27 SES 03 C, Teaching Reading and Literacy
The aim of the current study is to investigate how teachers interpret and reflect about their responsibility for teaching reading, and how they actually teach reading to their students in three selected subjects; Norwegian (focus subject), Science and Social studies. Norwegian students’ literacy competences have been particularly focussed at national level since the so-called “PISA-shock” in 2000 (Lie, Kjærnsli, Roe and Turmo, 2001), when Norway’s first particpation in the PISA-study found that Norwegian students scored below the OECD average, an unexpected result for Norwegian educational authorities. To improve this situation, a new National Curriculum was developed and implemented from 2006. The new curriculum, abbreviated LK06, defined five skills in all subjects; reading, writing, oral, digital and numerical skills. Focussing on pupils’ aquisition of skills also forms part of the European Growth Strategy, Europe 2020, which focusses on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (European Commission, 2016). The introduction of skills as a specific focus in LK06 can thus be seen as part of educational policy trends in Europe, and as an attempt to respond to OECD’s work to enhance key competences to be aimed at in all the different educational systems (Skovholt, 2014, p. 15).
While the subject Norwegian previously had the main responsibility for teaching reading and writing to students, this responsibility should, according to LK06, be shared with teachers from all other subjects. However, research into the implementation of LK06 shows that teachers did not share a common understanding of this element in the new curriculum (Hodgson, Rønning and Tomlinson, 2012), and some teachers hekd a limited understanding of what the new responsibility meant for their role as teachers in the different subjects.
In 2013, the National Curriculum underwent a revision, aiming to state more clearly for teachers their responsibility for teaching the skills in their subjects. The current study investigates the situation after the revision and focusses on reading in Norwegian as the basis. Teachers of Norwegian, traditionally, and to some extent still, have specific responsibilities for teaching reading and writing, in particular the basic skill levels in reading and writing one expects pupils to acquire during their first years of schooling. However, since all subjects now share the responsibility of teaching the skills mentioned above, it was important also to study how teachers in other subjects, in this case Science and Social Studies, interpret, think about and actually teach reading in their respective subjects.
The overarching research question for the study is: What characterises teachers’ didactic reading practices? The term “practice” in the current study includes both teachers’ actions and their reflections regarding their actions; the term is used in the same way as within the New Literacy Studies (NLS) tradition, where for example Street (2000, p. 20) defines practices as social actions as well as beliefs regarding reading and writing. Thus, the two more specific research sub-questions are: a) What ways of working do teachers make use of when teaching reading in Norwegian, Science and Social Studies, and to what extent can the work methods support pupils’ learning? This question focusses on the actual teaching situations and the teachers’ work with factual texts, including the structure, organisation and content of the lessons. And, secondly: b) How do teachers, from a didactical perspective, interpret, reason and reflect about reading? This question focusses on teachers’ expressed reasons, evaluations, reflections and knowledge, i.e. their “beliefs”. The use of “beliefs” is in line with Fives and Buehl who define it as filters for teachers’ experiences, framework for challenges to be solved and guidelines for the actions that are being carried out (Fives and Buehl, 2012, p. 478).
To investigate the main research question referred to above, the present study has used a qualitative mixed methodology approach (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 2010), where different methods have been applied to collect data for the two sub-questions, focussing on teachers’ beliefs and actions respectively. With regard to teachers’ actions it was important to use an approach that could provide as comprehensive a picture of the teaching contexts as possible, something which can be achieved best through video observations. Through the use of video, including high quality audio recordings of the oral interaction between teacher and pupils, the researcher is able to study teacher actions and pupil responses to the actions in a relatively detailed way. Video recordings also allows the researcher to study the observations as many times as needed, to get as full a picture as possible of the interaction. However, Boeije (2014, p. 65) claims that one limitation by using video for research purposes, is the degree to what the pictures can be viewed as «true» or not, that is to what extent the video mirrors the realities in the situations and contexts being filmed. To what extent has the researcher given privilege to situations that he/she experienced as interesting, and thereby leaving out other, potentially equally important, situations? Because of this Boeije (2014, p. 66) therefore warns that video recordings can only be looked upon as representing part of the reality being studied. Qualitative research interviews allows the researcher to learn about, or get an insight into, people’s lives and experiences and the language in use in the social situation that the people are a part of (Boeije, 2014, p. 62; Kvale og Brinkmann, 2015, p. 20). To investigate teachers’ beliefs regarding reading, qualitative, semi-structured interviews have been used. The interview agenda was developed based on the principle of hierarchical focussing (Tomlinson, 1989), an approach that allows the researcher to secure that all relevant issues are covered, but with as little framing as possible. The actual data collection comprises data from nine different teachers from the three chosen subjects, with video observations and pre and post observation interviews with the teachers. Video data have been analysed using interaction analysis (Jordan and Henderson, 1995), while interview data have been analysed using a phenomenographic approach (Marton and Booth, 2012).
