Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Exploration of Social Studies Teachers' Experiences of Reading Practices: A Phenomenological Study

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Exploration of Social Studies Teachers' Experiences of Reading Practices: A Phenomenological Study

Article excerpt


Students are, in general, expected to read textbooks, answer questions about what they read, identify main ideas, synthesize their ideas, and summarize what they read to show their understanding of new topics. Such practices are often used more in various content area classes such as art, music, science, social studies. Considering the reading requirements and school curriculum in all content areas, reading comprehension is critical for the overall success of students in general education classrooms. Reading is a cognitive process of constructing of knowledge integration of building meanings (Ruddell & Unrau, 1994). Reading comprehension is a much more complex task, requiring purposeful interaction between reader and the text material to construct meanings from context while intentionally thinking about what is being read (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002; Harris & Hodges, 1995; Yildiz & Akyol, 2011). Research has indicated that learning and comprehension are active processes by which students construct new meanings from the context they read by interacting with the text, using prior knowledge and experience to make logical and sensible connections with new information, generating questions, and making sense of what they read (Doty, Barton, & Cameron, 2010).

Reading comprehension skills and strategies allow individuals to develop different perspectives and help them make sense of real life. Reading comprehension is also a conscious cognitive activity that requires sufficient use of language appropriate for the level of vocabulary, word recognition, and use of metacognitive processes that lead to comprehension for generative learning (Burke, 2012; Gunes, 2009). According to Stevens, Slavin, and Farnish (1991), the main purpose of reading instruction is to help students understand what they have read and use what they learn in their communication tasks in their daily lives and in the majority of their future academic tasks. However, the main goal of the education system is to develop effective citizens who understand what they read, who are able to determine the reality of knowledge, who can express their feelings and thoughts, who discover their learning strategies, and who can apply what they learn to life outside the classroom.

In the USA National Reading Panel (NRP, 2000), it was reported that students at all grade levels have to build new meanings from text sources encountered in the entire curriculum, to improve their reading skills and comprehension strategies. Furthermore, NRP (2000) and the US National Research Council (1999) identified five elements of effective reading comprehension instruction. These elements are listed by the US Department of Education (2002) as: (a) phonemic awareness; (b) phonics; (c) vocabulary development; (d) reading fluency and oral reading skills and (e) reading comprehension strategies. These components of effective reading intervention are considered essential for the students' reading development and elements of literacy instruction in content areas classes (Hassett, 2008). Review of previous literature has indicated that all teachers are expected to integrate their content area instruction with effective reading comprehension skills intervention so that all students, including students who require additional support, are able to understand and learn new content (Lee et al., 2006).

Reading for Content Understanding in Social Studies

As mentioned before, the aim of reading comprehension instruction is to prepare students to be good readers in terms of being able to read, to construct meanings from context or in relation to a text, and to facilitate the learning of powerful ideas. This is because the goal of teaching vocabulary skills and reading comprehension strategies is so crucial to add to students' existing conceptual knowledge and to improve their reading skills and understanding of what they read (Lapp, Flood, & Farnan, 2005; Rupley, Nichols, Mraz, & Blair, 2012), it is a common expectation with regard to all teachers that their students, regardless of their ability, will be able to read content area texts and build upon existing background knowledge, which may assist in improving student understand of new content (Billmeyer & Barton, 1998; Dieker & Little, 2005; Fisher & Frey, 2010; Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz, 2011). …

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