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Teachers' literacy beliefs and their students' conceptions about reading and writing
h [electronic resource] /
by Mildred Falcn-Huertas.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: This investigation examined first-grade teachers' literacy beliefs and practices and its relationship with their students' conceptions about reading and writing. For the first part of the study a sample of 76 first-grade teachers, from two school districts in Puerto Rico, completed the Literacy Orientation Survey (LOS). The combined score of the LOS was calculated and used to categorize teachers according to their literacy beliefs and practices as constructivist, eclectic, or traditional. After matching by years of experience and educational level, a stratified random sample of six teachers, two from each literacy viewpoint (traditional, eclectic, and constructivist), and 48 first-grade students was selected to participate in the second part of the study.^ ^A simple random sample of eight students (four low-achieving readers and four high-achieving readers) was selected from the classrooms of each of the six teachers, who represented the three differing literacy beliefs. Individual interviews were conducted with the students, using Wing's (1989) interview protocol, in order to assess their conceptions of reading and writing. The results of this study regarding the nature of teachers' literacy beliefs indicated that most teachers appear to hold traditional literacy beliefs and practices, whereas a very small number of the participant teachers seem to hold literacy beliefs and practices categorized as constructivist. A statistical significant association was found between teachers' literacy viewpoint and students' conceptions about reading and writing.^ ^First-grade students whose teachers held a constructivist literacy viewpoint seemed to have more holistic conceptions of literacy, whereas students whose teachers held a traditional or an eclectic literacy viewpoint seemed to have more skills or test-based conceptions of reading and writing. Results indicate that first-grade students' ideas regarding the purposes and nature of reading and writing appear to be compatible with their teachers' literacy beliefs and practices. No significant relationship was found between students' conceptions of reading and writing and their reading ability. Implications for literacy teaching, learning, and further research are discussed.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Adviser: Stephen B. Graves, Ph.D.
x Early Childhood Education
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Teachers Literacy Beliefs and Their Students Conceptions About Reading and Writing by Mildred Falcn-Huertas A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement s for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Childhood Education College of Education University of South Florida Co-Major Professor: Stephen B. Graves, Ph.D. Co-Major Pr ofessor: Susan Homan, Ph.D. Robert Dedrick, Ph.D. Jenifer Schneider, Ph.D. Date of Approval: November 2nd, 2006 Keywords: childhood education, theoretical viewpoint, social constructivism, first-grade instruction, students perspectives Copyright 2006, Mildred Falcn-Huertas
ii Table of Contents List of Tables iv List of Figures vi Abstract vii Chapter 1.Introduction 1 Background of the Study 1 Teachers Literacy Beliefs and Ch ildrens Conceptions of Reading and Writing: A Rationale 6 The Purpose of the Study 9 Significance of the Study 10 Research Questions 11 Definitions of Terms 12 Limitations of the Study 13 Chapter Summary 13 Chapter 2.Review of Literature 15 Literacy as a Social Construction 15 Literacy: Teaching and Learning 16 The Construct of Teachers Beliefs 22 Teachers Beliefs about Literacy Research on Teachers Literacy Beliefs 29 The Earlier Research 29 Beliefs and Practices 32 Teachers Beliefs and Student s Literacy Learning 38 Childrens Literacy Conceptions 39 Young Children and Beginning Readers and Writers 41 Shaping Literacy Conceptions 51 The Influence of Instruction 51 Teachers Beliefs and Childrens Literacy Conceptions 55 Assessing Teachers Beli efs about Literacy 58 Accessing and Assessing Students Literacy Conceptions 60 Summary 63 Chapter 3.Method 65 The Purpose of the Study and Research Questions 66 Design of the Study 66 Research Context 66
