, metacognitive self-management, and science text comprehension all improved significantly from pre- to post-test.

Holden and Yore (1996) studied five classes of sixth and seventh grade students during a twelve week intervention that included explicit science reading instruction. They found that students with the highest levels of metacognitive awareness and

self-management made the greatest gains in content knowledge after controlling for factors such as learning styles, gender, and affective characteristics.

Finally, Guthrie et al. (1998) conducted a yearlong study of third and fifth graders in three schools with low-reading achievement. Half of the classes in each school

participated in an intervention that had a strong engagement and motivation component as well as a strategy component. Strategies taught in the study included using prior knowledge, searching for information, comprehending instructional text, interpreting literary text, and self-monitoring. They compared scores of students involved in the intervention with those who were not on a weeklong performance assessment that asked students to compare pond and desert biomes. They found a significant increase in the use of strategies among students in the intervention group, as well as an increase in reading comprehension of both narrative and expository text. Content learning did not directly increase as a result of the intervention, but in a path analysis, there was a positive indirect increase based on strategy use.


examining the interaction of a specific context with an intervention framework that merges inquiry science instruction with reading. In the intervention, inquiry was embodied in a Lab Cycle. The Lab Cycle, which took place five times during the semester, consisted of one to three days of a laboratory investigation, followed by a day in which students read an article designed to contribute information pertinent to

understanding what occurred in the lab. The cycle concluded with students writing a letter that required synthesizing observations from the lab with information from the text. However, as discussed above, the literature suggested that students would not be prepared to use the text as a learning tool. Two conjectures were embodied to address this

difficulty. First, the activity portion of the Lab Cycle preceded reading in order to provide a “prior knowledge platform” so that students approached the text with supportive prior knowledge. This platform was also designed to raise questions, so that students would have a purpose for reading. Second, one group of students also participated in explicit reading comprehension instruction. While this instruction included learning specific strategies, its primary focus was on helping students develop metacognitive awareness of their meaning-making during reading.

Components of the Reading as Investigation Intervention


intervention was designed to foster a “metacognitive conversation” (Schoenbach et al., 1999) about comprehension monitoring.

In the first sessions, students were taught to perform think-alouds as they read. In a think-aloud, readers pause after each sentence or set of related sentences to verbalize what they are thinking as they read. Thinking aloud during reading represents a form of comprehension monitoring (Baumann et al., 1993). Think-alouds help students notice what takes place in their minds as they read. For many students, simply thinking aloud, with no other strategy instruction, improves reading comprehension (Alvermann, 1984; Cote et al., 1998; Long & Bourg, 1996; Loxterman et al., 1994). However, thinking aloud is a short-term solution. Students need to be able to monitor their comprehension when reading silently. Thus, the intervention moved to teaching a written coding system that students can use to represent some of their thinking processes silently.

Studies have also found an important social component to improving comprehension monitoring. Reciprocal teaching, long considered a model for


log in which they responded in writing to questions regarding their own comprehension monitoring. While modeling and reflection remained important components of the intervention, the context necessitated flexibility in the ways it took place.

In light of the research on the importance of prior knowledge, explicit discussion of the role of prior knowledge was planned as a key feature of the intervention. Students were to reflect on their prior knowledge before reading and consider how it had changed after reading, and then verbalize what they noticed about how their background

knowledge interacted with the text. As I will discuss in chapters 4 and 5, prior knowledge was not discussed as explicitly as was indicated in the original design, but it was an important feature of the intervention, as embodied in a prior knowledge platform before each reading and the coding system that asked students to identify statements that agreed or conflicted with their background knowledge.

Other specific strategies that have been shown to be useful were embedded in the metacognitive conversation taking place in the RAI intervention. These include asking questions (e.g. Palincsar et al., 1988; Raphael, 1982), predicting (e.g. Baumann et al., 1993; Palincsar & Brown, 1987), summarizing, setting a purpose for reading (e.g. Schoenbach et al., 1999; Spence et al., 1999), and considering text structure

(e.g.Schoenbach et al., 1999; Spiegel & Barufaldi, 1994). However, the goal of the


The Role of Writing

While the focus of this study was on reading, writing was included in the intervention, and therefore the effects of writing on learning must be considered. This research involves many layers of thought, expressed through talking and writing. These layers make it difficult to see the ideas that come most directly from the act of reading. However, all of these layers can and should be present in a vibrant learning community, and to attempt to limit their presence would be a disservice to the process that this study seeks to understand.

