Expanding, Structuring, and Invigorating the Early Grade Reading Research Agenda

Learning how to read is one of the most important skills that a child should master in primary school. However, there is healthy and ongoing debate, both in the OECD countries and countries that are recipients of donor assistance, about how best to enable children to achieve that mastery. In addition, the implementation of collaborative approaches to consolidating evidence on core reading interventions, the development of research on emerging promising practices, the standardization of metrics and protocols in reading instruction, and the dissemination of knowledge about effective ways to teach reading have often taken a back seat in international circles in recent years to the pressures and imperatives of implementing reading programs in the field.

This workshop will provide interested members of the early grade reading community with the opportunity to “step back from the fray” and to consult with one another regarding the questions they believe have received insufficient focus to date and/or are the most pressing to investigate in order to advance the learning agenda in early grade reading. Session discussions will provide ‘grist for the mill’ for new research projects, as well as for the early meetings of a nascent early grade reading community of practice that USAID hopes to fund in the 2014 year. They will also provide a chance to discuss how to capture a broader perspective on successes and challenges in early grade reading than that which is afforded by continuous randomized control trials. By seeking to breathe new life into the early grade reading research agenda, the session will support the goals of the conference by consecrating time for academics and practitioners to talk together about ways in which fresh research could help in revisioning early grade reading success for all. Participating conferees will receive copies of the notes, ideas, and topics discussed during the session.

Workshop Audience and Goals

The audiences for this workshop are: researchers and early grade reading specialists, development practitioners, and representatives of countries seeking to develop greater institutional expertise in the dynamics of reading instruction.

The goals of the workshop are: 1) To generate and categorize important research questions in early grade reading; 2) To critique and improve the plans and proposals for a revitalized early grade reading community of practice.

Planned Workshop Activities

  1. Small Group Brainstorming (30 minutes): Participants will be randomly assigned to small groups and will discuss, from their various perspectives, the answers to the following questions:
    1. What research questions do you believe our collective body of work and evidence is best suited to answer at this time?
    2. How could this collective knowledge best be captured?
    3. What research questions/topics in early grade reading do you feel have received insufficient attention in the international context?
    4. How could these topics best be investigated? (i.e. through a project design? through a research grant? Etc.)
  2. Large working group (30 minutes): Participants will be randomly selected into one of two larger working groups (i.e. ½ the participants will join one working group, and ½ the participants will join the other). The first working group will synthesize and refine the answers to the first two questions (a and b above). The second working group will synthesize and refine the answers to the 2nd two questions (c and d above).
  3. Plenary Session (30 minutes): The entire room will come together and the suggestions for further research in early grade reading will be shared, with one spokesperson presenting for each of the groups. The workshop participants will add to/refine the suggestions. The facilitators will then work with the participants to categorize these questions as pertaining, for example, to the policy environment, to issues of governance, to issues related to language of instruction, etc.,in order to yield a classification of questions that might lend itself to being addressed by several thematic working groups of researchers in the near future.
  4. Presentation on the Structure/Plans for an EGR Community of Practice (15 minutes): USAID will provide participants with an overview of the funder’s current plans for a community of practice in early grade reading, as this community of practice could potentially be leveraged to help provide opportunities for researching the questions brought to the fore by the participants’ exchange.
  5. Questions/Answers/Suggestions on the Community of Practice and Ways in Which it Can Best Serve the Research Agenda (15 minutes): The facilitators will lead a discussion of the proposals for the community of practice, asking participants to provide concrete suggestions for how to ensure that it can function successfully as a vehicle for advancing progress on the EGR research agenda.

Instructional Staff

Dr. Jane Benbow, Independent Consultant
Rebecca Rhodes, USAID/E3

CIES 2014 Program
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Monday March 10
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Tuesday March 11-15
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