iii Participants 68 Participating Teachers 68 Participating Students 70 Instruments 71 Teachers Literacy Beliefs 71 Pilot Study 74 Students Conceptions of Reading and Writing 75 Pilot Study 76 Procedures and Data Collection 77 Data Analysis 84 Chapter 4.Results 88 Teachers Literacy Beliefs and Practices Teachers Beliefs and thei r Students Conceptions of Reading and Writing 97 Chapter 5.Discussion 106 Overview 106 Findings of the Study 110 Teachers Literacy Beliefs and Practices 110 Students Conceptions of Reading and Writing 110 Relationship of the Current St udy to Prior Research 111 Teachers Literacy Beliefs 111 Teachers Beliefs and Students Conceptions of Reading and Writing 115 Implications for Practice: Literacy Teaching and Learning 120 Implications for Further Research 124 Limitations and Reflections 125 Conclusion 126 References 129 Appendixes Appendix A: Literacy Orientation Survey 147 Appendix B: LOS-Spanish Version 151 Appendix C: IRB-approv ed Consent Form 156 Appendix D: Spanish Version of IRB-approved Consent Form 159 Appendix E: IRB-approved Par ental Informed Consent 161 Appendix F: Spanish Version of IRB-approved Parental Informed Consent 165 About the Author End Page
iv List of Tables Table 1 The Study of Teachers Literacy Beliefs: Ti meline 23 Table 2 Participating Teachers Demographics 69 Table 3 Beliefs and Practices in the LOS 74 Table 4 Students Interview Protocol 78 Table 5 Lenskis Definitions of Teaching Practice s 82 Table 6 LOS Score Mean, Fr equency, and Percentage of Teacher s by Theoretical Viewpoint 89 Table 7 Teachers Scores for Beliefs and Prac tices 90 Table 8 Paired T-Test of Se lf-Reported Literacy Beliefs and Practices 90 Table 9 Number of Teachers Observed as Congruent and Incongruent with their Self-R eported Beliefs 91 Table 10 Observed Literacy Practi ces of Participating Teachers by Theoretical Viewpoint 92 Table 11 Illustrative Quotes fr om Participating Teachers Interv iews 93 Table 12 Teachers Age, Exper ience, and Educational Level By Theoretical Viewpoint 95 Table 13 Multiple Regression A nalysis for Teachers LOS Total Scores Related to Age, Educational Level, and Teaching Experience 97 Table 14 Expected and Observed Fr equencies for Students Literacy Conceptions Categories with Sample Quotes 99 Table 15 Expected and Observed Fr equencies for Students Literacy Conceptions by Teachers Viewpoint 100
v Table 16 Students Quotes about the Nature of Reading and Writing by Teachers Literacy Viewpoint 102 Table 17 Expected and Observ ed Frequencies for Students Literacy Conceptions by Reading Abilit y 104
vi List of Figures Figure 1 Observation Instrument 81 Figure 2 Literacy Conceptions by Reading Abil ity 105
vii Teachers Literacy Beliefs and Their Students Conceptions About Reading and Writing Mildred Falcn-Huertas ABSTRACT This investigation examined firstgrade teachers literacy beliefs and practices and its relationship with thei r students conceptions about reading and writing. For the first part of the study a sample of 76 first-grade teachers, from two school districts in Puerto Rico, co mpleted the Literacy Orientation Survey (LOS). The combined score of the LOS was calculated and used to categorize teachers according to their literacy be liefs and practices as constructivist, eclectic, or traditional. After matching by years of experience and educational level, a stratified random sample of six teachers, two from each literacy viewpoint (traditional, eclectic, and constructivist), and 48 first-grade students was selected to participate in the second part of the st udy. A simple random sample of eight students (four low-achieving readers and four high-achieving readers) was selected from the classroom s of each of the six teac hers, who represented the three differing literacy beliefs. Individu al interviews were conducted with the students, using Wings (1989) interview protocol, in order to assess their conceptions of reading and writing. The re sults of this study regarding the nature of teachers literacy beliefs indicated t hat most teachers appear to hold traditional
viii literacy beliefs and practices, whereas a very small number of the participant teachers seem to hold literacy beliefs and practices categorized as constructivist. A statistical significant associati on was found between teachers literacy viewpoint and students conceptions about reading and writing. First-grade students whose teachers held a constructivi st literacy viewpoint seemed to have more holistic conceptions of literacy, whereas students whose teachers held a traditional or an eclectic literacy viewpo int seemed to have more skills or testbased conceptions of reading and writing. Results indicate that first-grade students ideas regarding t he purposes and nature of r eading and writing appear to be compatible with their teachers liter acy beliefs and practices. No significant relationship was found between students conc eptions of reading and writing and their reading ability. Implications for literacy teaching, l earning, and further research are discussed.
