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
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
- In what class did you embed RA? (Briefly describe your
learning goals for the class. Briefly
describe the students in the class.)
- What was the goal/inquiry?
- What did you do to achieve the goal or answer the
- What did you collect to inform yourself on whether or
not you were moving in the right direction?
- What did you see in whatever you collected?
- What do you make of what you saw?
- 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:
- Students’ engagement improved.
- Students talked among themselves more and more easily.
- Students had more energy in class.
- Students had a better sense of where to start to
accomplish the class work and goals.
- English instructors noticed improvement in students’
writing, though writing improvement was not necessarily dramatic.
- Content-area instructors noticed greater student
independence in writing assigned term papers and improvement in the
students’ term paper grades.
- 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.
- 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.
- RA helped the instructors and students focus on depth
of instruction and comprehension versus breadth.
- As the semester went on, students moved from lots of
discussion on reading process to substance.
- Instructors felt they were teaching the whole student.
- 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.)
- 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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.)
- It takes more than a semester to fully and
successfully embed RA into one’s course.
- Making thinking visible challenges instructors to
consider next moves more strategically—not able to just pull out old lesson
- In content areas outside of English, it can be
difficult to have a method for determining development of individual
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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