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Excerpted from chapter 1 Reading in the Classroom: Systems for the Observation of Teaching and Learning, edited by Sharon Vaughn, Ph.D., & Kerri L. Briggs, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2003 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Measurement of Teaching Practices During Reading/Language Arts Instruction and Its Relationship to Student Achievement
Reading initiatives at local, state, and national levels in the United States call for scientifically based reading instruction. Several consensus documents agree about what the content of this instruction should be — the National Research Council's Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998), the Primary Literacy Standards (New Standards, 1999), and the report of the National Reading Panel (2000). All of these documents agree on the importance of explicit instruction in the alphabet principle, integrated with reading for meaning and opportunities to learn. Specifically, this includes all support instruction that builds phonemic awareness and phonemic decoding skills, fluency in word recognition and text processing, construction of meaning, vocabulary, spelling, and writing skills (Foorman & Torgesen, 2001). But beyond agreement on the content of scientifically based reading instruction, little agreement exists regarding the implementation of this instruction. We cannot answer such basic questions as, "What does good reading instruction look like? How much time should teachers spend in different reading/language arts activities in order to maximize student outcomes? How much of good teaching is a matter of teacher knowledge, classroom management, or student engagement?"
To answer these questions, we reviewed the literature on classroom observation instruments and began to pilot our own instruments in a longitudinal investigation of the conditions under which children learn to read. The investigation followed approximately 1,400 children (98% of whom were African American) in kindergarten through fourth grade; these children were in 112 classrooms in 17 high-poverty schools in Houston and Washington, D.C. The literature review and longitudinal investigation reveal much. In this chapter, we review the literature on existing instruments for observing reading/language arts instruction, describe the classroom observational instruments we developed, and provide preliminary descriptions of how these measures of classroom behaviors relate to student outcomes.
OBSERVATIONAL SYSTEMS FOR CLASSROOM READING INSTRUCTION
Classroom observational systems range widely from descriptive frameworks and narrative descriptions to coding of teacher–student communication and time-sampling of discrete behaviors. An example of a descriptive framework is the Reading Lesson Observation Framework (RLOF; Henk, Moore, Marinak, & Tomasetti, 2000). The RLOF consists of a set of expectations for teaching behaviors during reading/language arts instruction time. Thus, the RLOF serves as a tool that district supervisors can use to align teaching behaviors with district philosophy. The instrument consists of seven domains with 5–11 indicators in each. The seven domains are classroom climate, prereading phase, guided reading phase, postreading phase, skill and strategy instruction, materials and tasks of the lesson, and teacher practices. Responses are recorded in one of four ways: observed and of satisfactory quality, observed and of very high quality, either not observed or of unsatisfactory quality, and not applicable. No inter-rater reliability for the RLOF was provided by Henk and colleagues (2000).
There are many qualitative approaches to conducting classroom observations (Wolcott, 1988). One method, adopted by Pressley, Wharton-McDonald, Mistre