Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

The Effects of Professional Development for Middle School General and Special Education Teachers on Implementation of Reading Strategies in Inclusive Content Area Classes

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

The Effects of Professional Development for Middle School General and Special Education Teachers on Implementation of Reading Strategies in Inclusive Content Area Classes

Article excerpt

Ten sixth-grade middle school teachers, including general and special education teachers, participated in a four-month professional development and intervention program to enhance the reading outcomes of struggling students in inclusive content area classes. The professional development program consisted of an examination of teachers' personal knowledge of struggling readers and reading instruction, and staff development and support to help the teachers integrate three reading strategies, which focused on word identification, fluency, and comprehension skills, into their content area instruction. Implementation of the strategies was monitored and teachers' perceptions of the effectiveness of the reading strategies for their students were obtained.

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Middle school students with learning disabilities (LD) in reading spend the majority of their school day attending general education content area classes, including English/language arts, social studies, science, and mathematics. In these classes, students are expected to read and to understand increasingly more difficult text across the content areas. As a sixth-grade science teacher told us, "I expect students to be able to read when they come to me in sixth grade" (Bryant, Dickson, & Young, 2001).

Although the general education curriculum differs across classes, the emphasis on reading to learn in content area classes requires that students possess reading strategies and skills, including basic early reading skills, to access and comprehend the general education curriculum (IDEA, 1997) and to participate in content area instruction (Beck, McKeown, Hamilton, & Kucan, 1997; Lenz, Ellis, & Scanlon, 1996). Yet, we know that many students with reading disabilities lack effective reading strategies that facilitate the comprehension of content area text; are not familiar with text structures; and may not possess basic decoding strategies and reading fluency (Deshler, Ellis, & Lenz, 1996; Hudson, Lignugaris-Kraft, & Miller, 1993). We also know that some students (e.g., English language learners or students from poverty) may not have the vocabulary knowledge needed to be successful in content area classes (Rubin, 1995). Therefore, if struggling students (students with reading disabilities and low achievers) who are from low socioeconomic backgrounds are going to learn from text, general education and special education teachers in inclusive classes must focus on content area reading by integrating the teaching of reading strategies into instruction (Bryant et al., 2000).

Content Area Reading

Content area reading requires the ability to interact with text to interpret and construct meaning before, during, and after reading by using strategies to integrate information from the text with the reader's prior knowledge (Pressley, Brown, El-Dinary, & Afflerbach, 1995; Readance, Bean, & Baldwin, 1998). Students bring to content area instruction a range of experiences and knowledge about many topics. Prior knowledge significantly influences the reader's comprehension of the concepts and vocabulary that are contained in content area text. Thus, comprehension of text depends on the extent of students' prior knowledge and their ability to activate and apply it to content area topics (Bryant & Lehr, 2001; Carr & Ogle, 1987; Pressley et al., 1995).

Textbooks are a primary instructional material used by teachers in secondary classes (middle and high school) to teach subject area curricula (Armbruster & Anderson, 1988; Ciborowski, 1992). To benefit from a textbook-based curriculum, students must be able to read text fluently (accurately and quickly), possess word identification strategies (Johnson & Baumann, 1984), use context clues to comprehend the meaning of each discipline's vocabulary (Bryant & Lehr, 2001; Lenz & Hughes, 1990), and use text structures to gain meaning from text. …

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