The wider systemic conditions that support reading for 11 to 13 year-old students.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis addresses better understandings of the wider systemic factors that support 11- to 13-year-old students in reading. A socio-constructivist paradigm was used to view multiple constructions of realities. Using a socially constructed ontology a mainly qualitative approach was instigated. From five case study New Zealand schools the principals, literacy leaders, teachers, parents and students were interviewed. Additionally, a structured observation schedule was used to observe the teachers during a guided reading lesson. By viewing the phenomenon through a range of participants’ lenses I aimed to portray the richness of the case studies and provide thick descriptions of the phenomenon. The thesis uncovered that the research literature contains few studies of the teaching of reading to children aged 11 to 13. This appears to be because much of the research has been carried out in the UK and USA where children move out of primary (elementary) education at age 11 or younger. This suggests a need for an international comparative study to determine if this factor is significant in the reading achievement of 11- to 13-year old-children. My research shows the reading development of these young adolescents in New Zealand occurs within a variety of contexts. Teachers alone cannot bear the burden of sole responsibility for the reading achievement of young adolescent students. There was a complex array of wider factors that supported teachers in developing regular, sustained and effective reading programmes. All of the schools had been involved in sustained professional development in literacy which was led by an external provider. The principals had taken an active part in the professional development alongside their staff. Additionally, the principals at each school had appointed a literacy leader to support staff in the teaching of reading. The principals had developed relational trust with their staff and together were working towards a shared vision. Apparent across all interviews with parents, students, teachers and literacy leaders was a quiet confidence that each of the case study schools were being led in a successful manner. What some of the parents did bring to attention was the range of experiences they had with different schools the children in their families had attended. A surprise finding in the analyses of the structured observation of guided reading was that even though the eight teachers had been nominated as effective teachers of reading, many of these teachers allowed little opportunity for student-led dialogue. This case study research investigation found numerous areas of effective practice both within the classroom and by the wider school staff, but it also identified some common aspects in these particular five schools where teacher, wider school-community practices and national educational policy could be enhanced. Additionally, the quantitative analyses of data from the teachers’ and students’ interactions during guided reading illuminated the sometimes contradictory nature of interview data and observation data. This finding highlighted the importance of including quantitative analysis of classroom observation data when investigating teachers’ practices, as the difference between ‘rhetoric’ and ‘classroom reality’ can differ. The evidence from these case studies strongly suggests that learning to read is not a skill that is learnt in isolation. Reading is not only a complex skill to achieve, but it is also contextual. Therefore, understanding the context and the varying players, who all have specific roles in supporting reading, are the cornerstones of knowing how we as a society can improve reading outcomes for all students.