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Graphic Organizers and Higher Order Thinking Skills with Nonfiction Text

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Karla Suarez
Abstract:
Fifth grade reading scores in one school are significantly lower when compared with those in other districts in the state. An analysis of the fifth grade reading Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores revealed that 60% of the exam is composed of nonfiction text and that 38% of the test comprises open-response question and critical thinking questions. This project study sought to identify which graphic organizers and higher order thinking skills would aid in student test scores in a district impacted by poverty and a high level of second language learners. The foundation of this project study is predicated on cognitive theory, constructivism, and the use of graphic organizers. The method used in this project study was a 3-round Delphi method, a qualitative approach to understanding which graphic organizers best enhance critical thinking skills during nonfiction reading. Three rounds of surveys were administered to an expert panel of educators. The data analysis strategy used was a Likert type scale to achieve consensus among the participants regarding the most effective graphic organizers. The results of the study revealed consensus on 12 graphic organizers deemed most effective for direct instruction of higher order thinking skills. The data, gathered from participating teachers' responses regarding their use of graphic organizers, were used to create a teacher's resource guide showing how to integrate metacognitive strategies into graphic organizers for comprehension of informational text. This resource guide can promote social change by enhancing students' critical thinking skills and academic achievement, leading to improved motivation and a greater likelihood of becoming lifelong learners.

T able of Contents

S ection1: The Problem

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

1

Introduction

................................ ................................ ................................ .....................

1

Definition of the Problem

................................ ................................ ..............................

2

Rationale

................................ ................................ ................................ .........................

8

Evidence of the problem from the professional literature

................................ ........

10

Definitions ................................ ................................ ................................ .....................

13

Significance ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................

1 3

Guiding/Research Question

................................ ................................ ..........................

17

Review of the Literature

................................ ................................ ...............................

17

Implications ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................

26

Summary

................................ ................................ ................................ .......................

28

S ection 2: The Methodology

................................ ................................ .............................

29

S ection 3: The Project

................................ ................................ ................................ .......

47

Introduction

................................ ................................ ................................ ...................

47

Description and Goals

................................ ................................ ................................ ...

47

Rationale

................................ ................................ ................................ .......................

49

Review of the Literature

................................ ................................ ...............................

52

Implementation

................................ ................................ ................................ .............

64

P otential Resources and Existing Supports ................................ ...............................

64

Potential Barriers

................................ ................................ ................................ ......

65

Proposal for Implementation and Timetable ................................ .............................

66

ii

Roles and Responsibilities of Student and Others

................................ ....................

66

Project Evaluation

................................ ................................ ................................ .........

67

Implications Including Social Change

................................ ................................ ..........

68

Local Community

................................ ................................ ................................ ......

68

Far - Reaching

................................ ................................ ................................ ............

70

Conclusion

................................ ................................ ................................ ....................

70

S ection 4: Reflections

and Conclusions

................................ ................................ ............

72

Introduction

................................ ................................ ................................ ...................

72

Projec t Strengths

................................ ................................ ................................ ...........

72

Recommendations for Remediation of Limitations

................................ ......................

73

Scholarship

................................ ................................ ................................ ....................

74

Project Development and Evaluation

................................ ................................ ............

75

Leadership and Change

................................ ................................ ................................ .

77

Analysis of Self as Scholar

................................ ................................ ...........................

78

Analysis of Self as Practitioner

................................ ................................ .....................

79

Analysis of Self as Project Developer

................................ ................................ ..........

81

The Project’s Potential Impact on Social Change ................................ .........................

82

Implications, Applications, and Directions for Future Research

................................ ..

83

Conclusion

................................ ................................ ................................ ....................

84

R eferences

................................ ................................ ................................ .........................

85

A ppendix A: The Project

................................ ................................ ................................

102

A ppendix B: Survey Round

1 :

................................ ................................ .......................

15 2

iii

A ppendix C: Survey Round

2 ………………………… ………. ………………………. 15 3

A ppendix D: Survey Round

3 …… ………. ……………………………………………. 15 7

Curriculum vitae ……………………………………………………………………….. 161

1

Section 1: The Problem

Introduction

In thi s doctoral project I examine d

the effects of incorporating

graphic organizers into students' critical thinking skills and comprehension of nonfiction text s

in order to improve student achievement on standardized assessments.

