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Reading For Understanding Across Grades 6-12: Evidence-Based Argumentation For Disciplinary Learning

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Project READI is a multi-institution, multi-disciplinary collaboration designed to develop instructional interventions that support adolescent learners in developing reading for understanding in three content areas – literary analysis, history, and the sciences and across grades 6 – 12. The Project READI approach focuses on reading for understanding as the capacity to engage evidence-based argumentation drawing on content from multiple texts. Texts are broadly defined as including the multiple modalities and genres of information sources typical in these disciplines.

The rationale for the READI focus is twofold. First, in the 21st century, citizens must be able to engage in reading to learn from multiple sources in academic, professional, and personal life. Doing so requires specialized reading, critical thinking, and communicating practices (Alvermann & Moore, 1991; CCSSO, 2010; Goldman, 2012; Goldman & Bisanz, 2002; Goldman, et al. 2016; Lee & Spratley, 2010; Moje, 2008; Moje & O’Brien, 2001; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008; Snow & Biancarosa, 2003). Second, national and international indicators show that current educational practices are not producing citizens with these skills (ACT, 2011; Carnegie Council, 2010; NCES, 2010; OECD, 2009).

Implementation of the READI Intervention is mediated by classroom teachers, who may have had only limited opportunities themselves to engage with evidence-based argumentation as a means of reading deeply, using multiple sources in their disciplines. Most are just beginning to confront the pedagogical issues in supporting students in this work.  The READI intervention therefore is designed for two levels of learners: teachers and students. At the teacher level, READI Teacher Networks function as Professional Learning Communities where teachers engage with texts, tasks, assessments and student work to construct flexible knowledge of how to support students’ learning to grapple with reading disciplinary sources to engage in evidence-based argumentation. This work is facilitated by Evidence-based Argument Instructional Modules that have been developed and tested by multidisciplinary design teams consisting of classroom teachers of literature or history or science, learning scientists, and experts in each discipline. The modules mediate the learning experiences of the students and serve as educative curricula for teachers.

Short-term, classroom-based studies of texts, tasks, and instructional supports reflected problems of practice and informed the design and implementation of modules. Absent instruction in reading-to-learn from inquiry tasks, most students struggled, perhaps because their epistemologies of reading did not include active sense-making. Short-term studies then compared forms of task instructions and language frames for modeling and scaffolding disciplinary reasoning from reading. Results informed design of tasks, activities, and supports for the modules.

Changing Expectations, Changing Outcomes. Focused implementations of the READI approach in literary analysis, history, and science at middle school and high school grade levels indicate that setting expectations for how and why we read for inquiry are critical to engaging students in reading for understanding. Students, as well as teachers, experience learning gains over multiple iterations of instructional cycles of the READI approach. A large-scale randomized control efficacy study of the READI approach in 9th grade biological sciences indicated significant effects of the intervention over traditional instruction on the same content.

Publications as well as examples of modules and instructional snapshots are being made available through the Project READI website:

Project READI website

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