Knowledge to Support the Teaching of Reading: Preparing Teachers for a Changing World / Edition 1

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It is generally accepted that reading with comprehension is key to success in all academic domains. This means that every teacher must be able to help students deepen their reading and writing skills. What is the core knowledge base teachers need for this task? Knowledge to Support the Teaching of Reading offers a definitive guide to reading and literacy preparation in teacher education and professional development.
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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"This volume builds on the National Research Council Report How People Learn and what we know about effective teacher education practices to address the important issue of preparing all K-12 teachers to teach reading."
—John Bransford, University of Washington, co-chair of the Committee on Teacher Education

"This book should be read by teachers, teacher educators, and policy makers who are interested in ensuring that all teachers have the knowledge and skills necessary to teach all students to read."
—Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University, co-chair of the Committee on Teacher Education

"Knowledge to Support the Teaching of Reading could serve as a guide to those designing teacher education courses and programs and to those interested in hiring knowledgeable new teachers."
—George Hillocks, University of Chicago

"The authors know the literature very well…indeed, it is an excellent job of taking the research data and using them in a way that teachers can take advantage of."
—Walter Kintsch, University og Colorado, Boulder

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787996338
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/17/2007
  • Series: The Jossey-Bass Education Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 868,266
  • Product dimensions: 6.97 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine E. Snow is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She conducts research on first and second language acquisition and literacy development in monolingual and bilingual children.

Peg Griffin is a research affiliate of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition of the University of California at San Diego. She studies language and literacy in various school subjects and in preschools.

M. Susan Burns is co-coordinator of the Early Childhood Education Program in the College of Education and Human Development at GeorgeMason University. She studies cognition, language, and literacy in the early childhood education ofculturally, linguistically, and ability diverse children.
In addition to the editors, the subcommittee includes Gina Cervetti, Claude Goldenberg, Louisa Moats, Annemarie Palincsar, P. David Pearson, Dorothy Strickland, and MaryEllen Vogt.

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Read an Excerpt

Knowledge to Support the Teaching of Reading

By Catherine Snow

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-7465-X

Chapter One

Yet Another Report About Teacher Education?

In Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, enhanced teacher education was identified as a key strategy in improving reading instruction and thus reading outcomes. Preventing Reading Difficulties was based on an extensive review and synthesis of a rich research base on reading development. Writing an equivalent report that might be called Preventing Instructional Disasters in Novice Teachers' Classrooms would have a much less rich basis in directly relevant research. Many of the claims in such a report would have to be inferred from evidence about children's literacy development, such as that reviewed in Preventing Reading Difficulties and in the Report of the National Reading Panel (National Reading Panel, 2000). The link from evidence about child accomplishments and effective instructional practices to required teacher knowledge and effective teacher education requires a fairly high level of inference.

Of course, the fictive Preventing Instructional Disasters could draw on information such as that reviewed in the National Research Council report How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 1999) about how real, transferable, usable knowledge is acquired, both by adults and by children. It could also draw from the growing body of information about effective and ineffective strategies in teacher education and professional development that is based both in the wisdom of practice and in systematic reviews of successful preservice and inservice teacher-education programs.

Unfortunately, though, all these sources of information add up to less clarity than we might wish to have about the optimal design of teacher education to ensure adequate preparation for all teachers in literacy. We simply do not have the research base we need-a convergent program of research in which content and method in teacher preparation or professional development programs have been manipulated, and accompanying changes in teacher knowledge, teacher behavior, and child outcomes charted. Nor can we wait for that research base. Teachers are being prepared in their thousands every year, and the projected need for new teachers is enormous. Thus, we are impelled to take the relevant information available to us as a basis for recommendations about how to prepare teachers to teach reading more effectively. We offer these recommendations as working hypotheses, with the full recognition that they will need to be constantly evaluated along the way. In other words, teacher educators must start working the way excellent teachers work, by imposing on their own profession a recurrent cycle of learning, enactment, assessment, and reflection.

Nor should the lack of a fully specified research base discourage us regarding the value of what we do know or the appropriateness of much current practice in teacher education. Medical education, in which professionalization and high standards were introduced in a rather draconian fashion as a result of the Flexner report (Flexner and Pritchett, 1910) and which is often cited as a model for reform in teacher education, has never been subjected to systematic assessment. The content of what is taught in medical schools is defined by "science-based medicine," but medical faculties are experimenting all the time with variations in how to make the learning more efficient and more connected to clinical practice, at the same time preparing M.D.s to function as doctors and to engage in continued informal and formal learning (Tosteson, Adelstein, and Carver, 1994).