Graphic organizers

are visual aids designed to help students organize information through

comparing - contrasting, classifying, showing relationships and summarizing (Gallavan, 2007).

The purpose of this project study was

to create a curriculum resource guide for classroom teachers that shows how

to explicitly integrate metacognitive strategies into graphic organizers

for greater comprehension of nonfiction

text

as a factor that may improve student performance on Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) .

A ccording to Gill, Kosti w , and S tone (2010)

when teachers integrate new strategies into their teaching ,

student achievement on standardized assessments

improve s . Hawley (2002) state d

that when teachers have common strategies and commitment to high expectations, they can “ enhance student performance and minimize disparities in student achieve ment ”

(p. 24) . If teachers can improve students' in - depth understanding of nonfiction text through graphic organizers, student achievement

might be

raised.

Duke (2004) state d

that it is vital that educators prepare students to be able to read and interact

with nonfiction

text , including , for instance,

billboards, advertisements, and the backs of cereal boxes,

as early as possible. Yet, according to Parkes (2003) ,

“ R esearch shows that until very recently, nonfiction texts have played little or no part in th e early years of literacy instruction ”

(p. 19). Abdulkader, Gundogdu, and

Eissa (2009) stated that comprehension is

the cornerstone of reading nonfiction and as a lifelong skill.

2

Abdulkader et al. found that many students were un able to comprehend what they had read and were could not

assimilate much information or retain information from a text.

This finding suggests a need to include

specific instruction targeted toward increasing student comprehension of nonfiction

content.

T he goal of this project study wa s to provide a resource guide for fifth grade teachers on how to include graphic organizers when teaching non fiction or informational text. The resource guide was produced by synthesizing

the research on graphic organizers, higher order thinking ski l ls ,

an d nonficti on reading into a concise framework. Instead of spending valuable time looking in multiple sources t eachers can benefit by having t he graphic organizers and cognitive strategies contained in one resource guide.

“ A more useful practice is to organize strategies to provide a framework for effective instructional design ”

(Marzano, 2003, p. 81).

The purpose of including the direct instruction of graphic organizers will be to aid student comprehension of nonfiction

t ext and to enable students to analyze, compare and contrast, synthesize, categorize, classify ,

and summarize content material.

The next section define s

the problem that has prompted this study. T he local setting and the larger population affect ed by the p roblem are

identified. Finally, the rationale for selecting the problem is

explained.

Definition of the Problem

T he federal guidelines set forth under NCLB

require student

testing in the content areas of math and science as well as reading ; therefore since

1998, every student from third grade through 10th

grade has been required to take the Colorado state standardized

3

test, the

Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). The CSAP assessment is based on state defined learning standards for the areas of reading, writing, math, and science.

“ Informational reading and writing are curriculum demands

at many grade leve ls, yet they present challenges and issues for teachers and students alike ”

(Bass & Woo, 2008, p. 571) .

Under

state testing requirements, stud ents are expected to be able to comprehend fiction and nonfiction

texts in order to demonstrate recall, analyze texts, and apply critical thinking skills under timed constraints.

In Colorado, the reading portion of the standardized exam contains a signif icant amount of nonfiction text. At the fifth grade level the

CSAP

is composed of 60% nonfiction

text ( Colorado Department of Education 2008 c ). Students are required to show their comprehension of nonfiction

in a variety of ways on standardized exams.

They must

not only bubble in answers

but

explain their thinking and complete graphic organizers to show their thinking process and comprehension of the text. According to the CSAP item map, provided by the Colorado Department of Education, students are ob liged to synthesize, categorize, classify ,

and summarize information from nonfiction

text (Colorado Department of Education, 2009 ). Analysis of the fifth grade 2008 item map for the CSAP reading exam revealed that 38% percent of the fifth grade level CSAP test is composed of constructed or writt e n

responses. The exam poses questions

that require students to write their answers out in sentences and organize the information into a graphic organizer, as opposed to selecting a response to a multiple - choice ques tion. T o demonstrate comprehension of the text on the CSAP, students are asked to summarize, identify similarities and differences, infer, differentiate, draw conclusions, and organize information.