1 Chapter 1 Introduction Background of the Study The prominence of literacy achiev ement is evident within todays educational discourse. The passage of the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002 has contributed to an enhanced public awareness of the importance of literacy instruction (Young & Draper, 2006). A major report of the National Research Council (1998) regarding the prev ention of reading difficulties in young children highlights the val ue of teachers and teachi ng in promoting literacy achievement. Snow, Burns, and Griffin (1998) charac terize teaching as the single best weapon against reading failu re (p. 343). Consequently, recent literature has focused on the impact of effective literacy t eachers (Allington, 2002; Taylor, Peterson, Pearson, & Rodrig uez, 2002; Wray, Medwell, Poulson, & Fox, 2002) on literacy learning. In a recent study, Taylor, Peters on, Pearson, and Rodriguez (2002) analyzed the relationship between teacher s practices and students growth in reading achievement. They identified parti cular teaching practices that seem to be related to students improvement in reading. These practices include: promoting students active involvement in literacy activities, higher level
2 questioning, and adopting a student-support stance (as opposed to a teacherdirected stance), among other s. According to the re searchers, their findings suggest that how teachers teach is as important as what they teach, when seeking to make changes in read ing instruction (p. 278). Some scholars and researchers are focusing on the teaching practices of outstanding or exemplary literacy teacher s and their relationship to students achievement (Pressley, 2001; Poulson, Av ramidis, Fox, Medwell, & Wray, 2001; Taylor et al., 2002). These studies ar e based on the underlying premise of the influential role of teachers practice s and behavior toward reading and writing on students literacy learning. Reflecting on his experiences after many years of studying outstanding elementary classroom teachers, Allington (2002) asserts that effective teachers ma tter much more than particul ar curriculum materials, pedagogical approaches, or proven programs (p. 740). Wray, Medwell, Poulson, and Fox (2002) examined the characteristics of a group of 228 primary teachers identified as effective teachers of literacy by school supervisors. The researchers al so identified a valid ation sample of primary teachers not identified as effectiv e. The findings of the study indicate that almost all effective t eachers of literacy showed a t endency to believe that it is important to make it explicit that the purpose of teaching literacy is to enable their pupils to create meaning using text (p. 9). Also, these teachers centered their teaching of reading and writing ar ound shared texts, emphasized to their students the functionality of what they were learning, possessed vast knowledge
3 about literacy and sound and had consistent philosophies about literacy teaching (Wray et al., 2002). There is no doubt that teac hing plays a crucial role in literacy learning. However, teaching involves various co mplex processes. In fact, a growing perception of teaching as a professional activity corre sponds to the recognition of the cognitive nature of these processes (Hativa & Goodyear, 2002). Hativa and Goodyear (2002) point out that research has shifted from teachers observable classroom behaviors to more implicit and internal aspects of teaching. More recently, according to Fang (1996), and as a consequence of the influence of the cognitive psychology fiel d, researchers have become particularly interested in teachers thinking. Yero (2002) emphasizes how influentia l teachers thinking is on shaping the nature and course of educ ation. According to her, teachers thinking about the definition of education, the nature of knowledge and learning, among other aspects, has an impact on what and how teachers teach. Fang (1996) concurs with the idea regarding the influential role of teachers metaphors and definitions of teaching. He concludes that t eachers thinking about their roles and the beliefs and values they hold help shape their pedagogy (p. 53). The assumpti on that teacher behavior is su bstantially influenced and even determined by teachers thought processe s (Clark & Peterson, 1986, p. 255) highlights the importance of studying this domain. According to Clark and Peterson (1986) a better comprehension of the relationship between teachers
4 thoughts and actions should provide a better understanding of how these components interact to facilitate or inhibi t childrens academic performance. Interest in teachers thought processes and the relationship with their practices has led to an increasing attenti on on the beliefs of teachers. According to Clark and Peterson (1986) teachers bel iefs constitute a major category of teachers thought processes. Muijs and Reynolds (2 001) notice that based on the assumption that teachers beliefs are more important to teaching quality than immediately observable behavior, recent literature emphasizes the necessity to focus on teachers own beliefs about t eaching and the students they teach. Poulson, Avramidis, Fox, Medwell, and Wray (2001) agree and claim that teachers beliefs represent an important f eature of quality teaching that deserves consideration in any attempt to improve education. A ccording to Hativa and Goodyear (2002) research has pointed toward a strong, though not necessarily simple link between teachers beliefs and knowledge and their classroom practices and student achievement. Thompson (1992) concurs, indicating that the relati onship between beliefs and practices is not a simple one, because it entails a dy namic reciprocal connection. On the other hand, Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) descr ibed this relationship as a causal chain that proceeds from beliefs to attit udes to intentions and finally to behaviors. It appears that the exact nature of the re lationship between teachers beliefs and practices is still unclear and not always cons istent. As Wray et al. (2002) indicate, stronger evidence is necessary regarding the ways beliefs link to practices.
