Research Proposal: Motivation and Engagement in a Blended Learning Reading Environment

Research Proposal: Motivation and Engagement in a Blended Learning Reading Environment

Aleta May, M.S./M.A, Ed.

University of Alaska Southeast

Research Questions

What does the pre-designed, comprehensive, blended learning model contribute to the learners’ reading skills in this specific setting? How will students become engaged in a book that may be related to their interests, but has many features not in their current mental schemata, build background knowledge about a book for independent reading? Is this model more effective for students who have prior experience with a supplemental computer reading model?


My research will be based on an interpretive framework. It will be guided by a mixed method study approach. An interpretive framework is guided by using one data set, primarily qualitative, to interpret the traditional standardized quantitative data set; although themes will emerge from qualitative data independent of quantitative. Surveys of reading attitude in both digital and traditional reading settings will reveal information that is both quantitative and qualitative—bridging across data and creating a true mixed method research approach.


Quantitative data will be derived from standardized assessments, and less formal survey responses; although survey responses will also serve as qualitative information since it evaluates attitudes and engagement. Quantitative data will be gathered and interpreted within its own merits, but more importantly with qualitative data from observations and interviews.

Rationale for this Classroom Research

            Students in the Read 180 program have had some experience with reading on-line, but mostly in class using textbooks, worksheets, and some children’s literature. With most students being English Language Learners (ELL), it is important for them to accommodate to and engage in what they read. Although the materials in this reading program are set to their reading lexile level, consideration for engagement in reading is limited. The books offered in the program are varied, thus exposing students to a variety of genres in children’s literature. However, very few are culturally relevant. The ELL students in this group speak Yup’ik and English. Yup’ik is primarily an oral language. Discussion of what is read and reading material that is relevant to their lives are motivating factors that are largely missing from this program.   Yet, the variety of trade books available to students and the novelty of a balanced learning approach are factors that are motivational; the question is how can this program be maximized to enhance student reading motivation and growth? Engagement is a major focus in this research, because engagement is key to deep reading; both through digital and traditional means.

Literature Review

Thematic Review of the Literature for Blend Learning Environments

One theme that sprang forth unexpectedly to me was the theme of how students’ attitudes and self-assessments need to be considered within the pool of evidentiary data collected when an analysis of the impact of blended learning, in this case in the area of literacy skills, is investigated. In one article, the impact of learning on two groups; a blended e-learning (experimental group) and a traditional learning (control group); was compared. The typical focus was to compare groups based primarily on examining the achievement data. When the pretest and posttest included the average score (five items each for cognition and skill) and a self-assessment (six items) over two midterms (a five week interval), the authors found that “the average score on the achievement test for the experimental group was only slightly higher than that for the control group” (Chang, Shu, Liang, Tseng, and Hsu, p.9). Taken at face value, blended e-learning achievement test scores were not significantly better than traditional learning? However, when the results for self-assessment between the two learning platforms was compared, apparent differences caught the eye of the authors; students in the experimental group scored noticeably better in the areas of cognition especially and in skill, but not attitude. So the question is raised, “Why blended learning?” Given more than five weeks to adjust to the new blended e-learning environment, their attitude toward this style of learning will lead to higher motivation. Motivation leads to higher engagement. Engagement leads to retention of learning.

Even at beginning college levels, the issue of course engagement is being addressed via use of hybrid course design. There is a shift in emphasis from teacher-centered to student-centered pedagogy; this includes high school, and starting to begin much younger. If students prepare for class before coming (or attending online), there is time for students to collaborate with each other to solve problems, and discuss insights. These in class-time strategies increase engagement in subject matter (Foote & Mixson-Brookshire, 2014). The role of the instructor becomes facilitator of group discussion, managing course content, designer, and transmitting information from sources, between groups, or technology like video clips.

Side-by-side with the theme of engagement is the teacher’s functioning as one who promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing within well-planned frameworks. When planning for social technologies, for example, the teacher considers participation, interaction, and synthesis as vital components of planning for productive groups who collectively create and construct new knowledge (Agosto, Copeland, & Zach, 2013). With technology, time and distance boundaries disappear. Students are not always tied to the confines of face-to-face, brick and mortar or synchronous learning on a learning management system (LMS). Blogs and mobile devices like tweeting encourage ongoing discussion that is motivational for students. Social media like blogs encourages students to learn the perspective of others. English language learners (ELLs) have more time to translate their thoughts and share ideas when not pressured to immediately respond. A framework will encompass teacher participation, personalizing (like entering into a blog conversation), and simplifying or promoting learning. To captivate students, students need to feel in control and see a connection to their lives (Agosto, Copeland, & Zach). Engaging students into learning means that teachers need to avail themselves of technology that encourages integration of social technologies into their course design.

