Trustworthiness

Have you done a good, thorough and honest job?

Have you tried to explore, describe or explain in an open and unbiased way?

Or are you more concerned with delivering the required answer or selecting evidence to support a case?

 

As someone who has worked as a journalist (and who will always consider herself one at heart, if only a little), there’s one word in the above questions that is extremely important to me: unbiased. Robsen says the required answers are yes, yes and no, respectively. I hope that I can fulfill that.

As a reporter, I sometimes had to report upon things with which I did not agree. Or I had to report upon things that had multiple sides and differing viewpoints. The greatest compliment I received one day was after I wrote a school board news article about McCormick County. In the same day, I received a phone call from the superintendent (who was on one side of the argument) and a call from a school board member (who was on the other side). Both were happy with my article and said they believed I fairly represented their issues.

I include this little tidbit that’s seemingly unrelated to my own project, because I want to stress how important I feel remaining unbiased is to me. Even if I firmly believe one thing, objectivity is important when sharing research, because otherwise no one will take you seriously. And if you remain objective, and share both viewpoints, when your research is complete, people cannot say that you were unfair and that your results are skewed.

New idea

Better get this down before I forget it! While I *know* my previous idea has been done before, some way or another, I’m not entirely sure about this one. Probably, but maybe less so? Dunno!

Does requiring a student to read texts for school based on an AR level/Lexile level affect student outcomes?

a. Does it encourage or discourage reading on the part of a student?

b. Does it affect test scores?

My theory:

The arbitrary number assigned by teachers (“You must do a report on a book with a lexile number of X.”) can often discourage students when reading, and makes it seem like a chore. It can limit what a student reads and sometimes make it more difficult to find books that are interesting to the student. Also, because AR and Lexile levels are often based on the lengths of words and sentences rather than the complexity of the stories/characters, I believe it doesn’t have much effect on overall test scores.

Literature review:

Finding sources pro- and anti- AR and lexile shouldn’t be difficult.

Method:

1. Using questionnaires and test scores from the beginning and middle and end of the school year, I would compare student responses and scores to see the end result.

Sampling procedures:

1. Using two to three fifth-grade classrooms, ask each teacher involved to equally split their class in half (either by random drawing, or an intentional equal split, with high and low learners in each group). Each teacher will have two groups – one that is required to read and report on materials based on a certain AR and/or Lexile level, and one that is not. In SC, because of MAP testing, we will be able to compare benchmark scores at three points in the school year.

 

Much of the rest of it would be the same as my other proposal, including the ethics involved (getting parental and school permission). I think this would be interesting to do at an elementary and a high school level, but it’d be smart to start out small before expanding to different age groups.

The backbone of the proposal

Purpose:

What is this study trying to achieve?

The goal of the study will be to assess whether reading environment and/or reading materials affect a student’s reading enjoyability (OK, so it’s not a word. It gets the point across, though.) in the classroom.

Why is it being done?

Theorized that the more a student enjoys reading, the more he/she will read, which will eventually affect test scores and future academic work.

Possible results?

When looking at students’ reading scores and interest, should the what and the where be a considerable factor in increasing levels?

Framework

My theory is that when students are being told “what” is good enough for reading (books versus magazines and graphic novels, for example) or when being forced to read in an uncomfortable, strict setting (i.e. desks), students are less likely to view reading as an enjoyable habit and more likely to view it as another school activity, to be set aside when the school day is done.

Related questions:

What is the standard operating procedure during “reading” time for fourth-grade students?

Do classrooms offer special seating areas for reading? (Comfortable spaces, such as bean bag chairs, comfy sofas, floor mats, etc.)

Do classrooms offer alternative reading materials, such as comic books and graphic novels, manga, magazines, video game guides, large-print books, etc.?

 Ultimate questions:

How big of a role does the environment play in a child’s willingness to read “for fun”?

How big of a role does the type of materials offered play in a child’s willingness to read?

 

Literature review - Finding sources that provide links between reading and test scores/future success. (I know from previous research that it exists!) On the flip side, if I find research that says otherwise (doubtful, but will keep an open mind), how would this change my proposal?

 

Methods

1. Obviously I will do the literature review looking for links between reading and academic success. This research has been done before, and I would not need to cover old bases.

2. The students and teachers would have individual questionnaires at the beginning and end of each school year to determine how the students feel about and respond to reading.

3. Ideally, four classrooms would be involved (not necessarily at the same school): a) a control classroom, where nothing changes. The primary form of reading will remain books, as usual, and students will read at their desks. b) an environmental change classroom – in the corner (or wherever is convenient) of the room will be a reading spot with comfy seating, places to lie down, etc. Standard reading materials will be offered. c) a classroom with the standard environment (desks only), but a larger variety of reading material can be offered, such as magazines, video game guides, manga, comic books, etc. Possibly partner with a local library to be able to offer a larger variety that can switch out with regularity. d) a classroom with both environmental and reading material adaptations.

 

Sampling procedures

1. The primary method of research would be the use of human subjects. I would need to determine a time frame that gets a good sample number, a location to get a large demographic variety, and a proper number of subjects that would allow the research to accurately represent the age group.