5 The relationship betw een teachers beliefs and practices has been discussed in the context of literacy instru ction. According to Fang (1996) some studies indicate that teachers possess theoretical beliefs toward reading and writing and that these beliefs tend to shape the nature of their instructional practices. Burgess, Lundgreen, Lloyd, and Pianta (1999) conducted a study about preschool teachers self-reported beliefs and practices toward literacy instruction. Their findings suggest that t eachers beliefs are internally consistent with their practices. In t heir study, Wray et al. (2002) hypothesized that effective teachers of literacy would have a coherent set of beliefs regarding the nature and learning of reading and writing. The research findings supported their hypothesis. Furthermore, according to them, effective literacy teachers were more coherent in their beliefs about reading and writing and tended to favor activities that corresponded to these beliefs. The study of teachers beliefs represents a provocative and interesting topic, considering the value of teac hers and teaching in promoting literacy achievement, the impact of teachers thinking on their pedagogy, and the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and their practices. Moreover, it is important to recognize that if, in effect teachers literacy beliefs are related to their practices, directly or indirectly, students are involved. In fact, teachers beliefs have been linked to students perc eptions, conceptions, understandings, and performance regarding r eading and writing, among other aspects (Fang, 1996; Harste & Burke, 1977; Reutzel & Sabey; 1996; Wing, 1989). Thus, studying the impact of such beliefs on students literacy learning constitutes a
6 logical and significant endeavor. This st udy will address, in particular, the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and students conceptions about reading and writing. Teachers Literacy Beliefs and Childrens C onceptions of Reading and Writing: A Rationale It appears that teachers beliefs can affect teaching and learning in different ways (Fang, 1996; Hativa & Goodyear 2002; Yero, 2002). According to Fang (1996) some studies indicate that teachers possess theoretical beliefs toward reading and writing and that these be liefs tend to shape the nature of their instructional practices. Go ve (1983) states that t eachers hold implicit theories about learning to read and often they behave in ways that validate and correspond to these beliefs. Harste and Burke (1977) suggest that t eachers, whether they recognize it or not, are theoretical in their instruct ional approach to lit eracy. Teachers theoretical orientation encompasses the particular assumptions, knowledge and beliefs held about teaching and learning (Graham, Harris, MacArthur, & Fink, 2002; Harste & Burke, 1977). According to Graham, Harris, MacArthur, and Fink (2002), the knowledge of teac hers theoretical orientat ions is significant in understanding the teaching process. Teachers literacy beliefs have been categorized by their theoretical orientation. These categories in clude different reading models (Duffy & Metheny, 1979); reading approaches such as phonics, skills or whole language (DeFord, 1985); and various theoretical point s of view such as constructivist,
7 traditional or eclectic (Lenski, Wham, & Gr iffey, 1998). As F ang (1996) indicates, a substantial number of studies supports t he notion that in effect teachers do possess theoretical beliefs related to liter acy and that such beliefs tend to shape the nature of their educat ional practices. Lenski, W ham, and Griffey (1998) delineated the roles and methods that characterize literacy instruction from a traditional, eclectic, and constructivist point of view. According to them, tr aditional teachers tend to use traditional reading methods, basal readers, skill-based approaches, and to rely mostly on direct instruction, whereas constructi vist teachers draw on holistic approaches, whole texts, and integrated in struction. On the other hand, eclectic teachers tend to use some traditional and some cons tructivist reading