School Based Research Projects - Warakirri College

Enhancing Literacy Acquisition in Vulnerable Senior Secondary Students

Each year AISNSW calls for applications for schools to undertake research over a two-year period, with support from The Evidence Institute, academic mentors and critical friends. After completing a rigorous selection process in 2021, Warakirri College was awarded a School Based Research Project for their project Enhancing Literacy Acquisition in Vulnerable Senior Secondary Students.

Project Overview

This research project was developed to identify, implement and evaluate strategies that will enable vulnerable senior students to improve their ability to read, comprehend and evaluate the texts required for them to complete their schooling and successfully navigate post-school life.

The research is being conducted in two distinct tiers based on the first two levels of intensity in the Response to Intervention model. In Tier 1, the research focuses on the impact of classroom level strategies for Year 10 students. Data about student engagement is being collected through teacher observations of the classroom and by students who complete a checklist. In Tier 2, the research focuses on the role of speech pathology in small group literacy interventions for targeted Year 11 students.

Pre and post tests are administered to help assess the impact of the interventions, including:

  • Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) for assessing mental health
  • York Assessment for Reading and Comprehension (YARC) for assessing literacy
  • Macquarie Oxford Reading Anxiety Test (MoRAT) for assessing levels of reading anxiety
  • Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for assessing self-esteem
  • Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals 5th edition (CELF 5)

 Data collection also includes attendance rates, student case studies and interviews with teaching staff.

Progress to Date

The project experienced some delays due to difficulties procuring the CELF-5 screening test, inconsistent student attendance and students leaving the school. However, once initial hurdles were overcome, the Year 11 (Tier 2) intervention groups commenced. Some groups have already completed initial testing, interventions and post-testing. Focus groups with teachers have also been conducted, producing valuable data for the project.

Initial writing samples have provided evidence of significant progress in students’ comprehension and unpacking of questions, an increase in the quantity of writing, and an improvement in the structure of extended writing responses.

The Year 10 (Tier 1) pre-tests have occurred and an SLSO new to the school is driving this part of the project and its implementation for the intervention classes. Half of the intervention students have completed self-assessment of engagement and classroom observations have occurred.

Where to Next?

Warakirri is continuing to work with both the Year 10 and Year 11 intervention groups and will collate data for the project mid 2023. Teacher feedback has highlighted the importance of communication and collaboration to enable the research to be successful.

Warakirri is already looking at potential future projects, possibly in conjunction with Cornell University and its Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) model.

About Warakirri College

Warakirri College is an independent high school for young people completing Year 10 and Higher School Certificate (HSC) studies as part of a social impact initiative of MTC Australia.  It is a school for students aged 15–22 who have disconnected from mainstream education or don’t feel comfortable in a traditional school. At Warrakirri, students are encouraged to be themselves while they study in a flexible adult learning environment.