Planning instruction and gauging its impact means that students attitudes need to be considered, and there is a framework for quantifying their attitudes for reading in different environments, and utilizing both traditional and digital medium either to motivate and expand students’ use of both. The Survey of Adolescent Reading Attitudes (SARA), seeks to do just that. By self report, students rate their attitudes for academic and recreational reading, in print and digital media, on a “6-point scale from ‘very good’ to ‘very bad’” (Conradi, Jang, Bryant, Craft, & McKenna, p. 568).

Closely related to engagement is considering grouping strategies to build momentum through pace and support in small group (and sometimes individual) instruction. Technology is a logical mechanism for supporting students as they rotate between groups. There are supplemental reading programs that can focus students on learning word parts, morphemes (small units within a word that have meaning), building background knowledge such as through video clips, and other common, repetitive activities that free up teachers to work with small groups in deeper thinking activities (Cheung and Slavin, 2013). It is like adding an assistant to the room who motivates the student through games. Comprehensive programs for reading include the entire reading model so teachers can work in small groups and check on individual progress for planning purposes. When growth is noticeable, students are engaged. Small group instruction within a blended environment is one way to meet this goal.

Read 180 is a comprehensive program that promotes and capitalizes on small group instruction. The purpose of the program is to remediate students experiencing reading difficulties beginning where “a general stagnation in reading growth in the upper elementary and middle grades” (Kim, Samson, Fitzgerald, & Hartry, 2010, p.1110) occurs. This is also referred to as the fourth-grade slump where at this level of reading students transition from “learning to read to reading to learn the new” (Kim, et al., p. 1111). There is an array of areas of reading skills where the breakdown may occur. Since readers may need to repeat learning or fill in where gaps have occurred in the areas of word recognition or language comprehension abilities, this program addresses that need through blended learning while utilizing small group direct instruction, small group supported independent reading, and computer practice lessons that address students needs individually. This article is based on an experiment to study to find out what the effects of this unconventional blended reading program, referred to mixed-methods in this article, would be when compared to another district after-school program. Among other studies considered by this article, it is not uncommon to find that significant positive effects may be found in the third-grade, but not in the fifth-grade for fluency, reading accuracy, and comprehension. In this study only fourth-grade students had notable gains, and that may be due to increased time spent in reading instruction. The researchers, therefore, separated out scores for areas of reading (like reading efficiency, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency). A finding that is very powerful when looking to see the impact on comprehension because of student engagement in reading is that the computer activities incorporating leveled text with comprehension accountability and videos that teach vocabulary, word study and background building produced compelling improvement. Students in this study were not taught vocabulary that has application across content areas, because the 30-minute whole group segment where this is normally taught was omitted. Including this segment may have produced greater gains in reading comprehension follow-up scores.

Looking beyond the Read 180 blended learning program, teacher-designed blended learning assimilates a variety of technologies that can benefit students in ways that engage them into deeper thinking that leads to high levels of comprehension; such as blog sites, You Tube video clips, and discussion boards and utilizing students’ mobile devices (Tucker, 2013). Small group instruction can be part of that blended model design, such as teaching students according to individual needs within mini-lessons with the teacher as facilitator. Teachers are able to maximize their instruction time, because they have time to analyze student computer data and plan without the added time usually spent grading papers (Ash, 2012, March). Data is available in real-time for teachers to access for each student. The result of accessing data is the ability of teachers to have the flexibility to use that learning-management system to plan for very direct instruction (Ash, 2012, October).   To maximize instruction on a larger scale, some programs like Hybrid High School in Los Angeles, divides blended learning spaces into math/science and English/language arts/social studies groups (Ash, 2013). In this flexible model, individual instruction occurs through individual stations.

The blended learning plan may be set up as a flexible classroom. Flexible classrooms were developed in the Rocketship program in response to noted limitations when using a blended learning station rotation program (incidentally, station rotation is the design Read 180 follows). According to the designers and educators in the Rocketship program, station-rotation is too rigid, resulting in students who follow a plan, but do not spend much effort learning for themselves like they would in a more self-directed atmosphere (Herold, 2014, January). Through trying to expand a flexible and self-directed learning atmosphere within the Rocketship elementary school level program, the designers found that it was most effective in fourth and fifth grades. Further, in an article entitled, “Outside Public System, Blended Models Take Hold,” Herold found that among a private school group of schools, effective communication between educators is essential; so a consortium was created (2014).