methods, combining these two viewpoints regarding student learning. Harste and Burke (1977) suggest a connection between teachers beliefs about reading and their students perspectives about this process. In fact, a few more recent studies have explored this connection (Fang, 1996; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). These studies have relied on qualitative research and small sample sizes. However, thei r results point toward a relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and childrens conceptions of reading and writing. Childrens conceptions of reading and wr iting comprise their definition of what literacy is, its nature, its purpose, and an understanding of the relationship between the reader and the te xt, among other aspects (Meloth, Book, Putnam, & Sivan, 1989; Moller, 1999; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). According to
8 Moller (1999) researchers and scholars (A llen, Michalove, & Shockley, 1993; Cairney & Langbein, 1989; Reutzel & Sabe y, 1996) have found that childrens views, conceptions, and ideas about readi ng and writing seem to change across time and experience, frequently depend ing on their classroom and school environment and on the ideologies driving a particular teachers instruction. In fact, some studies have suggested that in a certain way students conceptions of reading and writing are a reflection of t heir teachers literacy beliefs (Fang, 1996; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). Wing ( 1989) conducted a study with y oung children, examining the relationship between two programs liter acy orientation and their childrens conceptions of reading and writing. Wing interviewed the directors, regarding their programs orientation toward r eading and writing inst ruction, and ten children from each program: a Montessori school (with an emphasis on specific skills and text-based orientation) and a constructivist school (with an emphasis on exploration, experiment ation, and manipulation of books, print, and writing materials). Three major themes emer ged from childrens responses to the interviews in relation to their literacy conceptions: the influence of childrens home experiences, skills-test-based ori entation, and holistic/reader-based orientation. Interestingly, the majority of responses from the children in the program with a constructivist orientation were more lik ely to view reading from a holistic point of view. On the other hand, children in the skills-oriented program were more likely to view reading from a skills-based viewpoint.
9 The nature and qualities of the activities and interactions about literacy seem to contribute to the childrens constr uction of what literacy is and what it implies: a whole or pieces; something m eaningful or irrelevant; functional or artificial; engaging or boring (Michel, 1994; Moller, 1999). According to Dahl and Freppon (1995) different lear ning contexts influence learner perceptions and conceptions about literacy. These percept ions consequently influence childrens ideas about literacy (Moller, 1999). In light of the previous ideas, various researchers have emphasized that it is important to acknowledge childrens conceptions about literacy and reflec t about how the classroom context contributes to them (Dahl & Freppon, 1995; Michel, 1994; Moller, 1999; Turner & Meyer, 2000). Nevertheless, both the literature and the research in this area are still sparse. Therefore, t he connection between teachers beliefs and students literacy conceptions has yet to be systematically invest igated (Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). The Purpose of the Study This study had two main purposes. The first purpose was to describe and examine first-grade teachers literacy be liefs. Clark and Peterson (1986) point out that a better comprehension of the re lationship between teachers thoughts and actions should provide a better understanding of how these components interact to facilitate or inhibit students performance. The second purpose was to in vestigate the relation ship between teachers literacy beliefs and childrens concept ions about reading and writing.
