A2i: Assessment to Instruction Design Study
Watch Dr. Carol Connor provide a webinar overview of the science and instructional keys to individualizing instruction to improve children’s literacy skills.
Our project is pursuing an iterative design, development, and testing process in two phases, based upon the principles of design-based research that are used in the Learning Sciences field. (Fishman, 2004; Richey & Klein, 2007). An overarching goal of design-based research is to develop interventions that are responsive to practical needs and that draw from and contribute back to theory (Brown, 1992). Work conducted in this manner, which is akin to engineering design (Collins, 1992; Kelly, 2003) is more likely to lead to innovations that are usable in real-world contexts.
There is strong evidence that working together with school personnel early in the design process helps to reduce problematic or wrong assumptions about classrooms that can lead to designs that work so long as the developers are there to support them, but not on their own and not at large scale (Fishman, Marx, Blumenfeld, Krajcik, & Soloway, 2004). We will also apply the methods of usability evaluation to our work (Nielsen, 1993; Nielsen & Mack, 1994; Rubin, 1994; Squires & Preece, 1999), which allow the developer and researcher to determine that the components of the intervention are operating as intended and that users understand how elements operate. Participatory design is a technique that blends design-based research methods and usability research.
One of the most cogent descriptions of design-based research is by Cobb, Confrey, diSessa, Lehrer, and Schauble (2003), who argue that such research is rooted in “small-t theories”, as opposed to “capital-T Theories” (such as Constructivism). The “small-t theory” guiding our work is: the greater the fidelity with which teachers are able to match individualized instruction for students to recommendations from A2i, the greater will be student literacy learning. In conducting design-based research, the procedure involves iterating between design and testing in order to continually refine the intervention towards the goal established by the theory. A number of sub-theories may also be at play with respect to individual design elements, guiding designers with respect to how particular elements of the intervention function with respect to the goal. For instance, we expect that the planning tools will be instrumental in guiding decisions about individualization, and that in turn there are specific elements within the classroom view (grouping tools, sorting tools, etc.) that we intend as helpful. In design-based research, we would expect that both our design instances and our “small-t theories” about how those designs function would evolve over time, informed both by usability and outcome data generated through our iterative design experiments with the A2i system.
Although it shows potential as an effective way to support teachers’ implementation of effective differentiated reading instruction, in its current form it is not feasible for educational leaders (e.g., literacy coaches, principals, district administrators) and teachers to use A2i without substantial amounts of researcher support. Therefore, the current design and development study aims to develop a usable and scalable version of A2i for use by literacy teachers and educational leaders.
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