4

Rothman (1995) state d

that constructed responses assess h igher level thinking skills. Given that ,

the CSAP requires substantial writing,

nonfiction reading and graphic organizers need to be an emphasis of daily classroom instruction. “ Without specific training in the art of expository reading,

students will find

expository texts alienating and difficult to read ”

(Fang, 2008, p. 246). The percent age

of fifth graders in the Denver Public Schools District

who scored

proficient ly

on the reading CSAP exam was only 40% ( Colorado Department of Education, 2008 b ) . T he fifth grade Colorado standardized test emphasizes

students being able to show their learning through explanations of their thinking processes with constructed responses to nonfiction

text.

The results of the CSAP assessment are published throughout

the state newspapers ,

the Colorado Department of Education website ,

and on the Denver Public Schools homepage, to name a few places. CSAP results are also the major factor for gauging schools' prowess used by the Colorado statewide system of a ccountabilit y an d s upport (Colorado Department of Education, 2010).

“ In recent years, policy makers have used test - based accountability to provide the pressure necessary to force change. The logic behind such a policy is that testing will pressure students into wor king harder and teachers into teaching better ”

(Jones & Egley, 2007, p. 233). Because

60% of students at one Denver school were

below proficient on the state standardized reading test ( Colorado Department of Education, 2008 b ), t here was

a need to know whi ch strategies would help raise standardized reading test scores. The problem is not limited to just this one school. As shown in Table 1, D enver Public Schools fifth grade reading scores are significantly lower

than others across the state .

T he highest pr oficiency rate achieved on the fifth grade reading CSAP for any of the

5

districts was 71% , thus demonstrating

there is room across the state for improvement on the scores for the reading CSAP.

Another issue facing the Denver Public Schools district is the large number of minority or Hispanic students served by the district. The students are second language learners from low - income backgrounds and face many challenges during their academic career s. The 490 students the school serve d in 2008

we re 98% Latino and 85.6% receive free or reduced lunch. It is a Title 1, urban neighborhood school, with no busing provided so students must either walk or be driven to school. A Title 1 school is a school wi th a high percentage of low socio - economic students and is eligible to receive federal funding to help provide academic support for the at risk student population (U.S. Department of Education, 2009).

6

Table 1

A Comparison of Fifth Graders Scoring Profi cient on the Reading CSAP

Colorado School District

Percent Proficient

Denver

40%

Greeley

54%

Englewood

55%

Adams 12

59%

St. Vrain

59%

Boulder

61%

Colorado Springs

61%

Cherry Creek

63%

Jefferson County

64%

Littleton

66%

Douglas County

71%

Note. Colorado Department of Education, 2008d.

According to a report by the Department of Political Science at the University of Denver, Latino students consistently do not perform as well on standardized tests as their white peers ( The State of Colorado's Racial and Ethnic Minorities March 2002 Participants in the Seminar on Minority Politics). In 2008 the Colorado Department of Education (2008a) stated, “ It should be noted that a significant gap between the performance of white and minority students persists across most tests . ”

Table 2

below offers

data showing the discrepancy in achievement on the fifth grade CSAP Reading assessment between white and minority students at a local Denver school. The table also

7

compares the growth ach ievement of students receiving free and reduced lunch es

with students who do not receive free and reduce d

lunch es . The table compares the school growth rate with the district and state growth rates.

Table 2

Fifth Grade CSAP Reading Growth Summary Over 3

Years

2007

2008

2009

2007

2008

2009

2007

2008

2009

School

District

State

Median Growth Percentile

Grade 5

63

70

73

50

55

55

50

50

50

Minority/

non

57/ -

62/ -

53/ -

44/56

48/60

49/56

46/53

47/52

48/52

FRL/Non

57/ -

61/ -

53/ -

43/54

48/58

48/54

45/53

46/53

46/53

Percent Catching Up

Grade 5

37

52

50

29

35

34

33

38

37

Minority/

non

36/ -

51/ -

35/ -

25/37

32/43

30/38

28/40

34/44

33/41

FRL/Non

36/ -

49/ -

32/ -

24/37

31/42

30/38

28/40

33/45

32/43

Percent Keeping Up

Grade 5

-

-

-

74

80

79

77

79

78

Minority/

non

57/ -

75/ -

66/ -

63/84

67/86

68/85

66/79

68/80

70/80

FRL/Non

54/ -

76/ -

67/ -

60/82

65/82

66/83

64/80

66/81

67/81

FRL = Free/Reduced Lunch eligible or students of poverty

Note. Colorado Department of Education, 2010.

