Academic journal article Education

Toward a Dialogical Mediated Action Approach to Reading Remediation

Academic journal article Education

Toward a Dialogical Mediated Action Approach to Reading Remediation

Article excerpt


Literacy learners differ from one another in the ease with which they learn to read and later use their reading strategies. Indeed, the popular view is that strategy use is a central difference between good and poor readers. But the research evidence in this area is mixed regarding the extent to which we can remediate those experiencing reading difficulties. Nickerson (1986) concluded that many students do not acquire high-level thinking skills easily or often through traditional instruction. Recently, there has been a trend to target "basic" reading skills for students experiencing difficulties, while reserving the higher order reasoning skills for more successful students (Puro & Bloome, 1987). According to Allington (1989), traditional approaches to remedial and special education programs have been based on discrete, isolated skill-based models where poor readers receive less reading comprehension instruction than better readers.

Along with recent trends to target basic skills to remediate reading, there is a plethora of strategy-based instructional programs, many of which involve the presentation of a large number of strategies with brief instruction (Pressley, Bergman, & El-Dinary, 1992). However, "there has been no attempt to match strategies to task demands or to teach students how to coordinate multiple strategies to accomplish naturalistic reading goals (Pressley, El-Dinary, & Brown, 1992). As a result, the remedial reading students are expected to incorporate individual isolated skills and strategies, independently process them, and further, apply them to novel tasks - something that research has shown ineffective with successful students.

As such, literacy activities of the neediest students are non-authentic and appear mechanistic. Consequently, these approaches to reading remediation present obstructions to students' internalization of learning, and contribute little provision towards transference of the learning to regular curriculum. Hence, literacy learners who have difficulty reading, face a seemingly insurmountable task. First, they must develop a critical understanding of the act of reading. Second, they need to be able to identify and develop strategies to facilitate their negotiation of the reading event (either intuitively or with the aid of a more capable peer). Third, they must be aware metacognitively of what, when, and how to utilize these strategies to "make meaning". When children experience difficulties in reading often they have not acquired the vocabulary to articulate their problems, their needs, and the strategies which they have or may not have mastered.

I have long had interests in learning theory and social constructivism. As a result, I have made a commitment to make theoretical connections in the graduate coursework I teach in remediation and diagnosis. My experiences come from working with reading and learning disabled students. My views have been informed by the works of Vygotsky, Wertsch, and the neo-Piagetians; as well as Freire's view that learners are empowered by the knowledge that they are learners. They have led me to the investigation of a transformative model of reading remediation. Or at least the articulation of a deeply intuitive, theoretically driven approach to the teaching of reading, one that holds that knowledge is language.

While trying to relate my approach to my graduate students, I often use an analogy from my training as a psychologist. In cognitive therapy, when dealing with young children who have emotional problems, one of the goals is to help the children articulate their feelings. Many times children who have emotional problems shut down and have difficulty identifying and labeling feelings. When children are able to articulate their feelings, we can then help them to develop strategies for dealing with them. In turn, when children have difficulty with the reading act, many times they don't have a good handle on describing where the problem lies, and essentially what the reading act is all about. …

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