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Delivery and Evaluation of Synchronous Online Reading Tutoring to Students At-Risk of Reading Failure

July 17, 2012
*This review was written by Rachel Schantz (uploaded via Jerrid Kruse)
Reference: Vasquez, Eleazar., Forbush, David., Mason, Lee., Lockwood, April., Gleed Linsey., “Delivery and Evaluation of Synchronous Online Reading Tutoring to Students At-Risk of Reading Failure”,  Rural Special Education Quarterly, 30(3), (2011): 16-26.

What is Known

In today’s society demands for higher literacy are increasing, however, for students who have difficulty reading, tutoring is not always available. Students who live in rural and low income areas may not have access to qualified providers. As students advance through grades, the need for literacy skills becomes more demanding and it is imperative that teachers address the reading disparity between students.

Direct instruction programs, such as Corrective Reading , have been documented as effective programs with remedial readers, non-categorical poor readers, and special educations students.  An example of this design includes; a) analysis of the content including identification of generalizable strategies to help students learn more efficiently, b) instruction designed to minimize vagueness for students, c) structured dialogue between the teacher and student, d) skills taught in a sequential manner e) organized instructional objectives to allow for systematic skill development throughout the programs. Direct instruction was one of the most effective reading programs for children.

One way to overcome this obstacle is to supplement classroom instruction with live systematic, comprehensive, and explicit online reading tutoring. The use of on-line tutoring allows flexible in instruction with the regard to materials, delivery to a variety of geographic areas, and a variety of times during which tutoring is delivered
Using online tutoring may be one way to meet student’s needs in locations in which high quality tutoring is not available

What this research adds

Research has found little difference between face-to face and online synchronous distance education. Tutors in this study were trained how to use, and did use the direct instruction series Corrective Reading. This research concluded that the on-line supplemental reading instruction led to a marked increase in the participant’s oral reading fluency. Across both online and face-to-face instructional settings, all tutors had a 100% match on the discrete behaviors cue, pause, and signal. Error correction procedures and were delivered approximately the same during both face-to-face and online tutoring sessions. An important aspect or tutoring literacy skills is the use of reinforcement, which was approximately the same during both on-line and face-to-face tutoring.

Implications for Practice

The implications for students who receive on-line supplemental tutoring services include; access to trained tutors who deliver scientifically proven methods of instruction, reading strengths and weaknesses can be assessed by on-line assessments, students can receive one-on-one high paced instruction, students participate in intensive practice and receive error correction, parents, students, administrators, and tutors self report that interactions are positive, and tutors are instruction in delivering researched-based instruction and given feedback on performance.


Universal design in the science classroom

July 6, 2012

*This review was written by Brenda Cornwell (uploaded by Jerrid Kruse)

Reference:  Cawley, J. F., T. E. Foley, and J. Miller (2003). “Science and Students with Mild Disabilities: Principles of Universal Design.” Intervention in School and Clinic 38.3: 160-71. Print.

What is known:

  • Subject matter education is basic to programming for students with mild disabilities
  • Science is flexible and has encompassing capability to address academic, social-personal, cognitive, and life needs of students when presented appropriately (currently lacking in general education standards)
  • Collaboration needed between special educators and science educators
  • Partnership between meaningful curricula and specially designed instructions for science is needed

What this research adds:

  • Universal design to guide science program that includes:  flexible curricula, multiple representations of information, multiple or modified means of expression and control, and multiple or modified means of motivating and engaging
  • Literacy dependence – the general approach of reading to learn science is in opposition to the available data relative to program effectiveness.  Hands-on approaches to instruction offer more diversity in activity
  • Flexible Curriculum should include the following elements:  content School district or teacher plays important role in selecting), level (age/grade), pacing (rate and amount of time devoted to a topic), mass (amount and type of knowledge presented), complexity, and sequencing (one component building on another)
  • Science for All Children – 4 essential components
    • All teachers have all the materials for all the grades
    • There are multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement
    • There are no significant demands for proficiency in reading and writing
    • There is an unlimited number of material formats and supplemental activities can be incorporated into the program

Implications for practice:

  • Use a combination of instructional practices that include curriculum and expected outcomes
  • Instruction should match the expected outcomes of the student
  • When developing instructional practices, relate them to the goal of the lesson.  May include: expository instruction, guided meaning, and problem solving
  • For example, a lesson may begin with explicit instruction and then be extended to included guided meaning through questioning that requires critical thinking.  From there, the teacher could draw on previous experiences and give the students a problem to solve related to the overall content objective.

