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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Building a Research Partnership: Concentric Circles of Conversation

Dr Cynthia R. Smith.

This case study describes a collaborative approach to professional development and practitioner research in which both endeavors work in combination to support the needs of struggling readers and the teachers who support them. The teachers in the study designed and implemented a project which allowed them to serve as tutors, and it became the foundation of a research-based partnership between an elementary school and a local university. The multiple stakeholders in this project were the 4-6 grade students, the teachers, the university students, and the university faculty. The multiple stakeholders and levels of engagement, in turn, created many opportunities for discussion across groups and individuals involved in the project and the partnership. Thus, concentric circles of conversation flowed from the tutoring project, each connected to the previous, but continuing to expand in scope and membership.
The research project was the genesis of the partnership, but the partnership sustained the tutoring project. It provided the vehicle by which the research could be carried out by providing the teachers time and resources to tutor the students in their classrooms who would otherwise as teachers described, “fall through the cracks.”
The questions which drove this naturalistic inquiry were:
1. How does the tutoring project affect student reading behaviors and attitudes?
2. What are the teachers’ perceptions of the tutoring Project?
The data analysis revealed an average 2.8 grade level increase in reading for the tutored students using an informal reading inventory pre and post test measure. Students also reported positive attitudes regarding reading during a post interview. The teachers in the project consistently reported positive aspects of the project, citing that the project was beneficial to their teaching of reading and content area instruction as well.


Dr Cynthia R. Smith  (United States)
Assistant Professor of Literacy
Literacy Studies School of Education
University of North Carolina

  • School/University Partnership
  • Practitioner Research
  • Tutoring
  • Literacy
  • Collaboration

(30 min Conference Paper, English)