One way self-directed learning is effective is when students use technology to build knowledge together. This occurs when an environment is designed augment collaboration between students, and between students and teachers. Students feel safe sharing their thinking from an affective stance when parameters are set within a blended learning environment for discussion. In Hew (2014), evidence-based practices are explored through a compilation of research to help teacher/designers find the right blend through use of a framework to set an environment for deeper and self-directed learning, exploration and discussions.

Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) must be planned. A questionnaire distributed to college students across five CSCL subject areas resultantly found that upholding both cognitive and social learning conditions for individuals and groups is not only important to building knowledge, but must be planned into the pedagogical structure when designing a course (Hernandez, Gonzalez & Munoz, 2013). At the center is CSCL; closely connected to this are the teacher, the student and the task facilitating and learning within an organization that utilizes technology that supports course/subject pedagogy. More specifically, Computer-Supported Collaborative Blended Learning (CSCBL) may be founded in scripts that are designed to consider “the space, the pedagogical method, the participants and the history (4SPPI). The 4SPPIces combine to develop strong targeted learning objectives and supply a conceptual model for educators to use when communicating with each other for course design (Perez-Sangustin, Santos, Hernandez-Leo, & Blat, 2012). Within this CSCL design, both quantitative and qualitative data can be organized and studied to guide future ventures and planning. The overarching reasons for using CSCL scripts is for improving learning outcomes (Sobreira & Tchounikine, 2012). Sobreira, P. & Tchounikine, P. (2012). Facilitating change, adapting script phases allows well thought out script editing. The script is a way to manage a teaching situation, but within a complex, multilayered setting. It provides a framework for students to collaborate within. When a blended learning environment is changed, the pedagogy of the original learning management system needs to be considered so that changes within student interaction planning is conducted in a way that upholds the macro-level script (Sobreira & Tchounikine, 2012).

This literature review is broad in scope, but it addresses specific concerns that need to be considered when conducting classroom research in a specific rural village setting using a pre-designed blended learning model for reading; particularly if the research leads the researcher to recommend changes to the model or modify and expand it to other learning environments in the seventh and eight grade students’ school day. Observations, interviews, a survey, and close analysis of computer test data will be conducted with an understanding of what the research already says about the various aspects of blended learning. Questions will be answered regarding how the comprehensive blended reading program impacts student engagement that leads to meaningful growth and learning.         



            The participants for this action research study include 22 seventh and eighth grade students who are in a blended model reading program, Read 180, for their first time. The eighth grade students participated in an online only model reading program the previous school year, called Lexia. Three of the 22 are proficient in English reading, writing, speaking and listening skills according to a standardized measure of English language proficiency. The remaining 19 students are limited English proficient. All of the students have participated in a dual language or Yup’ik immersion program prior to the seventh grade. The participants’ reading skills have been negatively impacted by living in a remote Alaskan village that is off the road system most or all of their lives, in that their background knowledge, vocabulary, and culture does not match most books read in school.  Most participants read primarily at school, with little practice at home.

During a one-hour time frame, students are divided into three small groups. Each group rotates every 20 minutes to participate in a blended learning environment: instructional software, modeled and independent reading, and small-group instruction. There are twenty-two students divided as follows:

Blue Group:

7th grade: Jamie; Sophie; Jared; Ann; Trisha; Halley; Kiarah. 8th grade: Alfred. White Group:

7th grade: Jason; Joseph; Preston. 8th grade: N. A.; Kristen; Chelsea

Yellow Group:

8th grade: Anna; N. K.; Alexia; Charity; Isaiah; Katya; Nelliann; Thomas.


I will use behavior observation as an indicator for engagement in reading during the independent reading times. I will observe and interview two students from each group, since observation /note taking timeframes will be limited. I will use an application on my iPad to collect on-task/off-task observation data. The application description and link is listed in the resources section: YoungStone Innovations, LLC.School Psychology Tools. As I tap whether they are on/off-task, I will pause to type observation notes as notable behaviors occur. After the observation sessions, I will comment on the objective note taking, which will be reflected as my professional impressions of what I observed; this is called note making. In Appendix A, there is a copy of the email I sent to the lead teacher for Read 180.

