Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Developing Effective Training and Coaching Programs That Reflect the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading

Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Developing Effective Training and Coaching Programs That Reflect the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading

Article excerpt

The International Dyslexia Association's Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading would serve as a guide for fine-tuning university teacher education training and school professional development programs if scientifically validated reading instruction was the norm. The reality in 2010 is that after more than two decades of sight-word based reading instruction, training programs aligned with the research-based practices highlighted in the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards document are few and far between (Walsh, Glaser, & Wilcox, 2006). The wide gap between the IDA standards and current reading instruction in many states presents complex challenges.

Between 2000 and 2008, a colleague and I implemented two large scale multi-tiered reading models in urban schools (Bursuck & Darner, 2011). Our work with teachers, reading coaches, and administrators, whose previous training was not based on scientifically validated reading instruction, led us to develop training grounded in our practical experience. We observed which training practices increased reading achievement in the classroom and soon learned that any inservice training must always be accompanied by classroom coaching. Louisa Moats' phrase, "teaching reading is rocket science" became one of our trainers' mantras after they watched the skills taught and practiced in inservice training sessions translated into something very different when teachers first tried them out in the classroom.

Paradigm Shift

Some of the difficulty teachers had in applying their new skills to teach reading resulted from their need to unlearn so much of what they had previously been taught. Many had mistakenly learned that word sorts, sight-word based word walls, and guessing at words were phonics. An investigation of books used in mandated Ohio phonics courses revealed that in some of them, caution about the dangers of too much emphasis on sounding out words was emphasized more than teaching leftto-right decoding (Heward, Darner, & Wood, 2004). When a trainer of scientifically validated reading instruction recommends that a teacher use texts that are carefully controlled to provide practice with newly learned phonics patterns and the teacher has been told for years that such texts lead to diminished enjoyment of reading and "word callers" - students who do not comprehend what they read, the resulting cognitive dissonance can lead the teacher to ignore, avoid, or simply refuse to accept the new research-based teaching methods.

For educators who have been using a sight-word-based curriculum, adapting rigorous, exacting teaching methods that are effective with struggling readers is a paradigm shift that challenges the fundamental rules they have learned. The change to research-based reading is often most difficult for school reading specialists and curriculum directors who are unable during the initial training to provide leadership in instruction or decision making because they have to learn the same new skills along with the teachers they are supposed to guide. As one advisor to corporations undergoing retraining observed (Barker, 1992):

New paradigms put everyone practicing the old paradigm at great risk. The higher one's position, the greater the risk. The better you are at your paradigm, the more you have invested in it, the more you have to lose by changing paradigms, (p. 69)

Unlike school districts, corporations recognize how potentially traumatic paradigm shifts are and develop detailed plans to maximize acceptance. During the transition, they develop a sense of urgency about the new improvements in the organization, coordinate efforts when obstacles arise, develop "small-win" situations, and anchor the changes throughout the corporate culture. Adopting successful practices developed by companies facing extensive retraining would facilitate the integration of the IDA standards into teacher professional development. When the IDA standards become institutionalized, the current tendency to blame reading failure on poverty, neurological factors, parents not reading to children at night, stress at home, or a student's attitude will be replaced by Engelmann's reminder that, "If the children aren't learning, we're not teaching" (Engelmann, 2001). …

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