Various theories have been proposed as to how writing might aid learning, but an important aspect of them all is the potential for writing to activate metacognitive thought (Wallace et al., 2004). Writing allows students to organize their thoughts, sharpen their arguments, and express intellectual and emotional reactions to learning (Glynn & Muth, 1994). Therefore, writing assignments are a natural extension to reading activities that ask students to engage metacognitively with text.

Effects of Writing on Learning

At the culmination of ten years of investigating writing-to-learn, Wallace, Hand, and Prain (2004) concluded that it is well-documented that “writing supports conceptual knowledge building in science” (p. 123). Their research, as well as that of others

(Fellows, 1994; Hand & Prain, 2004; Mason & Boscolo, 2000), indicate that students who write as a part of instruction learn more than those who do not.


under which the writing occurs affect the outcomes. Task type is a major variable affecting learning from writing.

One of the difficulties in drawing general conclusions from writing-to-learn

research is the variety of tasks used in each study. However, in a landmark study, Langer and Applebee (1987) determined four general principles about the effects of writing on learning. First, tasks differ in the breadth of information drawn upon and depth of processing required. Second, the more that information is manipulated, the more it is understood and remembered. Third, learning effects are greatest for the particular information on which the writing is focused. Fourth, if content is familiar and the relationships are well understood, writing is unlikely to affect learning (Langer & Applebee, 1987).

Specific task effects are difficult to analyze because contexts vary greatly between studies (Hand & Prain, 2004). The meaning of terms such as “essay” or “analytic

writing” may differ between studies, and there may be task by content interactions (Rivard, 1994). In addition, students may interpret a task differently than instructors. For example, students may interact with a task using low-level cognitive skills when

instructors intended the task to involve complex restructuring of knowledge (Penrose, 1992; Zeegers & Giles, 1996). That said, research on task effects can still contribute to considerations for classroom practice.


representing a reading remembered more over time than those who wrote summaries. Diagramming may not be a traditional writing style, but Gobert and Clement (1999) hypothesized that that creating diagrams forces students to manipulate the information into a mental model, whereas the summary functioned as a “rote recall task” (p. 48). McCrindle and Christenson (1995) compared writing traditional laboratory reports to writing a learning journal. The learning journals required students to discuss what they learned during lab, as well as how they came to that understanding. The students who journaled not only scored higher on the final exam, but also developed deeper and more complex understandings of their own process of learning. Elsewhere, it has been argued that the traditional lab report, modeled after professional publications in science, is inappropriate for the classroom because it hides the underlying thinking involved in developing scientific ideas (Wallace & Hand, 2004).

Based on this research on writing tasks, I selected the Science Writing Heuristic to support metacognitive thought during the investigation portions of this intervention.

The Science Writing Heuristic


instruction. Quantitative evidence indicates that students using the SWH outperformed students doing traditional lab reports on answering higher-order questions on concepts learned during lab. Qualitative evidence indicates that the SWH can stimulate

metacognitive self-talk, reflection on and modification of science ideas, and promote the understanding of questions, claims, and evidence in science (Wallace & Hand, 2004). For these reasons, the SWH served as the base for the lab cycle in this study.

Table 2.1

Science Writing Heuristic – Student Template (Wallace & Hand, 2004) 1. Beginning ideas: What are my questions?

2. Tests: What did I do?

3. Observations: What did I see? 4. Claims: What can I claim?

5. Evidence: How do I know? Why am I making these claims? 6. Reading: How do my ideas compare with other ideas? 7. Reflection: How have my ideas changed?


textbook almost exclusively and did not relate it to the labs. The integrators blended first hand observations and authoritative information to explain the concepts (Keys, 1999).

