Handbook of Reading Research - Vol. II

By Rebecca Barr; Michael L. Kamil et al. | Go to book overview

30
TEACHERS' INSTRUCTIONAL ACTIONS

Laura R. Roehler and Gerazld G. Duffy

In this chapter, we try to answer the question, What actions do teachers take to communicate the curriculum of literacy to students in school? The chapter is organized into two major sections: (1) effective instructional actions and (2) the role these actions play in current instructional models.


BACKGROUND

A Historical Context

Instruction has historically centered on drill-and-practice, which fit nicely with the then-prevailing theory that learning was a matter of shaping overt student behavior by providing reinforcement within a stimulus-response cycle. Teachers exterminated incorrect responses through punishment and established correct responses through reinforcement and repetition.

In reading, drill-and-practice often took the form of skills management systems ( Otto, Wolf, & Eldridge, 1984), in which reading was conceptualized as a list of skills. Teachers tested students on each skill in turn, providing corrective feedback as needed and retesting until the students "mastered" the individual skill. Then they moved to the next skill in the list and repeated the process. Commercial programs such as DISTAR (Direct Instruction Systems for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) emphasized such drill-and-practice through use of scripted lessons, small-group instruction, use of physical teacher signals to cue students to correct responses, choral student responses, and extrinsic reinforcement. Teacher-effectiveness research (see Brophy, 1979; Dunkin & Biddle, 1974; Hoffman, Chapter 32 in this volume; Rosenshine, 1979) tended to support drill-and-practice types of instruction because they were associated with high standardized test scores. Consequently, instruction centered on recitation ( Duffy, 1983; Duffy & Roehler, 1982; Mehan, 1979), in which students practice or answer questions after limited amounts of explanation, development, or assistance ( Brophy & Good, 1986; Duffy & McIntyre, 1982; Durkin, 1978-1979; Herrmann, 1986; Stallings, Needles, & Stayrook, 1979). Bereiter and Scardamalia ( 1987) refer to such instruction as the exercise model (p. 12).

Current theories of learning, however, call for instruction that goes beyond the exercise model. Specifically, research on cognitive psychology and associated work in information processing emphasizes organization, coherence, and connectedness in which ". . . knowledge is structure. . . . not a 'basket of facts.' " ( R. C. Anderson, 1984, p. 5). Two distinctions are particularly important. First, in order for learners to move information from short- to long-term memory, they must transform information into meaningful concepts that can be referenced and stored in organized ways. Hence, the

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