As a participant observer, I will take notes and pictures. Pictures become artifacts that support the anecdotal notes taken, which will in turn aid in interpreting data. As I write notes, I believe they create a story that may provide more questions than answers for future reflection. An observation in my situation is a reflection of what occurred that day during group facilitation. One article suggests that creating a vignette or short story with a detailed description of events may be a way to record and interpret to find a problem to be solved and suggest action based on the theory of the problem’s basis: “vignettes provide . . . hypothetical snapshots of actual classroom situations; since vignettes are problem-based, either to propose a solution or to evaluate one given” (Jeffries & Maeder, 2011, p. 166). I think writing vignettes of my observations will help me deal with the inherent “lack of uniformity” (p. 166) that occurs when observing real students in real time.

Additionally, I am looking for a snapshot of students’ views about using traditional resources for reading versus using technology resources and how this may apply to students’ reading within the Read 180 program. This is a Survey of Adolescent Reading Attitudes (SARA) and uses a scale from 1 to 6: very bad to very good (Conradi, Jang, Bryant, Craft & McKenna, 2013). See Appendix B for a copy of this rating scale. It is a group measure, a rating scale, which takes about 10 to 15 minutes to administer. This may be given right away.

In Appendix C, there is a survey that evaluates the impact of the Read 180 program on student learning through their motivation to participate as well as how they see this program helping or not helping them to increase their reading skills and desire to read. This survey should be given about the middle of November.

I will individually interview six students I observe. Question six will be reserved for 8th grade students who participated in both Lexia (during 7th grade) and more recently in Reading 180 (during 8th grade). These interview questions were derived from Huang (2012). This interview should be given between the middle and the end of November. See Appendix D for questions.

Also, I will analyze Measures of Academic Progress (MAPS) scores from fall to winter in the area of reading comprehension to determine whether reading scores went up. The purpose is to compare how students did or did not increase standardized reading comprehension scores, the amount of increase if it applies, with how they feel about how their skills improved and how they feel about using a blended reading model. The rating scale in Appendix B, the survey in Appendix C, and the interview questions in Appendix D should be completed prior to the second MAP test so that the MAP test will not influence the answers given in other measures.


Conradi, K., Jang, B.G., Bryant, C., Craft, A., & McKenna, M.C. (2013). Measuring

adolescents’ attitudes toward reading: A classroom survey. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(7). 565-576.

Ash, K. (2012, March). Blended learning mixes it up. Education Week, 31(25), 1-7.

Ash, K. (2012, October). Blended learning choices. Education Week, 32(9), 1-5.

Ash, K. (2013). Spaces for blended learning. Education Week, 32(25) 1-5.

Agosto, D.E., Copeland, A.J., and Zach, L. (2013). Testing the benefits of

blended education: Using social technology to foster collaboration and knowledge

sharing in face-to-face LIS courses.  J. of Education for Library and Information

            Science, 54(2).

Chang, C-C., Shu, K-M., Liang, C., Tseng, J-S., and Hsu, Y-S. (2014, April). Is blended

e-learning as measured by an achievement test and self-assessment better than

traditional classroom learning for vocational high school students? The   

            International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(2), 1-12.

Cheung, A. & Slavin, R., (2013). Effects of educational technology applications on

reading outcomes for struggling readers: A best-evidence synthesis, 277-299.

Conradi, K., Jang, B.G., Bryant, C., Craft, A., & McKenna, M.C. (2013). Measuring

adolescents’ attitudes toward reading: A classroom survey. Journal of

            Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(7). 565-576.

Foote, S.M. & Mixson-Brookshire, D. (2014). Enhancing learning with technology:

Applying the findings from a study of students in online, blended, and face-

to-face first-year seminar classes. Currents in teaching and learning, 6(2),


Hernandez, N., Gonzalez, M. & Munoz, P. (2014). Planning collaborative learning in

virtual environments. Media Education Research Journal, 42(21), 25-32.

Herold, B. (2014, January). New model underscores rocketship’s growing pains.

Education Week 33(19).

Herold, B. (2014). Outside public system, blended models take hold.

Education Week, 33(19), 1-5.

Hew, K. F. & Cheung, W. S. (2014). Using blended learning evidence-based practices.

            Singapore, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht & London: Springer

Huang, S. (2012). A mixed method study of the effectiveness of the accelerated

reader program on middle school students’ reading achievement and

motivation. Reading Horizons, 51(3), 229-246.

Jeffries, C. & Maeder, D.W. (2011). Comparing vignette instruction and assessment tasks

to classroom observations and reflections. The Teacher Educator, 46, 161-175.

Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Kim, J.S., Samson, J.F., Fitzgerald, R., & Hartry, A. (2009). A randomized experiment

of a mixed-methods literacy intervention for struggling readers in grades 4-7:

Effects on word reading efficiency, reading comprehension and vocabulary, and oral

reading fluency.

