Internet-Based Reading Apprenticeship Improving Science Education (iRAISE): Online Model

Research & Evidence

Internet-Based Reading Apprenticeship Improving Science Education (iRAISE)

Fostering a Community, Online

How do you get science teachers to think, reflect, work as a group, and eventually change their teaching practices, using an online model that includes group and individual work?

Ideally, you build a sense of community and trust that allows teachers to share their challenges and successes with each other. We learned that doing so can help teachers maintain their engagement in the course, and enrich their own work by learning from their colleagues.

By providing different modes of online interaction with the Reading Apprenticeship curriculum, the iRAISE project cultivated a strong sense of community that helped Michigan and Pennsylvania science teachers give their students “the power to figure things out” by increasing students’ engagement in their reading and understanding of complex science texts.

Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI) instructional designers and teacher design partners engaged in iterative cycles of developing, piloting, and field-testing the 65-hour online course, and received feedback from attendees throughout the effort.

Teachers found that collaborating online with fellow teachers kept them engaged in the course (which often took place in the evenings after a day of teaching) and brought about encouraging results in student work. Here are some of the activities and tools used in the 65-hour online course:

PLC Meetings, Discussion Forums, Ignite Sessions, Foundation Institutes

The Foundation Institutes consisted of 20-hours of synchronous online sessions occurring during one week in the summer that used a platform called Blackboard Collaborate. These large-group sessions provided an immersion into the Reading Apprenticeship framework and learning community.

Ignite sessions were two-hour synchronous online sessions occurring once each month during the school year that also used Blackboard Collaborate. These large-group sessions provided new learning and practice for participants.

PLCs, or Professional Learning Communities, were one-hour synchronous online sessions occurring once each month during the school year, using Blackboard Collaborate or Google Hangouts. These small-group sessions allowed participants to share their classroom practice and trouble-shoot implementation.

Discussion Forums were asynchronous and took place on Canvas, our learning management system, each month during the school year. These forums supported participants’ professional reading and further inquiry into Reading Apprenticeship.

We used the following interactive platforms to encourage teacher participation and collaboration:

Our overall learning management system was Canvas. It provided us with a flexible, intuitive interface for communicating with all participants.

The Foundation Institute and Ignite sessions took place in Blackboard Collaborate.

We conducted one hour per month of synchronous (real-timereal-time) PLC sessions with teachers using Google Hangouts or Blackboard Collaborate.

Teachers were able to individually interact with lesson content at their convenience using text and video annotation in NowComment and Canvas.


Feedback from iRAISE participants was overwhelmingly positive. As the quotes on the iRAISE home page indicate, teachers experienced a change in their own teaching that reinforced student independence, and saw more proactive, independent reading behavior in their students.

One of our biggest learnings to date has been that we can create a strong sense of community in the online space, something that is notably challenging to do. Although the teachers in the iRAISE course never met in person, they felt connected to each other, especially in the smaller Professional Learning Community (PLC) groups.

One teacher commented in her feedback about PLC meetings, “It is great to share ideas- as teachers. We do not get to do that enough. Also, this sharing and reinforcement and feedback boosts our confidence level that we are on the right track.”

Visit the Evaluation Findings page to learn about the impact of iRAISE on teachers and students.