Olivia Rothwell, a high school special education teacher and doctoral student in special education, visited MCPER via a New South Wales Premier’s Teacher Scholarship to learn more about Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) in preparation for a study in her native Australia.
To investigate CSR, Rothwell went straight to the source, CSR co-creator and MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn.
“For this field, Dr. Sharon Vaughn is the guru,” said Rothwell, pictured above. “It’s been an absolute treat. There is no one I can discuss CSR with in more depth. In a short amount of time, I’ve been able to get my head around some very important issues.”
Vaughn created CSR, a fully developed intervention that features a set of reading strategies, more than 10 years ago with Dr. Janette Klingner of the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Rothwell, who is pursuing her doctorate in special education and disability studies from the University of New South Wales, is collaborating with experts here in preparation for a study of CSR’s effectiveness. She will implement CSR in a support class for females with mild intellectual disabilities in a government high school in Sydney, Australia.
“It will be the first implementation study of CSR in Australia,” she said. “So it is important for me to coordinate with other academics and learn from their experience.”
Austin was the second stop on Rothwell’s scholarship-funded trip. She previously visited Klingner and her team in Boulder, who are partners in MCPER’s CSR project. Rothwell also observed middle school classrooms in Denver Public Schools that implement CSR.
In Austin, Rothwell met with MCPER directors and researchers who participated in the CSR project to learn from their classroom experiences and discuss methodological concerns relating to Rothwell’s planned study. She also sat in on MCPER researcher Dr. Michael Solis’ reading difficulties class on CSR and met with MCPER’s Min Kyung Kim to discuss Kim’s work on technology applications to adapt CSR for high school students with autism. Later, Rothwell observed CSR implementation in middle schools in Bastrop and Del Valle independent school districts, both in the classrooms of former CSR project teachers and those who were just trained on CSR.
Rothwell said she was particularly drawn to CSR because through its implementation, focus on teacher and student feedback, and subsequent refinement, researchers like Vaughn and Klingner have forged relationships with both students and their communities. “More than a directive, CSR is really a conversation: How do we, as researchers, best help teachers help students? I don’t think there are other researchers in this field who look as seriously at helping and hearing from the community,” she said. “A lot of intervention packages out there are about selling. This is like a big gift.”