Fourth-grade teachers at Oakville Elementary School use a reading program that calls for 90 minutes of literacy instruction a day, with students rotating between using a reading software program, working with the teacher in a small group, and doing silent sustained reading, each for 30 minutes.
One of the school’s fourth-grade teachers, Ms. Griffin, looks at the student and class reports generated by the reading software every week. These reports give her a detailed view of the reading subskills that each student has mastered, attempted, and still not reached and a whole-class view of where her students stand.
One way in which Ms. Griffin uses the reports is in planning the small groups that she will work with during the upcoming week. She identifies subsets of her class working on the same skills and plans the instruction that she will do with them accordingly. For example, some students had difficulty in a software module asking them to check the grammatical correctness of provided sentences, so Ms. Griffin did several small-group sessions with these students to help her diagnose their specific difficulties and give them additional practice with feedback. For students who are moving quickly through the software, she brings in some more complex readings and challenges them to use their comprehension strategies with those.
Ms. Griffin also pays attention to the particular modules of the reading software where many students seem to get stuck. Comprehending informational texts appeared to be a common problem, and Ms. Griffin conjectured that her students have difficulty with some of the passages in the software because they are unfamiliar with the specialized vocabulary in the science and social studies texts they are asked to read.
For this reason, Ms. Griffin has started picking items for her weekly spelling/vocabulary tests that are going to appear in the passages that students will soon encounter in the software. Her sense is that her students are moving through the modules involving comprehension of informational texts more quickly since she started this practice.
What is the relative value of a teacher’s looking at software use or online assessment data versus searching the research literature for insights into good instruction?
Should teachers be expected to be able to interpret this kind of data and draw implications for their teaching?
Submitted December 4, 2011, 10:02 pm by Barbara Means