Perez-Sanagustin, M., Santos, P., Hernandez-Leo, D., & Blat, J. (2012). 4SPPIces: A

case study of factors in a scripted collaborative-learning blended course

across spatial locations. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 7:443-465.

Singapore, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht & London: Springer

Sobreira, P. & Tchounikine, P. (2012). A model for flexibly editing CSCL scripts.

            Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 7:567-592. New York:

International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. and Springer Science+Business


Tucker, C. R. (2013, March). The basics of blended instruction.

Educational Leadership. ASCD/

YoungStone Innovations, LLC.School Psychology Tools application: tools/id435891534?mt=8


Appendix A

The email I sent to the lead teacher for Read 180:


As part of my college project, I need to collect observation data.  I will be observing 2 students in each group for about 8 minutes each.  I downloaded an app for my iPad to collect on-task/off-task data, and it has a feature included for me to pause this and type notes.  I am using their first name only.

What this means is that two days next week, like Monday (or Tuesday) and Thursday, I will collect observation data; the same two days during the week of November 3rd, and 1 day each during the weeks of November 10 and 17 for a total of six times.   The only exception would be absent students that I may need to make up an observation for.

I won’t be of assistance to the students during those days, since I will be sitting back behind Patrick’s desk observing.  I’ll be telling the students that I am taking notes for a class I am participating in—but not telling them I am observing them.  I can share the information with you when I compile it.

Please let know what you think.

Thank you,


Appendix B

Survey of Adolescent Reading Attitudes (SARA). Derived from the research of: Conradi, Jang, Bryant, Craft, & McKenna, (2013).

Name:_____________________                                   Date:­­­­______________

How do you feel about reading in books, online, and other ways?

6 = I feel very good about … (5, 4, 3, 2 = I feel somewhere in between very good or very bad about) 1 = I feel very bad about …


very good




very good



in between (but closer to good)




(but closer to bad)


mostly very



very bad

  1.  How do you feel about reading news online for class?
  1.    How do you feel about reading a book in your free time?
  1. How do you feel

about doing research using encyclopedias (or other books) for a class?

  1.   How do you feet      about emailing (or texting) friends in your free time?
  1.   How do you feel about reading online for a class?
  1.   How do you feel about reading a textbook?
  1.   How do you feel about reading a book online for a class?
  1.   How do you feel about talking with friends about     something you’ve been reading in your free time?
  1.   How do you feel about getting a book or a magazine for a present?
  1. How do you feel about texting friends in your free time?
  1. How do you feel about reading a book for fun on a

rainy Saturday?

  1. How do you feel about working on an internet project with classmates?
  1. How do you feel about reading anything printed (book, magazine, comic books, etc.) in your free time?
  1. How do you feel about using a dictionary for class?
  1.   How do you feel about using social media like Facebook or Twitter in your free time?
  1.   How do you feel about looking up information online for a class?
  1.   How do you feel about reading a newspaper (like the Delta Discovery paper) or a magazine for a class?
  1.   How do you feel about reading a novel for class?

Appendix C

 Adapted from Huang, 2012.

  Please give your answer under the appropriate column. Only give one answer for each question. 1

Almost never








  1. The Read 180 program increases your reading scores.
  1. The Read 180 program increases your reading levels (lexile).
  1. The Read 180 program improves your reading comprehension.
  1. The Read 180 program increases your vocabulary size.
  1. The Read 180 program changes your habits and attitudes toward reading.
  1. The Read 180 program improves your motivation (desire) to read.
  1. The Read 180 program encourages your social interaction with your friends about book talk.
  1. The Read 180 program increases your joy of reading.

List three to five positive things you like about the Read 180 program.






List three to five negative things about the Read 180 program.






  1. Eighth grade students only: Which program do you prefer: Lexia or Read 180. Why? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What makes one better or than the other?


Appendix D


Interview Questions for students (Huang, 2012):

  1. What types of books do you like to read? Why?
  2. What are your favorite books? Why do you like reading them? What makes you want to read?
  3. Tell me about reading in your classroom, do you read alone or with others? Do your classmates value reading? How do you know?
  4. What are some things in school that help or get in the way of your wanting to read? How do they help or not help?
  5. What types of the Read 180 books do you like to read? Why?
  6. What type of computer-based reading programs do you like? Why? How does the Read 180 program motivate your reading?

2 thoughts on “Research Proposal: Motivation and Engagement in a Blended Learning Reading Environment

  1. Pingback: Reflection of Gleanings from Collecting and Interpreting Data | aleta57

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s