Professors Receive $1.5 Million Award from the Institute for Educational Sciences

Jo Anne Kleifgen and Chuck Kinzer

Professors Jo Anne Kleifgen and Chuck Kinzer have received a $1.5 million, three-year award from the Institute of Educational Sciences (Department of Education), for their project entitled STEPS to Literacy: A Digital Writing Space for English Language Learners. Professor Kleifgen is member of the faculty in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies with an appointment in CCTE; Professor Kinzer is member of the faculty in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology and the Program in Communication, Computing and Technology in Education; both are affiliated with the Center for Multiple Languages and Literacies (Professor Kleifgen is Co-Director of the Center). The project begins September 1, 2009.

STEPS to Literacy will develop a technology-based intervention with a curricular approach to support and increase ELL students’ academic writing attainment in English. This intervention will specifically seek to improve the writing of English Language Learners (ELLs), who are emergent bilinguals, through multimodal, web-based software based on an anchored instruction/situated model that incorporates the best knowledge about teaching writing and the ELL adolescent population.

The project links two synergistic entities at Teachers College, Columbia University: the Center for Multiple Languages and Literacies (CMLL) and the Program in Communication, Computing and Technology in Education (CCTE), and will formatively test the intervention for usability with small groups of Latino children in New York City’s schools. Because school assessments nationwide rely heavily on school-based literacy in English, Latino students, especially recently-arrived immigrant students with little proficiency in English, pose a challenge to teachers and are at higher risk of school failure. The project's goal is to improve these students' academic writing, which is linked to general school achievement.

The STEPS to Literacy approach guides students in a thoughtful exploration of the world through the lenses of Science, Technology and the social studies (Economic, Political, Social and geographic), thereby incorporating school-subject content into web-based writing instruction. The approach is based on work Professor Kinzer completed before his arrival at Teachers College, and work previously-funded by the Kellogg Foundation (Kleifgen and Kinzer, 2006).

STEPS to Literacy will use “User-centered Design,” an iterative development focusing on the “end user” from the beginning. Content, technology, curriculum and instructional design experts will be consulted, and groups of ELL children and their teachers will test the interface at each iteration of the curriculum and web-based interface. Both quantitative and qualitative measures will be used in feasibility/formative testing and to match the academic writing standards in NY State standardized tests, which will be used to assess the intervention in four classrooms in project's third year. This process will help to ensure that the intervention matches curriculum goals and addresses knowledge required by tests of academic writing, thus setting the stage for large-scale testing that would occur in a subsequent project. s currently involved with mulitiple projects and collaborates with researchers from other higher education institutions and teachers in schools.