The Lab Cycle used in this research is an embodiment of the conjecture that making reading integral to the SWH would help more students become integrators. This conjecture is based on a key feature of textual information: its fixity (Norris & Phillips, 2003). Written text can express complex ideas in a form that can be revisited and reflected upon. While interpretation is an important part of reading, the text imposes constraints on the interpretations that are reasonable (Norris & Phillips, 2003). Therefore, the text provides a source of canonical knowledge that students can continually revisit as they work through making meaning from lab observations. Essentially, text serves to “hold ideas in place” until students can appropriate them for their own use.

In this way, the Lab Cycle functions on the same principles of institutional science. The fixity of text allows knowledge to accumulate. It allows scientists to start where someone else left off because they can assume knowledge from previous texts (Norris & Phillips, 2003). However, many students are ill-prepared to read and



Toward a Theoretical Basis for Using Mixed Methods

As discussed in Chapter two, this is a design-based research study. Such studies often utilize both quantitative and qualitative methods in order to develop a fuller understanding of the action of the intervention in the context (Cobb et al., 2003). However, some researchers feel that quantitative and qualitative methods are

incompatible because they stem from different theoretical perspectives. Therefore, I begin this chapter with some theoretical considerations for using mixed methods.

Traditionally, quantitative research has been associated with an objectivist ontology and epistemology in which the real world is external to the observer, and the knower can remain separate from it while knowing it. Qualitative research has been associated with a constructivist ontology and epistemology in which the world exists only as constructed by the observer, and the knower influences and is influenced by the known (Todd, Nerlich, & McKeown, 2004).


and explicated for the sake of the consumer of the research, as well as for the researcher to understand the factors influencing his or her own research.

Therefore, I take a different approach to this issue. I believe the methods are separate from the epistemologies with which they are usually associated. Objectivist and constructivist epistemologies are at odds, and one cannot base research simultaneously in both epistemologies. However, both qualitative and quantitative methods can be used to understand the world within the constraints of either epistemology (Crotty, 1998).

In this study, I use quantitative and qualitative methods based in an epistemology that is traditionally associated with qualitative work, constructivism. This means that I believe the numbers are constructions of reality in the same way as the descriptions that I give of student thinking are constructions. Both are affected by the social and cultural structures in place during the research. Numbers may give the illusion of objectivity, but it is a false illusion. Any instrument, no matter how well validity has been established, ultimately privileges the perspective of the creators who gave the constructs their operational definition (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). The researcher’s values come through in the design of the study and administration of the instrument.

Indeed, neither quantitative nor qualitative work can claim to have described the present situation as it truly existed. However, both are constrained by what is present. There may be several reasonable constructions, but there are many more that are not reasonable.


researcher is describing the numbers created by the transaction between the subjects and the instrument and comparing them to outcomes of a randomly generated set. In

quantitative work, it is that comparison that provides constraints on the story that researcher tells about the data, much as the participant quotations constrain qualitative work. Within a constructivist epistemology, the researcher does not argue that no other construction of the situation would be reasonable, only that the current construction is reasonable.

Statement of Subjectivities

My taking of design-based research as a methodology entails a set of beliefs about educational interventions. First, I believe that the intervention and the context are not separate entities. The context and the designed intervention together create the intervention as it is experienced by a given class, group, or individual student. In

particular, while the intervention can be designed to support certain social structures, the social relationships in the classroom represent an important facet of how the intervention is experienced and cannot be dictated by the design. I do not believe that the effects of the context can be untangled from the effects of the intervention; indeed, the context becomes a part of the intervention.

This research is also based in my beliefs about teaching and learning. I believe that active reading is an essential part of active learning, which leads to intellectual independence. I value intellectual independence as an important part of the


must consider and address Discourse issues if all students are to have a chance of economic success in our society. These beliefs formed the basis for the intervention and for the research analysis.

