The third edition of this respected volume provides current research along with instructional implications that reflect the rapidly evolving professional context in which the research is used. Educators will find information on how to teach students to read based on evidence from a broad base of effective, well-designed research. Topics have been updated and added to better reflect current thinking in the field and address issues that have come to national and international attention for a number of reasons, including the recently released U.S. National Reading Panel report. The editors maintain a balance among theory, research, and effective classroom practice without presenting a formulaic view of good instruction or overly theoretical discussions in which practical applications of research findings are not adequately explored. The 17 chapters focus on research related to early reading instruction, phonemic awareness, comprehension, and many other topics. Each chapter concludes with ''Questions for Discussion'' to encourage reflection on the topics discussed. Teacher educators will find this volume to be a valuable tool for preservice teacher preparation as well as graduate level courses. The professional development community, school administrators, and policymakers will also find it to be an indispensable resource as they seek to implement programs consistent with rapidly emerging legislative and policy mandates.
The International Reading Association is the world's premier organization of literacy professionals. Our titles promote reading by providing professional development to continuously advance the quality of literacy instruction and research.
Research-based, classroom-tested, and peer-reviewed, IRA titles are among the highest quality tools that help literacy professionals do their jobs better.
Some of the many areas we publish in include:
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Alan E. Farstrup is Executive Director of the International Reading Association, Newark, Delaware, USA.
S. Jay Samuels is Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From Chapter 1
Making Instructional Decisions Educational decisions are based on four main factors (Borg, 1981): personal experience, expert opinion, the research literature, and action research. Each has its pros and cons; together they provide solid cornerstones for planning and improving reading instruction.
Personal Experience Like most people, teachers are inclined to base most of their decisions on their personal experience. One reason is that they tend to be comfortable with the familiar. Witness the common observation of teacher educators that teachers in the field are more likely to teach as they were taught than as they were taught to teach. Another reason is that personal successes have more creditability than do the success stories of others. Not only that, but when instant decisions must be made daily, personal experience is the most readily accessible basis for action. Alternatives may be too time consuming to pursue.
Yet, there are serious entries on the debit side of the ledger. First, personal experiences are accumulated in a haphazard fashion; to assume that what worked with a unique group of children in a unique situation will work with other people in other places is risky. Second, memories of past experience may be faulty. The human inclination is to recall successes and other experiences that bolster biases and to repress failures and experiences that contradict cherished beliefs and practices. Finally, decision based strictly on personal experience ignore the accumulated knowledge and experience of others.
Thus, although personal experience is a powerful and pervasive basis for decision making, it is necessarily limited in both scope and vision. Borg (1981, p. 5) sums up: "A basic rule in decision making is that the more relevant information the decision-maker has, the more likely it is that she (or he) will make a sound decision."
Expert Opinion Expert opinion is based not only on the expert's personal experience but also on the shared experiences, judgments, and research findings of others. When opinion is restrained by balance and common sense, this broader view can contribute substantially to the decision-making process. In the schools, reading specialists are generally seen as the main purveyors of expert opinion regarding reading instruction. If the reading specialists are well experienced and informed, this is as it should be. However, the experts' interpretations are nearly certain to be influenced by their own experiences--and perhaps prescribed by selective viewing of evidence that supports preconceived notions.
The reading specialist who best fills the role of expert is the one who functions as a broker between a large cohort of experts (practitioners, researchers, scholars) and local teachers. That function is well served as long as the specialist remains objective in weighing and interpreting evidence and unbiased in offering recommendations.
The Research Literature Practitioners-including both reading specialists and teachers-who have the skills needed to read and evaluate research reports have access to a resource that goes far beyond personal experience and expert opinion. Teachers who go directly to the literature have the advantage of knowing their own situation better than any outside expert and the assurance that their search will be as comprehensive as they care to make it. Omissions and distortions can be minimized, information can be as timely as this month's journals, and the search can be focused precisely on problems as they are perceived in the classroom.
The disadvantage of a personal literature search is that it requires hard, time-consuming work. This is one of the main reasons that, more often than not, the search is delegated to the reading specialist. Delegated or not, a diligent literature search is an important requirement for informed decision making.
Action Research If a literature search fails to yield information that is on target for solving a given problem, an action research project may be in order. The main features of action research are its relative informality and its focus on day-to-day problems. The main goal of more formal educational research is to test theory and to advance scientific knowledge. To obtain results that can be applied beyond a particular sample, researchers carefully design studies to meet rigorous standards of external validity. Action research employs the scientific method, too; but because practitioners are not usually interested in generalizing beyond the local situation, many of the rigorous criteria of regular research can be relaxed. Selecting a sample of students, for example, would be easier in an action research project because practitioners would be interested in generalizing only to, say, the tenth grade students in their own school or district. Furthermore, since practitioners are mainly interested in practical significance, there is no need for inferential statistics. If statistical tests are used at all, nonparametric techniques usually suffice.
Action research is in order when local practitioners are looking for a specific answer to a local question rather than results that can be generalized to other locales. By bringing the scientific method to bear in action research, practitioners can avoid the limitations of personal experience and expert opinion and, at the same time, put the realities of home in sharp focus. Above all, action research is an active alternative to using the research of others that may or may not be on target for a particular application.
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