The data from these tables show that the local Denver school has a high percentage of minority students and students of poverty. The data also show

the discrepancy in achievement growth between minority students and nonminority students at the district and

state levels

and

between students receiving free/reduced lunch and those who do not. The

percentages of growth tend to be low, below 60% in most cases ,

although

the

8

barriers of language and poverty

may have some negative effect on achievement,

research ha s shown teachers who use best practices

do improve student performance (Marzano, 2003, p. 32).

Along with data from the CSAP, the district uses professionally created exams to monitor student progress towards state assessed standards. These exams suppor t that fifth grade students are not consistently applying higher order thinking skills on constructed response and multiple - choice questions. The students' performance show s

an overall weakness in the students' abilities to synthesize, categorize, classify ,

and summarize. Referring back to the data from Table 2 ,

standardized exams are showing there is a deficit at the fifth grade level. This is an issue the district must face and improve on immediately. One focus would be on how teachers' instructional prac tices include strategies that would improve how students are performing on assessments.

Rationale

Evidence of the Problem and the Local Level

Students need to be able to employ such strategies in order to show comprehension of the text through written

responses in various forms such as on completing graphic organizers, synthesize, categorize, compare, and

contrast as opposed to solely bubbling in their response to a multiple -

choice question.

Teachers can make a difference in student achievement level s. By explicitly teaching students the strategies they need to improve comprehension, student achievement can be improved as a result. “ As the research on student achievement has increasingly draw a positive link with the quality of teacher instruction ”

( Gill, Kostiw, &

9

Sto ne, 2010, p. 49). Thus, teachers are integrating new strategies into their teaching in order to increase levels of student achievement on standardized assessments.

In 2007, the Denver Public School administration closed seven schools ba sed on their low performance and/or enrollment levels

and has continued to do so every year since . In order for a local Denver school to continue to operate and to best serve their student population, the staff needs

to employ specific strategies to teach and enhance higher order thinking skills that students need to apply successfully during testing situations. Students and their families are attracted to schools that are identified as high performing as measured by the CSAP standardized test.

To ensure continuing achievement at a local Denver

school, the students need to have the skills and strategies necessary to perform well on the CSAP. The Colorado Department of Education publishes an item map for each grade level content test given (Colorado Departm ent of Education, 2009)

that

lists which specific skills are assessed by each question. Analysis of the fifth grade 2008 item map for reading revealed that 38% percent of the fifth grade CSAP test is composed of constructed responses. In order to demonstra te comprehension of the text on the CSAP, students are asked to summarize, identify similarities and differences, infer, differentiate, draw conclusions, and organize information as opposed to merely bubbling in their response to a multiple - choice question

(Colorado Department of Education, 2009). These are all higher order thinking skills. Constructed responses assess higher level thinking skills (Rothman, 1995). The emphasis is on students showing their learning through explanations of their thinking proc esses on constructed response questions on the CSAP. This demonstrates

a need for teachers at the local Denver school to include specific instruction targeted toward increasing student

10

comprehension of nonfiction

text. To ensure that the local Denver schoo l is not closed due to low achievement, student growth as measured by the CSAP needs to increase.

Graphic organizers might be a possible factor that would aid in teaching the higher order thinking skills necessary to better comprehend nonfiction text with

the goal of improving student achievement. Fisher and Frey (2007) found that using

graphic organizers allows for greater comprehension and recall of content material (p. 87). As Ermis (2008) point ed

out, graphic organizers are one tool to help enhance stu dents ’

comprehension with nonfiction text. Ermis also found that the pre -

and posttest scores of students who used graphic organizers were significantly higher than the scores of students who had not received instruction in the use of graphic organizers. I t is reasonable to assume that the inclusion of graphic organizers into the daily teaching

of reading

that includes nonfiction texts would enhance students' ability to comprehend as measured by their performance on exams.