Context and Participants School

This study took place in two seventh grade life science classrooms at Swiftwater Middle School. Swiftwater is located in an inner ring suburb of a major southern city that is going through a population transition. For about a decade, middle and upper class families have been moving back into the city. As portions of the city gentrify, poorer families are forced out. At the same time, housing in the inner-ring suburbs is aging and becoming less desirable. Therefore, the population in this inner ring suburb, like many others, is much poorer than has traditionally been associated with suburban populations. In particular, the area around Swiftwater Middle houses large Mexican, Bosnian, and Korean immigrant communities, as well as many African-Americans (McCullen & Smith, 2004). The effects of these trends can be seen in Swiftwater’s enrollment. For the 2004-2005 school year, 76% of the students received free or reduced lunch, up from 57% in the 2001-2002 school year. Fourteen percent of the students receive services in

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). However, many more students come from non-English speaking homes, and while they may have graduated from ESOL services, they still struggle with reading and writing in English.


were placed together on one team. This study took place in the Life Science classrooms for the students who were not included in the International Baccalaureate team.

Participating Teachers

Ms. H responded to an advertisement to participate in the research and recruited

her colleague Ms. G. Both teachers worked together at Swiftwater for one year before the study, and both were in their second year of teaching during the study. Ms. H had completed an undergraduate degree in microbiology and then immediately entered teaching. By the time of the study, she had attained certification and lacked four courses to complete an M.Ed. Ms. G had an undergraduate degree in education with extensive coursework in biology. Both teachers valued having a strong science background and were taking a semester long in-service course in aquatic science during the intervention. They were excited about participating in the study and worked hard to accommodate study activities.


Ms. H and Ms. G each taught four classes of life science. I implemented the RAI

intervention in Ms. H’s first and second period classes and in Ms. G’s third and fourth period classes. This distribution was decided before school started, without any


Table 3.1

Number of Students by Race and Gender in Each Group.

RAI Group SIO Group

Female 60 60 Male 54 54 Asian 4 3 Black 47 47 White/Hispanic 53 55 White/non-Hispanic 8 5 Multiracial 2 3

Both groups included a number of students with special needs. Some of the students were receiving services in ESOL. Others were considered sufficiently proficient in English to function independently in the classroom, but came from a home where English was not the first language. Most of these students spoke Spanish, but a few spoke other languages. Others were classified as “special education” for cognitive or behavioral impairments. A few students were repeating seventh grade. As shown in Table 3.2, the largest difference between the groups was the distribution of special education students.

Table 3.2

Number of Students in Each Group with Special Needs.

RAI Group SIO Group

ESOL Services 11 17

Non-English home 58 57

Special Education 22 6


Focus Group

Twelve students were invited to participate in two small group sessions in order to look at their reading processes more closely. These students were intended to represent the high, medium, and low ranges of reading ability in each group, and provide a gender balance. Due to scheduling issues, the students had to be selected before the classes had completed the reading pre-test. In addition, two of the students withdrew from school in between issuing the invitations and the first small group session, and one did not return his permission slip. Three students had to be recruited at the last minute, and at that time only females were available. Ultimately, thirteen students returned permission slips to participate, but one of those withdrew mid-semester. The focus group was left with twelve participants: seven in RAI classes and five in SIO classes. These students

represented a range of nationalities, reading levels, and special needs, as summarized in Table 3.3, using a pseudonym for each child. Of course, such a description of


Table 3.3

Demographics of the Focus Group Participants

Group Gender Race Home


DRP Nat’l percentile

Special services

Genia RAI F Black English 65

Tess RAI F White English 37

Lilia RAI F White/

Hispanic Spanish 28*

Enzo RAI M White/


Spanish 17 ESOL

Ysabel RAI F White/


Spanish 17

Chantrea RAI F Asian Khmer 7

Darnell RAI M Black English 3

Andrea SIO F Black English 70

Olinda SIO F White/


Spanish 47

Josh SIO M White English 14

Sophia SIO F White a Pakistani



Dana SIO F White English 6.5 Special

Education *Lilia did not complete the pre-test or the post-test, so this score is approximate.

