A First Attempt at Teacher Research

July, 2016


Students in their first year of college sometimes struggle to make sense of the complex readings they are assigned in college courses. While we know that student comprehension improves when students are asked to reflect in writing on their reading and that student-led discussion also increases comprehension and synthesis of information (Gipe), I am curious about what effect moving the reflection and discussion to a digital platform would have on student comprehension, synthesis, and writing.

The preferred method of  personal writing and discussion for students has become increasingly digital and social (Moore, et. al.); however, writing and discussions in First Year Composition courses often do not match the writing our students do in their personal lives. Furthermore, students are likely to need skills to communicate in digital platforms in their post-baccalaureate careers. My goal for this study is to determine the effect that written, digital discussions have on student comprehension and synthesis of complex readings.

Research Question:

How does online discussion of a complex reading affect student comprehension and  synthesis?

Sub questions:

            –How does digital discussion differ from face-to-face discussion?

-How is “complex reading” defined?

-What interventions for correcting and redirecting will teacher provide?

-How does initial reflection to a blogged audience differ from reflection written for a  teacher-only audience?

-How will comprehension and synthesis be assessed?

-How do blogged responses/discussions differ from face-to-face discussions in terms of higher level thinking?


Compare two sections of WRTG 121

Pre and post survey

What I am looking for:

– Look at the language and what I notice: voice, level of thinking reflected in discussion vs.blog

Sec A completes one part and then switches.

  1. Section A blogs a reflection of Text 1 and shares it online. Section B writes a reflection of Text 1 in Google Docs and shares with instructor only.
  2. Both sections are assigned small groups of four.
  3. Section A responds to at least one blog posts by each group member. Each member must reply to the responses they receive.
  4. Section B orally discusses their reflections in small groups.
  5. Section A blogs a final response discussing if and how their understanding of the text changed.
  6. Section B writes a second google doc as a final response discussing if and how their understanding of the text changed.
  7. Alternate assignments for Sections A and B with Text 2

Data Analysis:

  • Code initial blog postings and written reflections based on cognitive process dimension (revised Bloom’s Taxonomy) http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/effective-teaching-practices/revised-blooms-taxonomy
  • Code blog responses and replies (Section A). Video and code discussions (Section B).
  • Code final responses for both sections looking for growth/movement to higher order thinking skills.
  • Section 1: Compare coded reflections, pre and post blogged discussion
  • Section 2: Compare coded reflections pre and post verbal group discussion.
  • Compare two sections looking for lower vs. higher order thinking skills.


September – Collect Reading and Discussion Preference (Google Survey).

October – Analyze survey and assign groups for Text 1 based upon results (If I assign them based on their preference, won’t I be getting results based on their strengths, not on effectiveness of the


  • Get permission letters to students (using informed consent form from EMU)
  • Code responses and discussions
  • Assign Text 2

November- Analyze results from both Groups A and B and Texts 1 and 2

December and January – Write paper on findings



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