10 It appears that teachers beliefs and instru ctional practices influence childrens conceptions of literacy (Fang, 1996; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). Significance of the Study This study contributes to our understanding of teachers literacy beliefs. As Pajares (1992) points out, attention to t eachers beliefs can inform educational practice. Researchers, ther efore, must assess teachers beliefs in order to obtain a better comprehension of the learning ex perience (Olson & Singer, 1994). This study also enhances our understanding of the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and students c onceptions about reading and writing. Wing (1989) discusses the impor tance of studying this relationship; according to her, childrens orientation toward readi ng and writing may influence how they view and approach these processes. Mor eover, she claims that children whose conceptions of reading and writing are c ongruent with the orie ntations of the instructional experiences may be more likel y to achieve the expected outcomes. Furthermore, since this study includes statistical analysis of quantitative data, it provides additional evidence to validate the results of previous qualitative studies. As Hutchinson (as cited in Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003) indicates, case study research can be used as the basis for quantitative research studies, which are more suitable for testing the generalizabil ity of research findings. Besides, the fact that research in this area is scarc e highlights the relevance and necessity for this study. Since most of the studies regardi ng teachers beliefs and childrens literacy conceptions have been conducted in the United States, t he fact that the
11 this study was conducted in Puerto Ric o has certainly contributed to the generalizability of previous research findi ngs. Moreover, this study was the first attempt to explore th e beliefs about reading and writing of Puerto Rican teachers. Finally, since first-grade represents fo r most children their first formal encounter with reading and writ ing, the results of this study have important implications for this educational level and for the fields of literacy and early childhood. Research Questions The research questions addressed by this study are as follows: 1. What are the literacy belie fs of first-grade teachers? 2. To what extent are fi rst-grade teachers literacy beliefs aligned with their practices? 3. Are there demographic differences among teachers whose literacy beliefs correspond to a constructivist, an ec lectic, or a traditional viewpoint? 4. To what extent are teachers lit eracy beliefs related to childrens conceptions about reading and writing? The first th ree questions were concerned with the description of first-grade teachers literacy beliefs and practices. The answers to these questions provide information about what teachers believe about literacy learning and what they do in their classrooms. Moreover, they s how how closely teachers literacy beliefs align with their practices, pr oviding a sense of whether they tend to be traditional, eclectic, or constructivist teachers (Lenski et al., 1998).
12 The last question focused on the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and childrens conceptions about readi ng and writing. Statistical analysis was conducted in order to determine diffe rences in conceptions about reading and writing among children whose teachers hold differing literacy beliefs. Definition of Terms There are some terms that are used frequent ly in the context of this study. The following constitute operationa l definitions for these terms. o Teachers literacy beliefs and practi ces: These terms were defined by the scores obtained in the Literacy Or ientation Survey (Lenski et al., 1998). Based on the scores obtained in the Survey, teachers literacy beliefs and practices were categorized as constructivist, eclectic or traditional. o Childrens conceptions about reading and writing: These terms were defined by childrens responses to Wings (1989) Interview about conceptions of reading and writing. o Traditional teacher: This term was defined by the following characteristics delineated by Lenski et al. (1998): uses traditional reading methods as basal reading inst ruction, teaches using primarily direct instruction, and views st udents as vessels to be filled. o Eclectic teacher: This term was defined by the following characteristics delineated by Lenski et al. (1998): uses some traditional and some constructi vist reading methods, frequently
13 basalizes literature selections, comb ines traditional and constructivist views about student learning, and unsure about how students learn. o Constructivist teacher: This term was defined by the following characteristics delineated by Lenski et al. (1998): uses whole text and integrated instruction, t eaches using primarily an inquiry approach, and views students as using prior knowle dge to construct meaning to learn. Limitations of the Study This study used a non-experimental des ign. Since this design looks at natural variations, there are many import ant variables that c annot be controlled. This constitutes a limitation and a threat to the internal validity of the study. As a consequence, inferences about causality on the basis of the collected data result are tentative (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003). In addition, this study was conducted in the context of a particular educational leve l. Therefore, t he generalizability of findings and inferences from this st udy are limited to this level. Moreover, this study used categoriz ations delineated by previous research. Teachers beliefs were categor ized according to the definitions of a traditional, eclectic, and constructivist teac her delineated by Lenski et al. (1998). Similarly, childrens conceptions about reading and writing were coded and classified using the categories previously identified by Wing (1989). Thus, the results are limited to these particula r categories and their definitions. Chapter Summary This chapter has introduced the topic of teachers literacy beliefs and its relationship with the students conceptions of reading and writin g. As previous
14 research has demonstrated (Fang, 1996; De Ford, 1985; Harste & Burke, 1977; Lenski et al., 1998), teachers possess parti cular beliefs regarding reading and writing instruction and these beliefs s eem to influence their instruction. Moreover, some researchers have sugges ted a connection bet ween teachers literacy beliefs and the way their students conceptualize reading and writing (Fang, 1996; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). This connection is fundamental to the present study since it described and examined teachers literacy beliefs and its relationship wit h students conceptions about reading and writing. The chapter discussed the purpose, re search questions, and significance of the study. Finally, it defined key te rms that are used frequent ly in the context of this particular study, and examined the lim itations of the proposed research. The second chapter will review and discuss literature related to the construct of teachers literacy beliefs and childrens conceptions about reading and writing. The chapter will examine and analyze previous research on these topics and their methodological implic ations for the present study. The third chapter will explain how the present study was conducted. It will include the research context, a descripti on of the population and participants, the data collection procedures, the instrum ents, and a description of the procedures used by the investigator in order to analyze the data. Chapter 4 will present t he results of the study. These results will be discussed in Chapter 5.