Procedures Related to the Interventions Intervention One: Science Investigation Only (SIO) Group


then used a microscope to make observations of an animal cell, a plant cell, and a bacteria cell. At the end of the activity, they answered their question using their observations as evidence. On the second day, students read a section in their book that described the structures of the three cell types. The third day, they were told that Agent Mildew at the Georgia Bureau of Investigations had collected some cells at a crime scene. He needed their help knowing how to tell if they were plant, animal, or bacteria cells. The students wrote a letter using their observations and the information from the text to tell Agent Mildew how to identify the cells. Similar Lab Cycles were conducted five times over the semester.

In addition to the Lab Cycles, the SIO groups read each of the articles that were discussed in the RAI group. The reading was introduced in the same way as in the RAI classes, then the students read the article independently, and answered any content questions that the RAI group were given. While the RAI group spent the entire class period working through the reading in small groups, the SIO classes completed the readings independently in about ten or fifteen minutes. The rest of the class period was spent on the same content in a different form, often by taking notes.

Intervention Two: Reading as Investigation (RAI) Group


The other eight involved readings that were either taken from their textbook, adapted from their textbook, or written by the researcher. Procedures from the original design, as well as the enacted design, can be found in the Appendices.

Goals. The primary purpose of the intervention was to help students develop the


The original design for the intervention included several features. Each reading was preceded by an introduction to the content that raised questions and provided students with a reason for reading. For example, before reading about the difficulty biologists have had with the classification of protists, students were shown a short video clip of a euglena swimming. They were asked to say if they thought it was a plant or an animal, and were then told that the reading would give them more information. In some sessions, the researcher would introduce a new idea about reading, corresponding to one of the four goals, and model it by thinking out loud in front of the class. Students would then read with a partner and think out loud while reading, or they would work in small groups and have a guided discussion of the text. Gradually, students would be moved to reading individually. Reflection, to stimulate metacognitive thought, was to take place in response to writing prompts for an individual “Thinking Log” and in large group

discussions. As the intervention took place, changes were made in the procedures to better address the needs of the students.

Teaching tools. Three specific teaching tools were used in the intervention. The

first was a coding system that allowed students to record some of their thinking as they read. This type of coding is a common strategy used in reading comprehension


In the sections of the intervention that focused on finding ways to understand confusing words and passages, a second teaching tool was introduced. This was a chart in which groups identified confusing places in the text and recorded how they went about resolving the confusion. Possible strategies for solving textual problems were listed on the page with the chart. Table 3.4 shows part of a strategies chart.

Table 3.4.

One Section of the Strategies Chart

Reading Strategies

1. Keep reading to see if the meaning gets clearer 2. Reread what is unclear

3. Reread the section right before what was unclear

4. Look at the pictures or diagrams 5. Chunk long sentences into small

pieces to read

6. Think about what you already know and see if that helps you understand




Question or



(Just write

the bold part)

What you figured



When I got into eighth, ninth, tenth grades, reading became a really difficult process because I had to read a lot for school. Each night I might have to read ten pages in my science book, fifteen pages in a book for language arts, and fifteen more for social studies. That’s an immense amount for me. I start to read, and I get down the first line, OK, second line, OK, third line, OK, but I just can’t concentrate after that. I’m reading but my mind is trying to distract me from the book. It’s the most frustrated feeling. I say, “OK, think,” and slap myself on the face, and go back to the beginning. Or I ask myself, “what have I just read?’ and I know nothing about what I just read. I might have read six pages and I know nothing.

I get totally uncomfortable when I try to read, and there are always other things I’d rather be doing than making myself uncomfortable and straining myself. I get embarrassed when I read, not because there’s someone else around but because I embarrass myself when I can’t do it. I say, “Jeez, you’re 15 years old and you can’t read a whole book, or even a chapter.” Why should I put myself in this kind of discomfort on purpose? Sure I have to do school work, but I can call up a friend to brief me on the chapter, or if I have to answer questions from the reading, I can skim, looking for the important words and write out the answers. I’m definitely smart in a lot of other subjects, but when it gets down to reading, there I am, in the thirteenth percentile. (Rosenthal, 1995)


difficulties and what ideas they might carry forward from the intervention to address them, but it also provided data to illustrate what ideas from the intervention students had appropriated.

