Evaluating the effect of my intervention on student learning
This year my inquiry has focussed on supporting my students to monitor their own understanding of a text. At the start of the year, I noticed that my students would continue to 'read' or scan their eyes along a text, even if they did not understand what was happening. They did not consider stopping or employing a strategy.
I noticed that this was particularly the case when they encountered lengthy or challenging texts, or when they were required to read several different texts in a short time period - such as on a PAT test.
At the start of the year
My students PAT scores did not match up with their reading age or in class behaviour. I noticed that my students could unpack a complex text well with scaffolding, such as the conversation that occurs in a group reading lesson. They also performed well in running records as the nature of the test requires the students to re-read a text and verbally answer questions without a time limit.
My students also struggled with twist endings, unreliable narrators or subtle details that changed the meaning of a text. In fact, they would often reject information that contradicted the understanding they had formed about a text.
Starting the Intervention (mid term 3)
Due to two lockdowns and a change of literacy class for a term, my intervention began in person mid term 3, although I did apply it in my online tasks from the start of term 3. It was fantastic to see how quickly the students picked up on the basic idea of monitoring their understanding of a text.
We started off very simply by reading a chunk of text and discussing how we found it. After a couple of weeks, my students were able to share aspects of the text that challenged their understanding.
"I got the main ideas but their were a few words I didn't understand"
"I kinda drifted off in the last sentence"
"I was fine until [reads sentence]"
"I couldn't imagine the opening, but I understood the second paragraph"
This opened up a lot of discourse about visualising what you read oppose to letting your eyes run over the words. It also meant that we could start to tackle the problems that they identified by applying strategies - to decode tricky words or to re-read to spot the subtle clues in a sentence. From here we created a rating system (out of 5) to help us quickly rate our level of understanding. This lead to the idea that while we might kind of understand a text at a '3', we would get the most out of it at a 4 and 5. As such, a score of 1,2,3 required action; comprehension strategies.
Final Data Collection (mid term 4)
By term four we were focussing on applying strategies to support our understanding, although we still practiced monitoring our understanding regularly. As a checkpoint, I took a small group of students out for a mini test, where I got them to discuss their thinking and understanding when they answered comprehension questions.
One of the most obvious areas of growth was in the students ability to make sense of unfamiliar vocabulary. The group all demonstrated the ability to identify unknown words and employed a strategy/strategies to make sense of it.
Another area of growth was the students ability to make inferences. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of students who were able to pick up on subtle clues and identify the deeper meaning of a text. This enabled many of them to make 18 months progress in their running records.
The PAT results also demonstrated solid gains for the students who participated in eight weeks of the intervention. I unpacked the results in detail in this blog post. 7/11 of these students made more than expected progress on PAT, with three students making more than double the expected progress. 3/4 students who made less than the expected progress are high achievers, whose scores are already higher than expected for their age.
To conclude, was the intervention successful?
Yes. The intervention did support the students to monitor their understanding of a text. From in class observation, it is clear that all of the students improved their ability to self-reflect and discuss their understanding of a text. The students who were present online or at school for the majority of the eight week intervention were also able to apply strategies to increase their understanding.
However, the intervention was greatly limited by the amount of time that we had together in class - is eight weeks really long enough? And did the intervention lead to improved achievement outcomes? It is difficult to attribute all of the students gains to the intervention, when there were two lockdowns and the students spent a whole term in a different class!
The students learning outcomes were improved, but there is much to consider in terms of my teaching and how I will alter this intervention in the future.