Activity Matters: Understanding Student Interest in School Science

June 22, 2012
* This review was written by Amber Johnson (uploaded via Jerrid Kruse)
Reference: Swarat, S., Ortony, A. and Revelle, W. (2012), Activity matters: Understanding student interest in school science. J. Res. Sci. Teach., 49: 515–537. doi: 10.1002/tea.21010

This article discusses and researches the effects of student interest in science (content topic, activity, and learning goals) during different science lessons. Researchers search to identify sources of student interest or ways to create more interest in science.

What is known:

The most important part of a science lesson is the type of activity and content topic or learning goal causes little or no variance in student interest. The article addresses that this concept is not new, that students’ preference for engaging and hands on activities is widely recognized.

What this research adds

The article goes into further detail about why student interest is primarily directed at the activity portion of the lesson. The activities are likely to promote student interest and motivation because they allow the student to make decisions and gain a sense of autonomy and competence (Blumenfeld et al., 2006). The articles goes into detail about the lack of direction in creating activities appropriate for students and mentions that resources such as the Atlas of Science Literacy provide descriptions and concept map of what students should know and be able to do, but they do not provide information on how the material should be taught.

Implications for practice

What I took away from this was, that teachers need to be pedagogically knowledgeable and able to come up with appropriate activities on their own through repeated trial and error, experience, and collaboration with others. Although I am still a pre-service teacher, I have a hunch that I doubt many teachers would prefer to have any more scripted lessons where teacher decisions are completely eliminated and teachers are handed a curriculum with all decisions regarding content, activities and learning goals are already made.  This creates a robot of sorts and teachers are no longer teaching, they are merely a messenger relaying information to children instead of actively teaching and accounting for learner differences.

The article further reinforced to me that science lessons where students are mostly stationary and in their seats the entire time are not effective. Having students read a chapter from the book and answer review questions should not be a lesson that students do frequently. This type of lesson is not hands on or engaging for the student, which means they are likely not learning the material in a meaningful way. To teach science effectively requires thoughtful planning and preparation to create activities that will yield results and, as mentioned before, plenty of trial and error and reflection from the science teacher.

Concept Mapping in the Science Classroom

June 19, 2012

*This review was written by Brenda Cornwell (uploaded by Jerrid Kruse).

Reference:  Guastello, E. F., T. M. Beasley, and R. C. Sinatra. “Concept Mapping Effects on Science Content Comprehension of Low-Achieving Inner-City Seventh Graders.” Remedial and Special Education 21.6 (2000): 356-64.
What is known:
  • Students have repeated exposure to narrative text
  • Students may not receive explicit instruction from content-area text
  • Students with LD have difficulty understanding expository test patterns
  • When students are shown how textbook ideas are organized they have improved reading comprehension
  • Classroom teachers and students both benefit when concept maps are used along with a cognitive mapping plan that helps students organize, plan, and understand information from readings

What this research adds:

  • Using an instructional technique that includes graphic representations is a more effective teaching approach for comprehension of science content
  • Concept mapping allows teachers and students to translate ideas and concepts into a visual, graphic array, creating a format for organizing
  • When students contribute to a visual plan, they are using content knowledge in a way that helps them remember and categorize information
  • Students are actively engaged in analyzing text
  • Students build schemata for understanding
  • Scaffolding process
    • Initial modeling/direct instruction
    • Guided practice/guided discovery
    • Independent/application

Implications for practice:

  • Students with LD are far better equipped to comprehend science if they are given strategies that scaffold their learning
  • Concept maps could incorporate the different activities into one succinct format
  • The gradual release of responsibility can be achieved by first modeling & giving students direct instruction, then having the students work in groups and finally having the students work independently to apply their understanding
  • Activities at each level of the scaffolding process should be differentiated and offer students the opportunity to explore & expand on what is already known

The Men in White Coats

June 18, 2012
*This review was written by Allison Smith (uploaded via Jerrid Kruse’s account)
Reference: Dorrington, H., & Trushell, J. (2010). The men in white Coats: Teacher trainees’ perceptions

of scientists. At The Interface / Probing The Boundaries, 6067-81.