Procedures Related to Data Collection Overview

Prior to the first laboratory activity, all students were pre-tested for expository

reading comprehension using the Degrees of Reading Power (Degrees of reading power, 2004) assessment. The students in the focus group also had their first think-aloud interview. Each focus group student came during his or her elective class on one of two days and participated in a shortened version of the Lab Cycle. During the reading and writing portions of the cycle, the students were asked to think out loud.

During the intervention, laboratory reports for students in both groups and learning logs and intervention work for students in the RAI group were collected and copied. I made field notes at the end of each teaching session.

Following the intervention, both groups were post-tested for expository reading comprehension on an alternate form of the Degrees of Reading Power assessment. The classes also took a test over the science content that was taught on intervention days. Students in the focus group again came on one of two days to participate in a shortened Lab Cycle that included thinking out loud. Following the Lab Cycle, the students were interviewed about their experiences in the intervention.

Additionally, the teachers were interviewed together in an hour long session about their experiences with the intervention. This information was primarily used in


interview, researcher field notes, and focus group think-aloud interviews were transcribed, and pseudonyms were given to all participants.

The Degrees of Reading Power Assessment

The Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) assessment is designed to measure

students’ reading comprehension of expository text. The passages in the DRP function as a modified cloze test. After a sentence or two that builds the meaning of the text, one word in a sentence is omitted. Four answer choices are given that fit syntactically, and readers can only select the correct choice if they understood the meaning of the preceding sentences (DRP handbook: J & K test forms, 2000). This has an advantage over typical reading comprehension tests that ask the test-taker to answer questions about a passage. In those tests, readers must be proficient in two genres: that of the passage and that of the test-questions (Schoenbach et al., 1999). The DRP is a more direct test of students’ ability to read the text.


a test, the DRP appeared to be the best measure available. This study used the J-6 test form as a pre-test and the K-6 test form as a post-test. J-6 and K-6 are recommended forms for the fall of seventh grade (DRP handbook: J & K test forms, 2000).

Issues Related to Testing

It is traditional in qualitative research for the researcher to identify researcher subjectivities and aspects of the methodology that affect the data. This type of discussion is not as common in quantitative work. However, I would like to discuss here the

limitations of using testing as a measure, even a test as thoroughly researched as the DRP.

First, I would like to observe that testing is a social interaction in many of the same ways as an interview. The test itself is a communication between the test-taker and the test-giver. Fecho (2004) describes a student taking a standardized test of English. Despite the fact that the student had demonstrated the ability to interpret difficult texts and synthesize information, he jotted short responses on the standardized test, such as “I think nothing about the story. I think there’s nothing important in it at all” (p. 113). Fecho writes this about his interaction with the student after the test:


Students can, and will, choose not to work very hard on a test because they do not value the test, or because they want to communicate something about themselves to the teacher or to their peers. In this research, one student in the RAI group developed a dislike for the researcher. While taking the post-test, he announced, “I’m tired of doing things for Ms. Wheeler-Toppen!” Another student, in the SIO group, particularly liked the

researcher and complained regularly to his classroom teacher that his class did not get to work with the researcher as often as other classes. For both of these students, taking the DRP was part of a relationship with their classroom teacher and the researcher. No amount of validity and reliability work on the test itself can control for the effect of these relationships on student performance.

In addition, any reading test necessarily involves issues of prior knowledge. While the passages on the DRP have been qualitatively analyzed to ensure that all of the needed prior knowledge is included in the passage (DRP handbook: J & K test forms, 2000), such analysis can never be fully complete. Each reader draws from a unique linguistic-experiential reservoir (Rosenblatt, 1994) when interpreting the words on the page. Those students who come from backgrounds most similar to the test-writers and passage analyzers, whose very positions place them in the middle class, are more likely to understand the passages as intended. For example, one passage on the K-6 form of the DRP talked about idioms. Those students who recognized the idioms in the passage from their everyday life were bound to understand the text more completely.


nature and the impreciseness of language, but these should be acknowledged in both quantitative and qualitative work.

