From Teachers’ Perspective: Implementation of Literacy Materials in Middle School Science




Weingartner, Judith A.

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Documentation of adolescents’ difficulty in comprehending textbooks spans a century. For just as long, researchers have advocated that explicit instruction of reading strategies can help students’ comprehension of text; many have recommended that the best place to teach these strategies is within the content classroom (science, math, etc.), and taught by the content teacher. Despite this research, reading strategy instruction in content classrooms is not a common occurrence. In a large district with 300 middle school science teachers, some science teachers expressed concern about their students’ reading difficulties with the district’s science text. In response to those concerns, the middle school science coordinator organized a small committee to develop the Reading Strategies Handbook for Middle School Science for Teachers (the Handbook), believing that this tool would guide teachers’ in implementing the Handbook’s reading strategies and improve students’ comprehension of the text. This was a qualitative study that explored 11 middle school science teachers’ responses to implementing the Handbook. Data for this study were gathered through an emailed questionnaire, a classroom visitation, and one interview with each teacher participant. The study found that teachers’ varied backgrounds influenced their beliefs about teaching and learning, and impacted their classroom practices. Teachers faced their district’s expectations to implement reading strategies in the Handbook with minimal support and cited influences beyond their control that created tension with their decision whether to implement the Handbook. Teachers commented that a “one size fits all” curriculum and textbook-specific issues influenced their degree of using the Handbook’s reading strategies. In addition, teachers identified time and pressure to cover curriculum as obstacles to implementing the Handbook. Implications of these findings include: (a) Professional development studies related to content literacy are needed that include attention to teachers’ beliefs and attitudes, and (b) Policy makers need to direct funding for the professional development needs of content-area teachers.



Content reading, Middle school, Reading strategies, Professional development, Literacy