15 Chapter 2 Review of Literature An important body of research has acknowledged the relevance of teachers beliefs and their impact on st udents performance (Fang, 1996; Hativa & Goodyear, 2002; Mujis & Reynolds, 2001; Murphy, Delli, & Edwards, 2004; Yero, 2002; Wray et al., 2002). This chapt er discusses the construct of teachers beliefs and reviews literature regarding this construct in the literacy field. In addition, it discusses research on ch ildrens conceptions about reading and writing and their connection with teachers literacy belie fs. The chapter also addresses methodological issues and implicat ions related with previous research on these topics and the present study. Literacy as a Social Construction Literacy is surrounded and shaped by the permeating values and the social context (Richardson, 1998). T eachers and students have a significant role in the construction of literacy. Teachers beliefs and values shape the classroom context and atmosphere (Y ero, 2002). Students construct and reconstruct particular conceptions of r eading and writing within the cl assroom as a result of the exchanges, interactions, and implicit values and purposes of the literacy tasks (Michel, 1994; Moller, 1999; Nolen, 2001; Turner, 1995). Thus, the
16 relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and students conceptions about reading and writing and t heir significance might be better understood within the perspective of literacy as a social construction where teachers and students define what literacy is and what it means to be literate. Literacy: Teaching and Learning Literacy has been studied from the perspec tive of many disciplines, fields, and theories. Traditional views of reading and writing interpret these processes as isolated events and as a matter of what goes on in the readers or writers mind (Gee, 1996). However as Bloome ( 1986) indicates, these views were challenged by the work of diverse fields such as psychology, anthropology, and sociology, among others. Thes e disciplines have contri buted to the development of alternative conceptions of reading and writing that emphasize the active role of the reader or wr iter in constructing meaning and the inherently social nature of reading and writing (Bl oome, 1986, p. 71). Bean (2001) notic es a growing interest in soci al constructionist dimensions of school literacy learning. From this perspective, litera cy is a social construction (Cook-Gumperz, 1986; Hruby, 2001) and the re sult of social ne gotiation (Bloome, 1986, 2000; Hruby, 2001; Nolen, 2001; Tu rner, 1995). According to Hruby (2001) the sense in which literacy is cons tructed includes how we define literacy and how we choose to teach it and assess it. The work of Vygotsky (1978) has contributed also to the conceptualization of literacy as a social construction. A ccording to Vygotskys sociocultural theory, cognition is a profoundly social phenomenon. From this perspective, social
17 experience shapes the ways of thinking and interpreting the world available to individuals (Berk & Winsler, 1995). Mo reover, for Vygotsky, all higher mental functions are created thr ough collaborative activity; only later do they become internal mental processes (Wertsch, 1985) Thus, literacy, as a high mental function, is originated in the social pl ane and situated in sociocultural contexts such as the family, the community, and the school. The concepti on of literacy as a social cons truction relies on the primacy of social interaction (Palincsar, 1998; Richardson, 1998). According to Bloome (2000), every occurrence of reading and writ ing implicates social relationships among people. Social interaction bet ween teachers and st udents appears to be fundamental in the social construction of reading and writing. As Hayden and Fagan (1995) indicate, literacy within the school is usually shaped around the social relationships between teacher and student (p. 260). According to Nolen (2001), it is in the daily interaction of teachers and students that literacy is constructed in the classroom (p. 96). Through these interactions, teachers communicate what literacy is, its impor tance, and how it works, among other things (Nolen, 2001). In the same way, from their conversations, interactions, and relationships with teachers, st udents derive information regarding the meaning, value, and functions of literacy (Au, 1990). Research has shown t hat children discover and gain knowledge about written language through active engagement with their social and cultural worlds (Neuman & Roskos, 1997). The importance of the sociocultural setting is one of the implications of Vygotskys theory and one of the interests of literacy research
