This week, the Institute of Education Sciences announced that a multi-institution collaborative team consisting of researchers, practitioners, and developers from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University, WestEd, Inquirium LLC, Illinois and California schools will be one of six teams participating in its new Reading for Understanding Research Network. The UIC-led project, “Reading for Understanding Across Grades 6 through 12: Evidence-based Argumentation for Disciplinary Learning,” focuses on improving students’ abilities to carry out the complex comprehension processes of constructing arguments from multiple text sources within the content areas of history, science and literature. The team will conduct four types of studies over the course of the project: 1) Basic research to examine underlying processes and identify potential targets for interventions to improve reading comprehension; 2) The development of classroom-based interventions to increase comprehension skills in grades 6 - 12, including software to support reading comprehension in the content areas, (3) Studies of the social and emotional dimensions of learning to comprehend complex content area texts and (4) Efficacy studies of the developed interventions.
The Principal Investigator for the project is Dr. Susan R. Goldman, Co-Director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute and Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Psychology and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Carol Lee, Professor of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University; Anne Britt, Associate Professor of Psychology at Northern Illinois University; Cynthia Greenleaf, Co-Director and Director of Research of the Strategic Literacy Initiative; and Matthew Brown of Inquirium LLC serve as Principal Investigators at their institutions. Key members of the research and development team include Marianne George, Thomas Griffin, Kim Lawless, Jim Pellegrino, Diane Puklin, Josh Radinsky, Taffy Raphael, Cynthia Shanahan and Jennifer Wiley at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Joseph Magliano and Brad Pillow of Northern Illinois University; George Hillocks (emeritus) and Margaret Beale Spencer of the University of Chicago; Eric Baumgartner and Ben Loh of Inquirium; Peter Hastings of DePaul University; Larry Ludlow, Boston University; Jodi Davenport, Gina Hale, Cindy Litman, Ursula Sexton, and Thomas Hanson from WestEd. Educators with classroom and district-level content teaching expertise comprise the remainder of the team.
The IES Network represents a $100 million, five-year investment in research – practice partnerships that will produce instructional programs aimed at preparing citizens with the reading skills they need to be successful in school, work, and society. It is a response to data from national assessments and employers indicating that the majority of many high school and college graduates lack even the most basic literacy skills. Unlike more typical educational research programs, the six teams funded under the IES Reading for Understanding Network will work together through the active exchange of findings, strategies, and brainstorming that will enable the Network as a whole to engage in rapid development of instructional strategies, technology, curricula, teacher professional development, and assessments to enable all students to read with understanding. Central to the success of the initiative is the full participation of teachers and other school-based personnel in the design, implementation, and interpretation of the research studies and interventions.