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Center for Teaching and Learning

Focused Inquiry Groups (FIGs)

Reading Apprenticeship: 2010-2011

Active FIG members: Donald Plondke (Geography), Aldrian Estepa (Psychology), Mark Hauck (English), Marianna Matthews (English), Barbara Worthington (English), Deonne Kunkel (English)

After three days of Reading Apprenticeship professional development in Fall 2010 and implementation of RA in their Spring 2011 classrooms, the FIG members wrote reflective narratives that responded to the following questions.

  1. In what class did you embed RA? (Briefly describe your learning goals for the class. Briefly describe the students in the class.)
  2. What was the goal/inquiry?
  3. What did you do to achieve the goal or answer the inquiry?
  4. What did you collect to inform yourself on whether or not you were moving in the right direction?
  5. What did you see in whatever you collected?
  6. What do you make of what you saw?
  7. How do you see yourself proceeding next semester?  What will you change? 

FIG members’ final reports follow this summary.

After their beginning efforts to foster metacognitive conversation by embedding Reading Apprenticeship metacognitive and discourse routines into their classes, the FIG members reported at the final FIG meeting the following positive changes in students’ reading and behavior:

  1. Students’ engagement improved. 
  2. Students talked among themselves more and more easily.
  3. Students had more energy in class.
  4. Students had a better sense of where to start to accomplish the class work and goals.
  5. English instructors noticed improvement in students’ writing, though writing improvement was not necessarily dramatic.
  6. Content-area instructors noticed greater student independence in writing assigned term papers and improvement in the students’ term paper grades.
  7. Instructors appreciated the opportunity afforded by RA for formative assessment. Instructors felt they could better see what students knew before the test or paper, and, thus, intervene in more timely and effective ways.
  8. Instructors noticed that students’ comprehension was helped as they spent class time on reading, and the need to spend class time repeating facts, concepts, and instructions was reduced.
  9. RA helped the instructors and students focus on depth of instruction and comprehension versus breadth.
  10. As the semester went on, students moved from lots of discussion on reading process to substance.
  11. Instructors felt they were teaching the whole student.
  12. Instructors agreed that it is important to teach discipline-based reading, for the discipline-area instructors to help the students know how to use their texts in specific disciplines. (Reference reading vs content reading, for example.)
  13. Some instructors used core RA routines, Talking to the Text and Metacognitive Logs, in conferences with students. Use of RA helped to focus the one-on-one instruction and led to better preparation for tests/essays.

Despite the overall very positive experiences with embedding RA routines in their classes, the instructors voiced questions and concerns at the last FIG meeting of the spring:

  1. How do I balance content coverage demands with RA routines? Can RA really be embedded in such a way that material that must be covered can be covered?
  2. Am I spending enough time on metacognitive awareness at the beginning of the term? When do I transition the focus to content? Maybe this decision can be based on when readers are beginning to develop a reader identity.
  3. Should I give up successful strategies used in the past? For instance, should I use Capturing Your Reading Process instead of noting and categorizing barriers to reading? (This question was answered at the FIG meeting, as follows: Any trategy that encourages metacognitive conversation and helps make thinking visible certainly has value.  RA does not intend to override successful strategies used in the past.)
  4. How do I move the students from in-class reading engagement to completing reading as homework? (Answers brainstormed at the FIG meeting included: Maybe by assigning specific reading to groups to report on. Regular, strategic use of metacognitive logs. Holding students accountable.)
  5. It takes more than a semester to fully and successfully embed RA into one’s course. 
  6. Making thinking visible challenges instructors to consider next moves more strategically—not able to just pull out old lesson plans.
  7. In content areas outside of English, it can be difficult to have a method for determining development of individual students. 
  8. Would it work to use metacognitive log in class?

As the FIG mentor, I found these and other questions/concerns raised by the FIG members revealing, with implications for future RA professional development.  Some of my thoughts follow

  1. The questions/concerns evolved from whether there is time to embed RA into the classroom to what would be useful routines to embed.  The answer to this question ultimately has to be determined by the instructor after more experience with RA.  After more experience with Text and Task Analysis and with trying various routines over time—especially if they have the opportunity to share their experiences with other instructors in a FIG or other learning community--the instructors will begin to see how their content and goals can be supported with RA and which routines lead to the greatest impact when and with what content.

  1. Some of the questions/concerns raised are true inquiry questions, questions that require some reading about educational psychology and motivation and the like, as well as some further classroom research. (One such question, for example, is number 4 above.) The FIG mentor and colleagues can be helpful in directing instructors to useful reading and by helping to craft questions for classroom research—as well as by suggesting artifacts and documents that can be analyzed for insights into the questions.

  1. As I read through the FIG members’ reports, I noticed that the English instructors’ implementation of RA was sometimes less straightforward than that of the “content-area” instructors.  English instructors were more likely to attempt merging RA routines with strategies they had used before and they were occasionally inclined to see a hierarchy in routines and dimensions. Sometimes, this led to successful student learning outcomes; other times, the outcomes were less successful.  I suspect part of what is happening may be that English instructors are very familiar with strategies for fostering collaboration among students and student-centered classrooms—English classrooms traditionally revolve around small group work and class discussions far more than they rely on lecture and instructor presentations.  It seems important for the FIG mentor to be aware of the possibility that English instructors (and perhaps instructors from other disciplines that traditionally rely more on student-centered classroom activities and less on lecture/presentation) will merge RA routines with other strategies. While RA implementation doesn’t need to be “pure” by any means—RA draws on well-known teaching and learning theory and practice, after all—the FIG mentor should consider that instructors may have merged an RA routine with another practice if instructors new to RA find themselves frustrated with students’ progress.

All of the FIG members indicated they plan to continue their efforts to embed RA into their classrooms because the results from their initial attempts were overall successful.  Several members indicated an interest in continuing to participate in the FIG, something which, as FIG mentor, I fully support since the process of successfully embedding RA into our classrooms in ongoing.  Not only does it change with each text, but also each group of students.    As RA professional development is planned in the future, I recommend that experienced FIG members be empowered to continue attending FIG meetings.



  • Aldrian Estepa
  • Mark Hauck
  • Ingrid Hufgard
  • Svetlana Korzun
  • Deonne Kunkel
  • Michael Langdon
  • Marianna Matthews
  • Don Plondke
  • Dorothy Sole
  • Linnea Wahamaki
  • Kip Waldo
  • Barbara Worthington

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