2. In order to make sure that any information gathered isn’t just determined by a specific teacher and/or class, ideally the research would continue for at least a 2-3 year period for the same age group, possibly switching up the teacher that manages each classroom style. That would increase the number of subjects for each group, as well as hopefully balance the amount of  teacher influence has on the results. It’d be my hope that this would increase the validity of the study.

 

Is this proposal fixed, flexible or multistrategy?

Honestly, I don’t know yet…it is an evaluative study. Because it’s a focus on processes, the book recommends a flexible design. Additionally, because action research would be in play – through the use of involvement from teachers and students – flexible case study would also be beneficial.

 

Ethics

When dealing with children for a research proposal, ethics is an important factor. As I’ve been trying to strengthen and narrow down my idea for proposal, I’ve had to give thought on how to involve children without issue.

The biggest thing I can think of is to request permission from the administrators, teachers and parents. Unfortunately, getting “approval” from the children themselves isn’t really an option (because the parents have ultimate say), but I can try to figure out ways to make them agreeable to participating in any student. Their feedback to any proposal would be key.

I would need to strongly research how other projects have undergone “in the classroom” studies to see how they manage and what is recommended when dealing with public school children.

As I consider more about my proposal, I’m really considering less reluctant readers and more reading methods…how much does environment and access to different reading materials play a part? I’m formulating an idea in my mind…but more on that later.

Methods

Looking at the three flexible design strategies, and here are my thoughts as they relate to my topic:

Case study – this would involve using research from many other locations, as well as incorporating test scores and more from a variety of locations. Comparing socioeconomic information to said test standardized test scores, etc.

Ethnographic study – It seems this would be a lot more narrow in scope, and could be very time consuming, but rewarding. In light of my preferred topic, I would ideally choose two school districts with similar socioeconomic standing with wide ranging test scores (preferably one failing, one not), to compare what they’re doing differently. Throw in questionnaires for students and teachers regarding what’s being taught/learned and how they feel they could improve.

That being said – a quantitative aspect could be required for this proposal. Getting those numbers and comparing them to socioeconomic demographics would be primarily data mining. Also, getting a general idea of how many students, regardless of socioeconomic status, are struggling from low literacy would potentially involve qualitative methods – pulling large amounts of data from a large variety of sources.

I could be wrong…

Purpose

I’ve always found purpose interesting. I’ve often begun research papers for school with one purpose in mind, and I discover that my purpose was not what I really wanted to discover. For example, as an undergrad I wanted to do an analysis of the history of our student newspaper. However, during my research I interviewed someone who was on the editorial staff of said paper, and discovered a whole world of race relations embedded in the text. (Students would print ads signaling where desegregated parties were being held because that sort of thing was frowned upon. It was by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever learned.) So the scope and purpose of my research went from chronicling a history to looking at the paper itself for evidence of racial divide from the papers inception up through the 70s.

I’ve done some research on reluctant readers before, and I’m very interested in finding out more. Perhaps because I know my son would have been a reluctant reader based on personality alone, but I have managed to foster a love of books in him. But I began slowly, and I always make sure I think carefully about what he likes and don’t limit him. I remember a paper I read once…a letter to teachers, really…that chastised teachers and parents for having rigid requirements on what children read. “The book must be 100 pages long and be at least a level 4.0 on the AR scale!” And when I read this article, my eyes opened up, because I was once guilty of doing that same thing to my child, and he wasn’t a fan of reading.

Fast forward a few years, and he has the most AR points in his class because he’s constantly reading. Whether he picks up a magazine, a graphic novel, a picture book or a novel, I’m just happy to see a book in his hand.

So when I first began my research into reluctant readers a few years ago, I began with people like my son in mind…how to affect those minds. And, honestly, they’re hard to research. There isn’t a lot of focus on them, and what focus I found was very limited.

But I found a wealth of information on reluctant readers with lower literacy, and my interest was caught. People like my son have a chance, because they have parents and/or teachers who offer encouragement. Often adolescents with low literacy are caught in a vicious cycle – they are forced to read on a level they have not yet achieved, and so therefore they hate reading (or are embarrassed to admit they have trouble with it). Therefore, their literacy levels never increase because they avoid reading, but the literacy level they’re expected to achieve continues to get higher. And this doesn’t affect just their reading test grades, but it can affect their lives later on, when they consider college or look for a job that doesn’t require manual labor.

Quite honestly, I’d like to make my life’s work focused on studying both issues. But for the purpose of this study, I’m going to have to pick one and stick with it, because otherwise the topic would be way too broad.

Analysis will be the most difficult part, but I’ll write about that later…

New year…new thoughts

OK, so it’s been awhile. After further study, I agree with my comments from a year ago – I definitely tend to the flexible, qualitative design of study when doing research. However, I can see where a multi-strategy would be beneficial.

My working title thus far is Identifying Causes, Effects and Solutions for Low Literacy in Reluctant Adolescent Readers. Of course, that could be shortened greatly, but it identifies the scope of my proposal.

So while developing some research questions regarding Reluctant Readers and Low Literacy, things I’d like to answer include:

What are some of the causes of reluctant readers?

How often is the issue related to learning disabilities or some other known diagnosis? (ADD, Dyslexia, etc.)

How much does poverty play into low literacy?

What are the ramifications of low literacy?

What are some solutions? What ideas have teachers, librarians and others found that help?