Results from the study indicate that teachers view reading skills as important in the different school subjects. However, their perceptions are somewhat vague regarding what reading as a skill entails in their respective subjects. Findings also indicate that there may be a connection between the vague conceptions teachers hold, and their choice of approaches when reading texts in class. Both expressed through their beliefs and through their actions, there is a focus on knowledge acquisition as the objective for reading, and less, if any, focus on objectives regarding the actual reading process and progress in the development of pupils’ reading skills. In cases where teachers tend to focus on the reading process, the aims for this are not expressed explicitly, but only emerge implicitly through what they do. The latter may suggest a relatively low awareness on developing pupils’ metacognitive skills regarding reading as a central tool to support their learning processes. This finding is in line with previous studies that show that teachers tend to view reading and learning as separate processes, i.e. that they do not view the quality of the reading process and awareness of different approaches in reading as influencing the pupils’ learning (Gillespie and Rasinski, 1989). Another finding is that there is little evidence of teachers having a subject specific approach when working with reading texts with pupils, and also little awareness of how their choice of texts may influence how they potentially could approach the texts to support pupils’ learning and their metacognitive awareness. Instead, it may seem as if teachers view the development of pupils’ reading as a process that happens naturally as pupils are exposed to different texts, and not as a developmental process that requires their specific attention and planning, over time, to ensure progression in the development of the skill.
Boeije, H. (2014). Analysis in Qualitative Research. London: Sage Publications, Ltd. European Commission (2016). Basic Skills. Downloaded 10.11.2016 from: http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/school/math_en Fives, H. and Buehl, M.M. (2012). Spring cleaning for the “messy” construct of teachers’ beliefs: What are they? Which have been examined? What can they tell us? In K.R. Harris, S. Graham and T. Urdan (Eds.): APA educational psychology handbook: Individual differences and cultural and contextual factors (pp. 471-499). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Gillespie, C. og Rasinski, T. (1989). Content area teachers’ attitudes and practices toward reading in the content areas: A review. Reading Research and Instruction, 28(3), 45-67. Hodgson, J., Rønning, W. and Tomlinson, P. (2012). Sammenhengen mellom undervisning og læring. En studie av læreres praksis og deres tenkning under Kunnskapsløftet. Sluttrapport. NF-rapport nr. 4/2012. Bodø: Nordlandsforskning. Jordan, B. and Henderson, A. (1995). Interaction Analysis: Foundations and Practice. The Journal for the Learning Sciences, 4(1), 39-103. Kvale, S. and Brinkmann, S. (2015). Det kvalitative forskningsintervju. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk. Lie, S. Kjærnsli, M., Roe, A. and Turmo, A. (2001). Godt rustet for framtida. Norske 15-åringers kompetanse i lesing og realfag i et internasjonalt perspektiv. Acta Didactica 4/2001. Oslo: Universitetet i Oslo. Marton, F. and Booth, S. (2012). Om lärande. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Skovholt, K. (2014). Grunnleggende ferdigheter i alle fag. In K. Skovholt (Ed.), Innføring i grunnleggende ferdigheter. Praktisk arbeid på fagenes premisser (pp.13-54). Oslo: Cappelen Akademisk Forlag. Street, B. (2000). Literacy events and literacy practices. I M. Martin-Jones and K. Jones (Eds.), Multilingual literacies: Reading and writing different worlds (pp. 17-30). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Tashakkori, A. and Teddlie, C. (2010. SAGE Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social & Behavioral Research. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc. Tomlinson, P.D. (1989). Having It Both Ways: Hierarchical Focusing as Research Interview Method. British Educational Research Journal. 15(2), 155-176.
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