Seeking improvements in literacy instruction through an ecological model lens

Seeking improvements in literacy instruction through an ecological model lens

First Author: Kausalai Wijekumar -- Texas A&M University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Emily Binks-Cantrell; R. M. Joshi; Debra McKeown
Abstract / Summary: 

Poor performance of reading and writing skills in elementary schools is often associated with poor knowledge of literacy related concepts by teachers. However, related factors such as the role of principals and other school administrators, collectively termed ecological factors, in literacy achievement have not been explored. The purpose of this symposium is to examine the role of school administrators in improving literacy skills which was examined through surveys and observations of classrooms. In addition to literacy knowledge, self efficacy of teachers and administrators were also examined in both regular and special education settings. The results from the five proposals showed that many ecological factors, in addition to teacher knowledge, may be responsible for poor performance of literacy skills in students. Research and educational implications will be discussed to improve literacy skills of students. Symposium Papers:

Symposium Papers: 

Effects of web-based teacher professional development about elementary grade reading comprehension

First Author/Chair:Manjari Banerjee -- Texas A&M University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Kausalai Kay Wijekumar; Debra McKeown; R. M. Joshi; Emily Binks-Cantrell; Julie Thompson

Purpose –The current study reports on the reading instructional practices of approximately 334 teachers participating in professional development on a massively open online virtual (MOOV) learning system. Learning modules included modeling, practice tasks, and feedback.
Research questions guiding this inquiry were:
1. What is the relationship between teacher reading instructional knowledge and teacher experience, certification, and level of education?

2. Does participation in online modules addressing effective reading instructional practices meaningfully improve teacher knowledge of main ideas?
Method – Multilevel multiple regression was used to estimate the results for RQ1. A longitudinal growth model was used to estimate the results of RQ2. Measures included a main idea measure administered to teachers scored by a computer algorithm, survey of instructional practices, and self-reports on education level, teacher certification, and teacher experience (M=10.93, SD=7.56).
Results – Results for RQ1 revealed that teacher experience, education, or certification were not significant predictors of teacher knowledge of reading instructional practices. Further, the longitudinal growth model for RQ2 yielded evidence to suggest that change in teacher knowledge followed a significant positive growth (β = 5.337, p<0.001), only when the passages read were similar to each other. For passages that were not similar to each other, a small but significant negative growth was detected (β =-0.786, p<0.01).
Conclusions – Teacher knowledge about evidence-based practices remains a challenge. Online learning modules presented learning opportunities but the impact appears to be limited.

Educator knowledge of phonological awareness, phonics, and dyslexia

First Author/Chair:Tiffany Peltier -- University of Oklahoma
Additional authors/chairs: 
Erin K. Washburn

Purpose: Past research suggests teachers may be underprepared to teach students with reading difficulties (Washburn et al., 2010). The purpose of our investigation included: (a) examining perceptions about preparation to teach reading to students with decoding difficulties and (b) assessing knowledge about teaching decoding (i.e., phonological awareness, phonics, dyslexia).

Method: A multiple-choice survey was administered to PK-8 educators (n=907) in one midwestern state. The survey included 19 knowledge-level items and 5 dyslexia-specific items, which were adapted from previous surveys (e.g., Binks-Cantrell et al., 2012). Descriptive statistics were used to identify patterns and inferential statistics were used to test for differences across demographic variables (i.e., years of experience, undergraduate degree, highest degree, route to certification).

Results: Findings indicated that a majority of PK-8 educators, across all groups of demographic variables, displayed some knowledge in phonological awareness, phonics, and dyslexia (e.g., 56% of teachers across groups could identify the number of speech sounds in the word “through”). Differences across demographic groups were also identified (e.g., 62% of those who received an undergraduate degree in elementary education identified that “saw” was phonetically regular for reading, contrasting only 48% of those who received an undergraduate degree in early childhood). Moreover, the majority of all demographic groups demonstrated misconceptions about dyslexia (e.g., 83% incorrectly responded “True” to "Seeing letters an‎d‎/or words backwards is a characteristic of dyslexia").

Conclusions: Stakeholders (e.g., legislators, teacher educators, state and district leaders) may need to examine current teacher preparation and training practices for beginning reading constructs and dyslexia.

Can principals lead when they are in the dark?