What is known: This 2010 research and article from the U.K. addresses the concern that elementary students hold a stereotypical perception of scientists that is being perpetuated by their teachers’ own stereotypical perceptions. American research on the public perception of scientists began in 1950’s and research concerning the public’s view of scientists and gender began in 1983. A study done where students grade K-5 were asked to draw a scientist.  Most students drew a picture of white, older men with beards and bald heads, wearing a lab coats.  Studies went on to show that no male students drew female scientists and in the rare occasion that female scientists were depicted were drawn by females students.  This study has been extended worldwide and yielded similar results. Out of 1102 drawings spanning 6 European countries, only 272 were of female scientists.  In 1997 a study was conducted to show that these stereotypes were most likely being perpetuated by the students’ teachers.  Researchers found that when pre-service teachers were asked to draw a scientist, 84% of the students drew male scientists.

What this research adds: The authors of this article conducted a similar study as the ones before in which 89 pre-service teachers were asked to draw two scientists with the option to include coloring and labels.  They found that among the 72 female and 17 male participants, there was a presence of recurring features in their drawings.  Participants were given the option to draw two scientists and this lead to a tendency for both genders to be present  in the picture although when females were included they were often depicted in what the researchers deemed a negative depiction (i.e. they were shown as a subordinate to the male scientists in the picture).   Pictures that showed two male scientists and pictures that depicted both scientists as caucasian were drawn by males. Regardless of gender, the drawings often included scientists wearing lab coats, lab equipment and scientific instruments, though fewer male scientists were depicted with facial hair.  Overall, this research shows that it’s not just young students who hold a stereotypical perception of scientists it’s the adults around them passing this perception on to their students.  It goes on to state that  in order to begin to drive out the current perception, teachers need provide a more diverse exposure about scientists as people their students.  But first, they need to think about their own perceptions and how that affects their students.

Implications for practice:  This article serves as a commentary on why it is important to educate oneself about stereotypical perceptions about scientists. It supports that science teachers should be teaching the Nature of Science, particularly ideas about who scientists are and where and how they work. We as teachers must be incredibly careful about the messages we send to our students, verbally and nonverbally concerning this topic. In order to do teach these ideas in an accurate manner, pre-service teachers and teachers need to first examine their own perceptions about scientists.  Teachers should be aware, reflect, and analyze their own perceptions.  Then compare their perceptions to the real world. This could be done by researching scientists in the teacher’s community as well as internationally and finding out about who scientists really are and what they do.  This can also be done by taking a critical look at how scientists are depicted in general media and classroom materials.  By examining their own ideas about scientists and taking action towards displaying a more accurate view, they can then have a lasting effect on how their students will develop their own perceptions.

Teaching Against the Mystique of Science: Literature Based Approaches in Elementary Teacher Education

June 16, 2012

*This review was written by Jennifer Harned and only uploaded via Jerrid Kruse’s account.

Reference: Hanuscin, D. L., & Lee, M.H. (2007). Teaching Against the Mystique of Science: Literature Based Approaches in Elementary Teacher Education. Annual meeting of the Association for Science Teacher Education. Retrieved from

What is Known

  • Science taught in schools is often from reading a textbook.
  • Students leave school thinking science is one way and science is only done by extremely intelligent people.
  • Many teachers don’t have experiences with nature of science in their education.

What this research adds

  • Emphasize the human side of science, introducing real work by real scientists.
  • Showing that scientists are just like us.
  • Confronting their misconceptions and stereotypes.

Implications for practice

A great way to start off the discussion and to see what students think about science and scientists is having them draw a scientist and share in class. By having a classroom discussion about their drawing, you can see the misconceptions of what the students think about science and a scientists. It can show you if students think it is only done alone or in a lab. A great activity that is done in the first week is to have students write a science autobiography to describe their experiences with science and make sense of what science is. This is a great way to incorporate learning about the nature of science along with writing instruction. This is also a great form of assessment for students. Having students draw a scientist in the beginning of the year and the end to see how their thinking about science and scientists have changed can help you see their understanding of the nature of science. Having the students also provide a reflection on how their changing has changed can give you a big insight.