Evidence of the P roblem from the P rofessional Li terature

The CSAP test is administered to all Colorado students from G rades 3 to 10 . The fifth grade CSAP reading test is composed of 60% nonfiction

text ( Colorado Department of Education 2008 c ).

According to Rothman (1995), constructed resp onses assess higher level thinking skills. Thirty - eight percent of the fifth grade CSAP test is composed of constructed responses, where students are asked to summarize, predict, define and solve problems, infer, differentiate, draw conclusions, and organi ze information. It would be beneficial if students were directly taught higher level thinking skills and it would be helpful if teachers had a resource that

could provide them with strategies to do so.

11

Richards (2003) note d

that graphic organizers lead the

student to create mental pictures and connections between pieces of information not previously linked, “ the process of creating a visual organizer often generates visualization. This is important because enhancing a student's use of the mind's eye increas es comprehension and boosts retention ”

(p. 110). Graphic organizers would be a resource for teachers to instruct students in higher level thinking skills

Nonfiction

reading has become more important for students. Being able to understand how nonfiction

te xt differs from narrative text, being able to read for information and being able to draw conclusions and create meaning are all important abilities for a student to evince. Duke (2004) argue d

for the need to increase students' exposure to nonfiction text.

“ Success in schooling, the workplace, and society depends on our ability to comprehend this material ”

(p. 40). Social studies textbooks contain graphs, charts, sidebars, captions as well as longer passages of nonfiction text. Students need to be able to h ave strategies to read and organize such a variety of material. This shows a need in including specific instruction targeted toward increasing student comprehension of nonfiction text.

Including graphic organizers would be a specific manner in which to tea ch nonfiction text.

Parks (2003)

stated that

nonfiction reading is a large part of our daily lives and that the need for direct literacy instruction in how to read the information contained in nonfiction text is lacking in early education. “ The skills an d strategies they have learned through working with only fiction do not transfer seamlessly to informational texts ”

(p. 19). Students need to have specific strategies in how to understand nonfiction text and ways to synthesize and analyze the content. Grap hic organizers can play a useful role in

12

aiding students to select, identify and comprehend the information in nonfiction texts. Ermis (2008) found that using graphic organizers improved the scores of students reading nonfiction text. Ermis po inted

out tha t the teaching methods for nonfiction texts need to be different and explicit. She suggests the use of graphic organizers to raise student comprehension. Williams, Nubia - Kung, Pollini, Stafford, Garcia ,

and Snyder (2007) found that instruction which includ ed graphic organizers enabled second graders to better comprehend nonfiction text organized in a compare and contrast structure. Graphic organizers are a tool, which can enhance student ability to read and comprehend nonfiction text and to understand the w ay it is structured.

By creating a visual image from the information provided in nonfiction

text, the learner is able to take abstract information and make it more concrete through the use of imagery. This ,

in turn ,

allows for greater comprehension and recall of information. Costa (2001) emphasize d

the importance of using imagery to further understanding and to make further individual connections leading to deeper comprehension.

One who has conceptualized, on the oth er hand, is able to consistently identify new examples, create new examples, distinguish examples from non - examples, change non - examples into examples, and, in every case, is able to explain what they have done by citing the presence or absence of the conc ept characteristic. The learner can do this because he or she is guided by a clear mental image of the characteristics that should be there .

( Costa, 2001, p. 440)

In other words, using graphic organizers is constructivist, allowing the students to create their own understanding of the information.

13

Definitions

At - risk : students with low academic success and a high statistical probability of dropping out of school (National Center for Education Statistics,

1992).

These students are usually from high poverty backgrounds and may also be second language learners.

Graphic organizers:

also known as concept maps ,

or nonlinguistic representations ,

or thinking maps . These

are visual aids designed to help students organize information through comparing - contrasting, classifying, showing relationships and summarizing (Gallavan, 2007). These diagrams may include Venn diagrams, pictorial representations, flowcharts, and tables.