We take as a central process in any educational effort the learning, enactment, assessment, and reflection cycle-a cycle of activities in which learners start with what they know, but are committed to assessing efficacy of the enactment of that knowledge in recognition that what they know is insufficient. This cycle applies as much to those of us educating teachers or providing guidelines for teacher education as to those learners starting on the road to certification as teachers. What would this cycle look like for teacher education? It would mean enacting a form of teacher education that is based as firmly as possible on what has been learned from research, assessing systematically the effectiveness of that education, reflecting on where it has fallen short and how it could be improved, thus generating new learning which in turn starts the next cycle at a higher level. In this book we offer a set of recommendations for the design and enactment of teacher education based on what is currently known from research about literacy development, literacy instruction, and student and teacher learning. Needless to say, we accompany this sketch of enactment with an exhortation to attend to the assessment and reflection components of the cycle in enacting these recommendations.

The urgency of our recommendations is enhanced by the consensus among national organizations focusing on education that a new design for teacher education is needed. Commissions, committees, and reports focused on teacher education have been launched by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the International Reading Association (IRA), the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), and by the National Academy of Education (NAE). The NAE established a Committee on Teacher Education (CTE), chaired by Linda Darling-Hammond and John Bransford, to prepare a report providing a comprehensive picture of the requirements for improved teacher education. That report, Preparing Teachers for a Changing World: What Teachers Should Learn and Be Able to Do (Darling-Hammond, Bransford, LePage, Hammerness, and Duffy, 2005), constitutes the context for this book, which focuses specifically on the knowledge about literacy that all teachers need to have. This report builds on the advanced degree of consensus within the field of education concerning the characteristics of good literacy instruction. The content specifications for this literacy report can build on a broader base of research than would be the case for fields such as math, social studies, or science.

Writing a report like this is not, of course, a novel undertaking. A number of attempts have been made to sketch the teacher's required knowledge base for teaching reading-several with participation by members of this very committee. As one member put it at a planning meeting, "I can't stand the thought of producing another list of things teachers should know and don't"-a sentiment all of us recognized we shared as soon as it was uttered.

How is this report, then, different from its predecessors? It is, first of all, emphatically not a list. It grows out of a developmental view of adult learning that specifies various stages or levels of knowledge, and that presupposes the development of structures to support the learning of teachers across their careers, comparable to the developmental view of child learning endorsed in Preventing Reading Difficulties. Second, it focuses on usable knowledge-thinking about how to ensure that teachers develop real, practice-based, useful knowledge rather than the sort of knowledge that is easy to assess but hard to use. Third, it tries to represent the required knowledge systemically, in a way that makes clear how disciplinary knowledge (in this case, drawn both from the various hyphenated-linguistics disciplines and from the cognitive psychology of reading) does and does not shape and dictate teacher knowledge. In this chapter, we describe the structure of our thinking about the following things: adult development; the characteristics of and prerequisites to usable knowledge; and the contributions of cognitive psychology and linguistics, which we take to include psycho-, socio-, and discourse-linguistics, to the definition of the knowledge teachers need to teach literacy effectively.

For each of those three areas we also discuss the warrants for arguing that they are worth attending to. As noted earlier, those warrants do not typically derive from experimental studies demonstrating impact or effectiveness. They often derive from somewhat more indirect arguments. Thus, we are proposing two linked activities: changes in teacher education and professional development, and evaluation of those changes through assessment of teacher and student learning at every stage of the change. Like improving reading instruction, improving teacher education is an inherently empirical undertaking.


In Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, a contrast was drawn between traditional readiness models of reading and current emergent literacy models. Readiness models see reading as a product of instruction that should only be introduced after certain maturational milestones have been reached. Emergent literacy approaches, however, emphasize the many accomplishments of very young children that are directly related to literacy development-learning about the functions of print, learning about how language is used differently in written and in spoken language, starting to enact writing with scribbling and reading with recitation of the text of familiar picture books, and learning to recognize some letters and some printed words. Whether one wants to identify these accomplishments as "literacy" or not, it is clear that they represent knowledge and capabilities that the maturationist, readiness view would render invisible.

Similarly, we argue that the traditional, and still widely accepted, view of teacher education is one that is too dominated by the identification of sharp shifts in status and hypothesized accompanying shifts in capacity. Young men and women are certified as teachers after a certain number of courses in education and some prescribed number of hours of supervised classroom experience. As soon as certification requirements are achieved, these women and men are given the full list of responsibilities associated with being a teacher-a classroom full of students, considerable choice (in some places) among curricula, partial to complete control over the scheduling of the students' learning activities, accountability for classroom management and for student progress, freedom to refer children for evaluation for special services, and a very high level of autonomy. Such teachers are very unlikely to receive much supervision or, unless they are good at seeking it out for themselves, much consultation or advice. Having achieved the status of certified teacher, they may well then continue in that status for forty years, with no systematic opportunity to move toward a higher degree of qualification, to fill in areas of knowledge that might have been skimped on in their preservice programs, or to become acquainted with newly emerging research findings.