First Author/Chair:Julie Kate Owens -- Texas A&M University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Debra McKeown; Kausalai Kay Wijekumar

Purpose –Students continue to write below grade level, and evidenced based practices (EBP) are not being utilized in classrooms to address this issue. Self Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) is an EBP in writing yet it has yet to be researched in large scale. This study researches the impact a principal intervention (I.LEAD), focusing on leadership content knowledge (LCK) in writing and the implementation process of the intervention, can have on teacher fidelity and teacher perceptions of support in writing instruction.
Research questions guiding this inquiry are:
1. Will participating in I.LEAD impact principals’ knowledge about effective writing instruction?
2. What is the congruency between principals’ self- perceptions of support for writing and teachers’ perceptions of principals’ support for writing before and after the principal’s participation in I.LEAD throughout the implementation of We-Write intervention?

Method –This study is embedded in a cluster randomized controlled efficacy trial with 19 elementary schools. This study focuses on the 10 principals and 60 3rd and 4th grade teachers of the intervention group implementing We-Write. A mixed methods approach was used to analyze the data including pre/post surveys measuring teacher and principal perceptions about supporting writing, teacher fidelity of implementation, interviews, observations, and field notes.

Results – Results show that all principals reported a lack of knowledge about writing instruction. Notably only three completed each six-week check-in regarding the fidelity of implementation. Teachers reported a lack of support for implementation from their principals.
Conclusions: Principal roles in intervention implementation needs to be further explored.

Characterizing the knowledge of educators across the tiers of instructional support

First Author/Chair:Timothy Odegard -- Middle Tennessee State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Emily A. Farris; K. Melissa McMahan; Susan Porter

Translating the research base on effective reading instruction to the classroom has been a challenge. The delivery of these instructional methods requires practical skills coupled with an understanding of the aspects of language they target. The purpose of this study was to explore the level of knowledge in different aspects of the English language held by educators who provide instructional support in general and special education in the primary grades.
Data from 1,454 classroom teachers, 76 reading interventionists and 142 special educators were collected as part of a training initiative in a U.S. state. Participating educators completed a 50-item survey of knowledge in the areas of phonological sensitivity, phonemic awareness, decoding, encoding, and morphology.
The results of a multivariate analysis of variance confirmed differences in the levels of knowledge observed between the groups of educators. Reading interventionists demonstrated greater knowledge than classroom teachers and special educators in phonological sensitivity, phonemic awareness, decoding, encoding, and morphology. Classroom teachers demonstrated greater knowledge than special educators in phonological sensitivity and decoding.
Special educators provide intervention to students with the most severe forms of reading disabilities, but they had the lowest level of knowledge in this study. In contrast, reading interventionists, who provide intervention within general education as part of Response to Instruction, had the highest levels of knowledge. These findings suggest a need to elevate the knowledge of special educators and consider the role of reading interventionists in supporting students identified with a specific learning disability in reading.

The influence of teachers’ knowledge and teaching practice on outcomes for beginning readers

First Author/Chair:C. Braid -- Massey University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Arrow, Alison .W; Chapman, J. W.

We previously found that explicit knowledge of linguistic and orthographic foundations of literacy was necessary but not sufficient to apply that knowledge in practice. It may be that teachers require explicit guidance in how to use their knowledge, and that application without support may lead to confusion and lower achievement for students.
Thirty-eight schools were randomly allocated to two cohorts. The first cohort (Knowledge only; K-only) took part in six days of professional learning on phonic and orthographic knowledge and explicit instruction in vocabulary and comprehension. The second cohort (Knowledge and support; K & S) took part in the same six days of professional learning in the following year. The K & S group were also provided with a phonics scope and sequence and resources to use in classroom application.
Teacher knowledge of linguistic concepts (Binks-Cantrell, Joshi, & Washburn, 2012) was measured pre and post intervention in both cohorts of teachers, with significant change across time for both. Coded video observations of practice, however, found that the K & S group used significantly more explicit teaching when teaching reading in their classrooms. Student outcomes in the K & S cohort classrooms were significantly better on reading and spelling measures than the K-only students and a comparison group of students receiving implicit instruction.
Explicit teacher knowledge is necessary for effective teaching of reading. However, the inclusion of supports for the change to teaching practice is necessary for teacher knowledge to have a positive effect on reading outcomes for learners.