Metacognitive:

when a learner or student is consciously thinking about specific processes to solve a problem and self - monitoring (Baker, Gersten ,

& Scanlong, 2002).

Nonfiction

text : any fact - based text of any kind, including narrative nonfiction (histo rical diaries, memoirs, biographies, informational storybooks), expository text (how - to books, encyclopedias, nature identification books), periodicals, (magazines, newspapers, almanacs), brochures, maps, calendars, posters, websites (Williams, T. L., 2009 , p. 253).

Significance

This project study

was designed to

have an impact on social change by uplifting student achievement of a specific group who has been shown to perform poorly in present circumstances. Williams (2008) reveal ed

that

an approximate 30 - point achievement gap remains between economically disadvantaged and advantaged students. The first community impacted would be local at the school level. However, the problem of raising academic achievement as based on test scores applies to schools ac ross the district and is

14

not pertinent to just one school. The strategies can then be refined and filter to the district as a whole. Having strategies which could be applied on a daily basis across the curriculum and across grade levels would help teachers

feel as if they had specific tools to address how to teach students to use higher order thinking skills. Cheng and

Mok

(2008) showed

that teacher performance is one of the key factors related to student achievement (p. 372). T eachers who meet in in - servic e

trainings

or transfer to other schools or into a local Denver, C O,

school

can discuss using

graphic organizers to aid students in becoming better at reasoning and improving comprehension. For students, having increased reading skills means an increased a bility to be able to grasp nonfiction text. “ Similarly, reading achievement improves when children read texts that answer questions that they have about the world, which are most

often answered from reading nonfiction texts ”

(Williams, 2009, p. 248 ). Philbrick

(2002) emphasize d

the need and vital importance of direct and explicit instruction of strategies for “ constructing meaning from text, but also to provide students with many opportunities to practice them within the context ”

of their nonfiction te xts (p. 56). As students become more successful in reading nonfiction, they may gain more success and achieve higher scores on standardized testing in school.

The

purpose of this project study wa s to create a curriculum resource guide for classroom teach ers on how to explicitly integrate metacognitive strategies into graphic organizers

for greater comprehension of nonfiction text

as a factor that may improve student performance as measured by the fifth grade CSAP state exams. Each day students are require d to interact with informational texts such as social studies, science and other nonfiction

genres which require more complex and higher level thinking. The text

15

structure can include sequence, description, compare and contrast, problem and solution, and c ause and effect (Meyer & Poon, 2001).

Teachers may be familiar with such graphic organizers such as the KWL (Know, Want to Know and Learned) and Venn diagrams. However,

a variety of graphic organizers

could be incorporated to help students organize the c ontent material and as a study tool. Marzano, Pickering ,

and Pollock (2001)

identified graphic organizers used for identifying similarities and differences. Hyerle (1996) offered

Full document contains 172 pages
Abstract: Fifth grade reading scores in one school are significantly lower when compared with those in other districts in the state. An analysis of the fifth grade reading Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) scores revealed that 60% of the exam is composed of nonfiction text and that 38% of the test comprises open-response question and critical thinking questions. This project study sought to identify which graphic organizers and higher order thinking skills would aid in student test scores in a district impacted by poverty and a high level of second language learners. The foundation of this project study is predicated on cognitive theory, constructivism, and the use of graphic organizers. The method used in this project study was a 3-round Delphi method, a qualitative approach to understanding which graphic organizers best enhance critical thinking skills during nonfiction reading. Three rounds of surveys were administered to an expert panel of educators. The data analysis strategy used was a Likert type scale to achieve consensus among the participants regarding the most effective graphic organizers. The results of the study revealed consensus on 12 graphic organizers deemed most effective for direct instruction of higher order thinking skills. The data, gathered from participating teachers' responses regarding their use of graphic organizers, were used to create a teacher's resource guide showing how to integrate metacognitive strategies into graphic organizers for comprehension of informational text. This resource guide can promote social change by enhancing students' critical thinking skills and academic achievement, leading to improved motivation and a greater likelihood of becoming lifelong learners.