The Think-Aloud Interviews

Think-aloud interviews were conducted with twelve students before and after the intervention. Seven students were in RAI classes and five were in SIO classes. In order to accommodate the school’s schedule, all of the students needed to complete the

interviews during two 1½ hour blocks. Therefore, the researcher could not conduct all of the interviews individually, and outside interviewers were recruited. The first set of think-aloud interviews were conducted by the researcher, another graduate student in science education, a clinical psychologist, and four adults participating in an alternate certification program in science education. The second set of think aloud interviews were conducted by the researcher, the clinical psychologist, one of the science education students from the first round of interviews, and three additional science education

students from the same program. All interviewers participated in a thirty minute training session prior to doing the interviews, in which they practiced prompting each other to think out loud while reading.


their prior knowledge before reading. Each child then read the article “Water in the Atmosphere” that was adapted from a middle school Earth Science textbook (Exline, Pasachoff, Simons, Vogel, & Wellnitz, 2002) and thought out loud. The interviewers were instructed to prompt for thoughts if the student stopped sharing. Earth science was selected because, in this school system, students do not take Earth science until eighth grade. Following the reading, the students were asked to continue thinking out loud while writing an explanation for what caused the cloud to form in the demonstration.

The procedure was similar in the think-aloud interviews that took place after the intervention. The researcher reminded students about the procedure for thinking out loud, and the students again practiced with a relatively easy text, this time about the discovery an ice mummy. Then students helped with two demonstrations of convection currents. First, hot water colored red was poured over ice water to demonstrate that the two do not mix. Secondly, a jar was set up with a heat source at the bottom and ice on top, and a drop of food coloring was added. Students observed that the food coloring traveled to the bottom of the jar and then rose up again. Students worked with an


Issues Related to Think-Alouds

Think-aloud-protocols (TAPs) involve asking participants to verbalize their thoughts as they perform a task. This gives the researcher a glimpse of the cognitive processing involved for that task, and allows comparisons between groups of people on the same task or the cognitive processes required for differing tasks (Ericsson & Simon, 1993).

Think-aloud-protocols have been used extensively to try to understand the

processes involved in reading comprehension. While many of the processes important to reading, such as decoding, take place outside of consciousness, good readers are aware of a lot of cognitive activity that takes place (Olson, Duffy, & Mack, 1984). In reading comprehension research, participants are not asked to give explanations for their

responses, as in the work criticized by Nisbett and Wilson (1977), but rather are asked to report on the content of their thinking as it happens. This provides a glimpse of what is present in working memory throughout comprehension (Ericsson & Simon, 1993; Olson et al., 1984; Whitney & Budd, 1996). This is not to say that the statements made by participants are direct reflections of their thoughts. The thought itself is not directly encoded into language (Olson et al., 1984; Vygotsky, 1962). In addition, the speed of thought is much faster than the speed of verbalizing those thoughts, and only one thought can be encoded into language at a time (Ericsson & Simon, 1993).


place between the listener and the speaker, and the social dynamics of that relationship affect the verbal report. Because the verbalization is not a direct reflection of thought, differences in TAPs between participants or groups may reflect differences in the text representation or differences in the verbal report (Long & Bourg, 1996; Whitney & Budd, 1996). For this reason, it is important to get converging evidence for the nature of a participant’s text representation (Long & Bourg, 1996; Olson et al., 1984; Whitney & Budd, 1996).

Procedures Related to Data Analysis

This study did not begin as design-based research. It was originally envisioned as a more traditional experimental design with qualitative and quantitative components, largely because as a young researcher, I thought this was what I needed to do. Then I entered the field. I found myself facing eight unique classes, filled with hundreds of individual students, with an inflexible research design that required me to follow my plan exactly and maintain strict control of the variables. I needed an understanding of

research that took learning needs of my students more seriously. Design-based research filled this need, and since I was already collecting the data that I needed for this

approach, I was able to transition to design-based research just four sessions into data collection.

For the design work, I used data collected from each session, as well as





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