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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Grade three teachers’ personal practical knowledge of reading instruction and its relationship to teacher background, their students’ reading experiences and achievement : a secondary analysis of the 1991 IEA Reading Literacy Study Asselin, Marlene McMahon


The recent shift from behaviorist to cognitive views of teaching premises the role of teachers’ knowledge in their instructional practice. In light of dramatic changes in literacy theory and policy, teachers’ knowledge of reading instruction is a particular interest in both teaching and literacy instruction research. The purpose of this study was to construct a description of grade three reading instruction in Canada (BC) and to explain differences between teachers’ instructional approaches on measures of teacher background, student background, and student achievement. To accomplish these purposes, this study reanalyzed data from a representative sample of provincial teachers (N=154) and students (N=2813) from the 1991 International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement Reading Literacy Study. Analysis was planned in two stages, exploratory followed by confirmatory. Exploratory first-and second-order factor analyses of the teacher data were conducted and two factors of reading instruction were identified. Based on interpretative frameworks of Traditional, Whole Language, and Strategic perspectives of reading instruction, the factors were named Strategic Whole Language and Programmatic Skills. The Strategic Whole Language factor seemed to emphasize students’ use of comprehension strategies in learner-centered, literature-based classrooms. The Programmatic Skills factor indicated an instructional approach that is teacher-centered and focussed on students’ mastery of hierarchial skills. Following identification of the reading instruction factors, exploratory cluster analysis based on teachers’ factor scores identified four groups of teachers. None of the four teacher groups consistently reflected the properties of either the Strategic Whole Language or Programmatic Skills factor. Finally, analyses of variance and chi square analyses revealed no statistically significant differences among these teacher groups on measures of teacher background, student background, and student achievement. Major findings from this study suggest that grade three teachers’ personal practical knowledge of reading instruction is an interaction of independent factors rather than a subscription to one of the perspectives defined in the literature. In this way, the eclectic approaches to instruction found in this study challenge the assumption of a paradigm shift declared in the reading literature. Second, students’ similar achievement across instructional approaches, as measured in this study, suggests equivalent effectiveness of several kinds of instruction for some, but not all, aspects of students’ reading development. Findings from this study provide a foundation for teacher and curriculum development, particularly by identifying the minimal attention currently being paid to students’ strategic reading abilities. Finally, a number of methodological issues in large-scale assessement studies are discussed and suggestions concerning research instruments and data analysis are given.

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