Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Working Together – Two Studies

During the past five years I have had the chance to work as project manager on two large, funded studies, and each was fun and gratifying in its own way.
Boys' Literacy
The first was a three-year Boys’ Literacy study in which we focused on the strategy “Help Make It A Habit:” a lengthy sustained, silent reading unit, enlivened by a bit of competition, rewards and various lessons.
This weekend I had the chance to read “Me Read? And How!” the follow-up publication to “Me read? No Way!” Both booklets look at ways to get boys more enthused about reading, and hopefully improve their ability as well. It was exciting to see our study quoted twice, including a write-up on our Reading Challenge activity under the heading “Try It.” The study was based on action research I had begun the year before, in which I was astounded at my students’ improvement in reading comprehension as a result of a fairly hands-off, student-directed silent reading project. The study findings were similar.
I can’t help but think back to a university programming course I took. It was a killer – a mixed bunch of us in a first year C++ course. Two thirds dropped it; the rest of us stuck it out. I ended up with a C (appropriate enough), by far the lowest mark I ever got on a report card other than in Grade 6 when Miss Roadhouse gave me a D in handwriting. But the teacher was excellent. He said, “You do not need a math background to be a successful programmer. To be get better at programming, you need to program.” So, to quote Malcolm Gladwell, I sure did not get my 10,000 hours in, but I am hopeful that my students will get enough time to read material that they enjoy, that they will in fact become good readers.
TLLP – WeBlog
I have written elsewhere in the blog about the study and also posted our final report. But I also want to mention a bit about the wrap-up conference held a couple of weeks ago. One of the best things about being in the TLLP world, is the respect shown to us as classroom teachers. I have been amazed throughout at the effort, imagination and hard work that went into making all aspects of the study process fantastic. The conference was so great that I honestly did not want to leave. Speakers included Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Annie Kidder and Samantha Nutt. And the chance to meet with other teachers and discuss first-hand their projects and findings was for me an absolutely compelling experience. My only regret was not being able to visit each and every booth. The event was something that will inspire me for a long time to come, both with concrete, classroom-tested ideas, and with the enthusiasm of all of the teachers involved.
I have to say though that even more inspiring was the group of teachers that I got to work with throughout this project. They were the most creative, hard-working and supportive team I have ever encountered. And that is from someone whose preference is rarely group-work oriented. (Yes, the term control freak may be used here, readers.)
I have tried over the last year to think about why I enjoyed the TLLP project so much. First, it never really seemed like work. Learning the technology was challenging but fun. Teaching the students about blogging and wikis was a blast because they were so engaged and produced such fine work.
Second, none of us tried to limit the work of the study in any way. Following the advice from the first TLLP conference, we allowed other people to participate, being inclusive, and broadening our focus and our learning.And also I have to say this was the first group I have ever seen where participants were not trying to over-structure, control, limit, and ultimately slow down the other group members. Everyone always seemed open to the idea of moving forward, applying our knowledge in our own worlds, and taking that learning as far as we wished. It was an outstanding experience. Thanks!

No comments: