It's not just the text: Transactions between content area teachers and struggling readers
This study examined the ways in which: (a) three middle school struggling readers transacted with the reading task demands of their content area classrooms and (b) three content area teachers transacted with these students in relation to these demands. The results suggest that the ways in which struggling readers transact with reading task demands is influenced by their surroundings, how they view themselves as readers, and how they want their peers and teachers to view them. The teachers in this study recognized that the participating students might need additional help in comprehending the text used in their classrooms. However, they believed that any problems students had with text could be salved by engaging in a set of specific behaviors (for example by applying comprehension strategies or asking for assistance). The teachers in this study did not recognize how additional factors influenced the ways students made decisions about text.
Each of the struggling readers recognized the behaviors that their teachers expected them to use to comprehend text. For the most part, the students rejected these behaviors and refused to use them. This happened even when the students understood when, how, and why they would want to apply a specific behavior in order to better comprehend text. The students explained that they understood these behaviors were but the extent to which they would use them was tied to how they wanted to be seen as a reader within the context of their classroom.
The findings from this study suggest several important things. First, teachers may need more help in thinking about how students' views on reading influence the decisions they make about text. Teachers cannot assume that if they provide quality instruction intended to increase comprehension of text that students will make use of these behaviors. Second, teachers need to develop an understanding of the world in which struggling readers reside in. This includes learning how they see themselves as readers and also understanding their fears and hopes about how others might see them.
Finally, more work needs to be done that examines how and why struggling readers do/do not make use of comprehension strategies. The results from this dissertation suggest that providing excellent instruction may not be enough to insure that the comprehension of struggling readers will improve. Future research should also consider how teachers can apply what they know about students' goals/motivations to strategy instruction.
0535: Reading instruction