Below are excerpts from this book. Chapters in the volume were written by faculty in the Maryland Literacy Research Center at the University of Maryland, College Park.
In the late 1990s, teacher quality has become the centerpiece for discussions of school improvement. Policy leaders, such as Darling-Hammond (1994) and Fuhrman and O'Day (1996), have focused attention on the needs of teachers for several reasons. Foremost among these is the current status of the systemic reform movement. Across many states, schools have embarked on systemic efforts to improve student achievement. Systemic reform has been led by efforts for accountability. As states seek to increase student achievement, they begin by forming learning goals for students. These desirable outcomes are stated in more or less detail, but they are generated with consensus and public involvement as fully as possible (Feuer, Holland, Green, Bertenthal, & Hemphill, 1999). Accountability in the form of student assessment is prominent in the systemic reforms. Testing programs in the form of performance assessments, multiple-choice approaches, and occasionally portfolios are present in nearly every state as a source of leverage for school improvement.
Principles on Which Teachers Can Rely
In forming a vision for learning or deciding how to allocate precious time, teachers can use our suggested guidelines. The chapters in this volume focus on different facets of reading and reading instruction that foster the development of reading engagement. Each author explicates a simply stated prescription for what children need to become engaged and achieving readers. We suggest that children need the following supports:
1. A good foundation at the word level.
2. Help if they are in trouble.
classroom includes a substantial collection of reading materials in a classroom
library. Print represents a variety of genres including information
books, narratives, poetry, reference books, and multimedia. A variety of cultural backgrounds is
represented in the collection. Books encompass a range of difficulty and interests so that they are accessible and appropriate to all students. Children use technology to increase their access to print.
Collaborative literacy experiences promote engaged reading. Literacy development is enhanced when children work together to discuss and reflect on their reading and writing. Teachers create different kinds of social structures to enable peer collaboration. These structures may include small groups, teams, and partnerships. Peer-led discussions help students take responsibility for their own literacy learning. Peers play important roles in promoting one another's competence and motivation for reading.
Teachers are concerned with facilitating children's motivation to read along with their cognitive reading skills, in order that children become life-long self-directed readers. Teachers facilitate children's reading motivation when they (1) provide children opportunities to choose books based on their interests and from topics they are learning about in school; (2) use interesting texts and provide challenging tasks and activities; (3) foster children's beliefs that they are competent readers, and teach them the skills to be competent readers; and (4) encourage children to collaborate with others on projects related to their reading.
7. Teachers who are familiar with their strengths and weaknesses.
Coherence in instruction is extremely valuable for engaged reading. Coherence refers to the connections among the separate parts of teaching, such as reading strategy instruction, knowledge goals, real-world interactions, autonomy support, and rewards for learning. When these eight dimensions are integrated and coherent, students become engaged. Coherent instruction enables students to become independent readers and fosters reading achievement.
Teachers plan collaboratively for student learning by discussing goals, curriculum, students' special needs, and literacy successes with colleagues. Communication within and across grade levels and with support staff emphasizes consistency in the program and allows for clear instructional goal setting. Teachers' professional development is aligned with students' literacy development.
Connections with the home and the community are important in fostering children's engagement and achievement. Effective teachers facilitate the establishment of a partnership between home and school based on mutual respect and understanding. Teachers provide parents with the tools to enable effective involvement once they have learned about the strengths, needs, beliefs, and practices of each student's family. Effective teachers use community resources to augment what is available at home and school.
Effective reading instruction depends on the teacher's knowledge, motivation, and strategic processing. Teachers progress through developmental stages as they move toward expertise in teaching reading, each with its own distinct set of challenges. Teachers who are on the road to expertise: engage in self-assessment; establish personal goals and objectives; maintain reasonable self-expectations; seek a mentor; actively pursue new knowledge; establish a professional identity; are self-challenging; serve as a model of literacy; are prepared; and enjoy the journey.
Darling-Hammond, L. (1994). Professional development schools: schools for developing a profession. New York: Teachers College Press.
Last modified 28 May, 2001 © 2000 University of Maryland