ERG SES E 08, Literacy and Education
Low levels of reading achievement characterise some groups of students (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2015). In response, schools and educational authorities implement improvement plans to address these inequities. This research project proposes a combination of practices designed to tackle both the achievement and motivation issues of reading. This focus of this paper is on the perceptions of the principal, teachers, parents, and students of an intervention designed to improve literacy outcomes in a small Australian school of predominantly African refugee students. The intervention is based on Rose’s (2005) Reading to Learn approach to literacy instruction complemented by monitored independent reading (Swan, Coddington, & Guthrie, 2010). Because Reading to Learn addresses content instruction in subject areas while attending to literacy instruction at the same time, the school considered it to be a good match for its students’ needs. Originally developed for Australian Indigenous students, Reading to Learn’s particular interaction pattern between teacher and students also offers an inclusive pedagogy that scaffolds students to succeed with growing conceptual, structural, and grammatical complexity in text.
Monitored independent reading was added to the intervention to build a strong reading culture in the school. Monitored independent reading is characterised by easy access to a wide range of texts that appeal to students’ interests and reflect their abilities; ongoing teacher attention to students’ independent reading choices; regular classroom talk about texts; and, the building of reading stamina (Gambrell, 1996; Hammond & Nessel, 2011; Krashen, 2009; Swan, Coddington, & Guthrie, 2010). While unmonitored independent reading in school has received negative reviews in the literature, systematic attention to students’ independent reading has been associated with increased motivation and achievement (McQuillan, Beckett, Gutierrez, & Rippon, 2001; Worthy & Roser, 2010). The students for whom significant reading improvement was reported were those of low and average reading ability, in lower grades, from a low socioeconomic group, or were learning English as a second language (Cunningham & Stanovich, 2001; Foorman, Schatschneider, Eakin, Fletcher, Moats et al., 2006; Frater, 1998; Kelly & Clausen-Grace, 2010; Krashen, 2009; McQuillan, Beckett, Gutierrez, & Rippon, 2001). Because most of the school population matched one or more of these groups, the entire school participated in monitored independent reading in addition to Reading to Learn.
The school was studied for three years. During this time, it responded to issues associated with staff and student transience, teacher variance in control of the pedagogy, tension between teacher beliefs about literacy education and the new approach, buy-in from all staff, resourcing, and state and national curriculum and assessment requirements. The school initiated peer and instructional coaching and inter-school collaboration to build teacher capacity in planning, teaching and assessment, changed its spending on resources, and instigated an innovation in its use of teacher aides to assist with the management of monitored independent reading.
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