31 SES 13 A, What Works in Reading Education?
Reading is an essential life skill and an important component of learning. Optimal reading instruction encourages and sustains children’s desire to read and influences children’s future learning potential. Effective teachers restructure teaching and learning activities to meet student variance towards the provision of achievable goals and meaningful learning. Significant student demographics changes and conflicting evidence from international/national surveys on student literacy performance in Ireland and in America have resulted in renewed focus on approaches to literacy in primary/elementary schools. This change in student demographics is evident in many European countries and presents many challenges for teachers and schools. Recent policy initiatives promote literacy in diverse cultural contexts and prioritise teaching and learning strategies, the role of assessment and the provision of achievable goals and meaningful learning for all students. Differentiated reading is compatible with these literacy strategies because it involves a restructuring of teaching and learning activities directed by continuous assessment to provide meaningful and developmentally appropriate learner-responsive, teacher-facilitated activities. This instructional model responds to learner variance.
This study investigated teachers’ understanding of differentiated reading in relation to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development and examined teachers’ implementation through context, content, process and product. The purpose of the research was to explore how teachers’ understanding of meaningful learning in relation to the zone of proximal development (ZPD) influences the implementation of differentiated reading. The research investigated the extent to which differentiated reading implementation is impacted by teachers’ pedagogical and curricular knowledge, their conceptions, philosophies and motivation. The three research questions were:
- What differentiated reading practices are used by teachers?
- What is Teachers’ understanding of differentiated reading in relation to Content, Process and Product?
- How does Teachers’ understanding of differentiated reading relate to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)?
A theoretical framework for differentiated reading is provided through Vygotsky’s social cultural theory and zone of proximal development. Vygotsky believed that cultural contexts, guided participation and social tools are parts of children’s learning processes incorporating different students’ needs, interests, culture, readiness and past experiences. Differentiated reading instruction aims to accommodate student variance.
Using the ZPD the teacher helps the child move from assisted performance through guided apprenticeship to independent attainment. Through scaffolding, teacher support/assistance or social mediation the child internalises the expected concepts/ behaviours/strategies to complete a set goal. By recognising a student’s ZPD level the teacher can consider the student’s readiness level which is required in order to differentiate instruction and modify content, processes and products to suit ability levels. Key elements within the ZPD are personal empowerment and transformation and societal tools of critical thinking and creative problem solving. By considering a student’s potential the teacher can plan strategic instruction that encourages a sequence of inner-developmental processes in students through collaborative interactions leading to further development. The ZPD involves careful assessment of the child’s ability, guided participation by the teacher and active learning or engagement from the child to achieve mastery in a particular skill. All three activities – informal assessment, guided participation or support and active learning and engagement from the child are core elements of differentiated instruction.
Vygotsky’s learning theory incorporates the child’s intellectual development, the transitions from one stage of mastery to another, the multifaceted social-interactions of learning activities and the complex relationships between language and thought, learning, imitation and play. He believed that the social interactions between children and teachers/significant others in their lives greatly influence children’s higher order thought processes and interpretations of events.
The study explored the role of meaning-making in learner-responsive, teacher-facilitated activities. Shared learning can occur from exploring and sharing best practices in differentiated reading in different cultural contexts.
Chapman, C., & King, R. (2009). Differentiated Instructional Strategies for Reading in the Content Areas . (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California, Corwin Press. Cresswell, John W. & Plano Clark, Vicki L. (2011). Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research. (2nd Edition). Thousand Oaks, California. Sage Pub.Inc. Eivers, E, Close, S, Shiel, G, Millar, D, Clerkin, A, Gilleece, L & Kiniry, J. (2010). The 2009 National Assessments of Mathematics and English Reading. Dublin: DES Eivers, E & Clerkin, A. (2012). PIRLS and TIMSS 2011: Reading, Mathematics and Science Outcomes for Ireland. Dublin: Educational Research Centre. Kravtsova, E. E. (2009). The Cultural-Historical Foundations of the Zone of Proximal Development in Journal of Russian & East European Psychology. Vol. 47, Iss. 6, 2009. Mercer, N., & Fisher, E. (1992). How do teachers help children to learn? An analysis of teacher’s interventions in computer-based activities. Learning and Instruction, 2, 339-355. NCCA, (2007). Exceptionally Able Students: Draft Guidelines for Teachers. Available online at: http://www.ncca.ie/en/Curriculum_and_Assessment/Inclusion/Special_Educational_ Needs/Exceptionally_Able_Students/ Perkins, R, Shiel, G, Merriman, B, Cosgrove, J & Moran, G. (2013). Learning for Life: The Achievements of 15-year-olds in Ireland on Mathematics, Reading Literacy and Science in PISA 2012. Dublin: Educational Research Centre Teddlie, C. & Yu, E. (2007). Mixed Methods Sampling: A Typology with Examples. Journal of Mixed Methods Research. 1(1) 77-100. Tomlinson, C.A., & McTighe, J. (2006) Integrating Differentiated instruction & Understanding. ASCD Alexandria, Virginia, US Tomlinson, C. A. (2005). Grading and Differentiation: Paradox or Good Practice? Theory into Practice, 44(3), 262-269. Valsiner, J., & Van der Veer, R. (1999). The encoding of distance: The concept of the" zone of proximal development" and its interpretations. Lev Vygotsky: Critical assessments, 3, 3-31. Veresov,, N. (2004). Zone of proximal development (ZPD): the hidden dimension? Published at: Ostern, A. & Heila-Ylikallio, R. (Eds.). (2004). Sprak som kultur – brytningar I tid och rum. – Language as culture – tensions in time and space. Vol. 1, pp. 13-30, Vasa. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Vygotsky, L.S. (1986). Thought and language (A. Kozulin, Trans. & Ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Vygotsky, L. S. (1934). Thought and Language. (English translation 1962). Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press. Walpole, Sharon & McKenna, Michael, C. (2009). How to Plan Differentiated Reading Instruction, Resources for Grades K-3.New York, The Guilford Press
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