The article discusses how children’s literature can build students understanding of nature of science. By reading books and connecting the books to scientists and the work that scientists do, students can see how scientists are creative, how they work in a lab and outside of a lab, and how they work collaboratively as well.

By posing questions to students during reading, they are able to promote their literature critical thinking skills as well as their science critical thinking skills. Some of the example questions given were “When and where did the scientist live? How did the scientist become interested in doing science? How did the scientist go about his/her investigation? How is what the scientist did like the things you do in science class? How is it different?” All of these questions help promote their comprehension of the text they are reading and build their knowledge of nature of science.

This article provided some great insight on incorporating reading and writing instruction in the elementary classroom. The article also included a list of literature to consider when using in the classroom. With the short time we have with students in the year and the amount of material that is required to cover can be overwhelming, especially for a first year teacher. By incorporating two subject areas together can help cover more material throughout the school year.

Teaching the Nature of Science in Early Childhood Years

June 15, 2012

In an effort to get this blog going again, I invited some of my graduate students to contribute. I believe connecting research to practice is an important task.  I hope readers find the reviews useful.  Please comment, I know they will enjoy reading your comments! 


Article Review by Anna, graduate student at Drake University.

Reference: Akerson, Valarie L., Buck, Gayle A., Donnelly, Lisa A., Nargund-Joshi, Vanasbri, & Weiland, Ingrid S. (2011). The importance of teaching and learning nature of science in the early childhood years. Journal  of Science Education and Technology, (20 )5, 537-549. DOI: 10.1007/s10956-001-9312-5

What is known:

  • Students continue to graduate high school with misconception regarding Nature of Science (NOS)
  • NOS is a key component of science literacy
  • Teachers who are not familiar with NOS through professional development or teacher preparation programs are not teaching it
  • Traditionally there has been some debate about when it is appropriate to begin teaching NOS to students. Researchers involved in this article argue it is never “too early” to begin teaching NOS to students.

What this research adds

  • Study done with kindergarten, first, second, and third grade students in a variety of urban and suburban schools
  •  Teachers taught NOS using contextualized/decontextualized instruction and explicit reflective instruction in order to determine the kinds of NOS understanding young students develop as result of this instruction.
  • Students were given a pre-test and post-test to evaluate their knowledge of NOS, work samples were also used
  • Research shows that young children can begin developing accurate conceptions about NOS
  • There were several different groups of students. The group that was followed for an entire year made the most gains in their understanding of NOS.
  • Some NOS ideas were more accessible than others. This study reports creativity, tentativeness, observation/inference, and empirical nature to be stronger than subjective and social cultural NOS ideas.
  • This study found that the third graders developed more informed conceptions of all NOS aspects.  However, this was identified as a limitation of the study…. Was it the age? Or a time issue (their understanding was built over a longer period of time).
  • Research shows either a combination of contextualized and decontextualized or simply contextualized NOS is effecting at improving NOS conceptions paired with explicit reflection instruction.

Implications for practice:

  • A great resource for teachers!   This article includes a table showing NOS concepts, objectives, and the activities researchers used to teach these concepts. This table would be a great resource for teachers wishing to integrate more NOS teaching into their teaching. The activities include things such as: children’s books, decontextualized activities (Oobleck, think tubes), and hands-on activities with content (creating an environment for meal worms).
  • NOS does not have to be something that is “added on” to the curriculum. Rather, it can be taught in a contextualized fashion with science content that is already being taught.
  • Young children are capable of learning NOS ideas- NOS instruction should start when all instruction begins!
  • Begin teaching more accessible aspects of NOS (observation, inference) and continue to more difficult ones (subjectivity, social cultural NOS).
  • NOS is more effective when integrated throughout instruction (as opposed to doing a unit or mini lesson).
  • Another thought: This article shared some quotes from students as they are developing their NOS ideas….In some cases it is hard to tell where their misconceptions lie. You may think a student “gets it”—– when really they don’t. For example, when asked about scientists being creative, one girl began talking about mixing colors and how they change. While this is creative, and a scientist may do something similar, through further questioning, researchers determined her perception of creativity was tied with that of artists. (Her misconception being artists are creative, scientists are not).