We argue that this status-shift view of teacher development accords poorly with what we know about adult development, human learning, and the description of the knowledge domains teachers need to acquire. Compare the teacher-education model to other forms of professional preparation. An aspirant barber in Massachusetts studies for a thousand credit hours over seven to ten months, engaging in supervised practice for up to fifteen hours a week during the "preservice" phase of training, then must operate for a full year in a shop under the supervision of an experienced barber before being allowed to open an independent business. An aspirant medical doctor in the United States is required to cover many hours of premedical, basic science training and pass an exam to qualify for entry into medical school, then to engage in three years of full-time study including increasingly challenging tasks involving patient contact, then to fulfill a full year's internship, before even being allowed to treat a patient without supervision; M.D.s seeking specialization may experience another several years of supervised practice and practice-based learning.

It is striking that teacher preparation resembles barber preparation more than medical preparation-and even then falls short in the amount of supervised practice required before independent action! The aspirant M.D. goes through at least three, and often five, developmental stages, whereas the average aspirant teacher has only two-precertified and certified. Of course, induction-year programs are widely recommended, but they have been effectively implemented for only a tiny proportion of new teachers-far fewer than the number that enters teaching without even having completed a preservice certification program! The single status-shift model for teacher career development places an enormous burden on the preservice program, requiring that it provide far more knowledge and practical skills than anyone could reasonably acquire within a few short years. It also rests on the myth that what teachers need to know is a fixed body of knowledge-that a systematic procedure for ensuring access to new evidence and new conceptions is unnecessary. Most devastatingly, though, it conflicts with the conception of the teacher as a lifelong learner who could be motivated and should be rewarded by recognition of status changes throughout the length of a career-from novice teacher to collaborating teacher to master teacher to coach, for example-especially if those status shifts are accompanied by increases in remuneration and responsibility.

The incentive structure of a career-long developmental pathway for teachers is not the most important reason to propose this model. More compellingly, a model like this fits with our presupposition of progressive differentiation as a general framework for thinking about teacher education. Progressive differentiation refers to a process of development in which the capacities being used at any point are analyzed and elaborated, in response to evidence that they fall short. Thus, for example, a novice teacher's skillful use of a prescribed, well-structured literacy curriculum represents a developmental accomplishment; the teacher's recognition that the curriculum is not being effective with a subset of the children in her or his first-grade classroom (for example, the English-language learners, or ELLs) generates an opportunity to analyze the curriculum, to think about the skills it presupposes, and to design supplementary or alternative teaching models for the ELL children. The teacher's skill in using the curriculum is not superceded, but rather analyzed and elaborated, leading eventually to a reorganization of her or his enacted knowledge into reflective knowledge.

We distinguish five levels of increasing progressive differentiation roughly correlated with five points in the teacher's career progression: preservice, apprentice, novice, experienced, and master teacher. Teachers at each of these points on their developmental and career trajectories should be engaged in cycles of learning, enactment, assessment, and reflection, though the weight placed on each of these activities shifts with experience. Clearly, preservice, apprentice, and novice teachers are most heavily involved in new learning, whereas experienced and master teachers are placing more emphasis on assessment and reflection. But each of the steps in the cycle is crucial for all. We can describe five points in a teacher's development by characterizing the type of knowing that dominates at each point. Figure 1.1 is a representation of how those different types of knowledge might be distributed at various points in a teacher's career. Remember, though, that the total knowledge available grows.

Declarative Knowledge The student pursuing an education major or certification program is primarily engaged in acquiring declarative knowledge (learning, from books or lectures, about child development, about instructional approaches, about text analysis, and so on) and in acquiring a declarative version of procedural knowledge-the capacity to answer questions about what one should do in various situations. This stage of knowledge development is when a solid foundation of disciplinary knowledge relevant to success as a teacher will typically be acquired; given constraints of time and energy, that places on teacher educators the burden of being analytical about precisely what that knowledge must be.


Excerpted from Knowledge to Support the Teaching of Reading by Catherine Snow Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 Yet another report about teacher education? 1
2 Students change : what are teachers to learn about reading development 15
3 Students vary : how can teachers address all their needs? 123
4 Students encounter difficulties : when teachers need specialized knowledge 161
5 Learning to use reading assessments wisely 177
6 A model of professional growth in reading education 201
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