How do 4th and 5th grade students acquire the new literacies of online reading comprehension? Exploring the contexts that facilitate learning

Date of Completion

January 2008


Education, Reading|Education, Technology of|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




This study had three main purposes. First, it sought to examine the contexts under which students in a 4th and 5th grade combination classroom acquired the new literacies of online reading comprehension. Second, it looked at instructional scaffolding over three instructional units. Third, it investigated the learning outcomes that resulted from 15 weeks of online reading comprehension instruction. ^ The study was grounded in three theoretical frameworks: (1) a new literacies perspective (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004), (2) scaffolding theories (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976), and (3) inquiry perspectives (Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chin, 2007). It utilized mixed-methods and was conducted in two phases. The first phase was a qualitative examination of classroom learning contexts and scaffolding conditions. Recursive analytic methods (Angrosino, & Mays de Perez, 2000) were used to distill themes from the data collected. The second phase was a quantitative examination of learning outcomes. A pretest-posttest design was used to compare the achievement of students who received online reading comprehension instruction and a control group who did not. ^ Six themes emerged from the qualitative analysis of classroom learning contexts. These themes described the participation formats, learner interactions, and instructional practices that appeared to prompt the acquisition of new literacies. Three additional themes emerged from the analysis of scaffolding conditions. These themes indicated that: (1) the teacher's role changed, (2) students scaffolded each another, and (3) the transition from teacher scaffolding to students teaching each another was swift. This suggests there was a shift away from the teacher as the primary instructor toward opportunities where students became teachers. ^ Quantitative analyses indicated that students' gain scores were significantly different on a measure of online reading comprehension. Though students in the experimental group outperformed their counterparts on the composite score, two tasks that required high-level critical evaluation, showed no differences. Analyses of rubric-scored inquiry projects indicated that the experimental group had greater gains in content knowledge but no significant differences were apparent on the concept map assessment. Additional research, guided by the results of this investigation, may lead to a deeper understanding of the relationship between new literacies acquisition and content learning. ^