18 from the social constructivist perspective From this perspective, separating the individual from social influences is not regarded as possible (Palincsar, 1998, p. 53). Even though literacy learning cannot be merely equated with schooling (Richardson, 1998), it is a ve ry influential force regarding literacy learning. As Lincoln (1995) states, sc hooling is one of the powerfu l shapers of both learning and acquiring a world-view (p. 89). Classr ooms constitute an important part of childrens social and cultural worlds Turner (2000) notes how classroom contexts have become critical fo r understanding educati onal processes and outcomes. The classroom context in cludes the beliefs, goals, values, perceptions, and behaviors that contribute to the participants understanding of the classroom (Turner, 1995), and consequently to their construction of literacy. Bloome (1986) described the relationship between classrooms and literacy as inseparable. According to him, i n schools, students learn to use reading and writing in ways consistent with the cla ssroom community (p. 74). Following the same line of thought, Hammerberg (2004) expl ains that the learning environment of a classroom represents a sociocultu ral context that sets forth the possible realm of appropriate literacy acts (p 650). Landis (1999) studied childrens stories about their reading education. A ccording to him, through these stories children reveal their perceptions of how reading should be done and that there is a right way and a wrong way to participate in reading (Landis, 1999, p. 211). In other words, through their school experi ences with literacy, children construct
19 their own notions and assumptions of what constitutes an appropriate literacy act. Current research on cla ssroom context and literacy, from a social constructivist perspective, has emphas ized the influence of the classroom context on aspects such as children s perceptions, beliefs, and conceptions about literacy (Michel, 1999; Nolen, 2001; Turner, 1995). In separate studies, Michel (1994) and Moller (1999) observ ed that in many cases childrens definitions of reading are descriptions of t heir literacy tasks in the school context. Nolen (2001) conducted an ethnographic st udy to explore the developing concepts of reading and writ ing of kindergarten children and their relation to their teachers instructional goals, classr oom norms, and task structure. The researcher purposely selected four ki ndergarten teachers. These teachers approached literacy instruction in very diverse ways. The first teacher emphasized literature, related art pr ojects, and reading aloud. The second teacher stressed journal writ ing and reading aloud. The third teacher focused on worksheet activities and art activities related to letters, whereas the fourth teacher put more emphasis on the connecti ons between literacy or literature and life (Nolen, 2001). The researcher colle cted data regarding the instructional literacy contexts and the students c oncepts of reading and writing through observations and interviews over the course of a year. Results of the analysis revealed that students responses about their literacy concepts and motivation reflected their teachers most frequent reading and writing activities (Nolen, 2001). For instance, students from classr ooms that emphasized activities such
20 as drawing to accompany words and letters tended to talk of writing as drawing more frequently than students from cla ssrooms that emphasized journal and story writing. The researcher concl uded that, students notions of reading and writing seemed to be shaped by the most frequent literacy activities in each classroom (Nolen, 2001, p.106). Moreover, Nolen (2001) states that the amount of time spent in different activities communicates and demonstrates to children which kinds of literacy are most important for teachers. Even though important variables in t he development of students literacy perspectives and concepts, such as students home experiences and socioeconomic status (Freppon, 1989), were not controlled in Nolens study, the findings are still relevant. The results of this study illustrate a connection between literacy instruction and young ch ildrens ideas about the nature and functions of literacy. As Cook-Gumperz (1986) points out, lit eracy learning takes place in a social environment through inte ractional exchanges in which what is to be learnt is to some extent a joint cons truction of teacher and student (p. 8). Certainly, teaching and teachers play an important role in the construction of literacy. Moreover, t he nature of teaching and the teachers own construction of literacy appear to be critical in such exchanges. Research has shown that teachers conceptualize litera cy learning in different wa ys (DeFord, 1985; Duffy & Metheny, 1979; Gove, 1983; Harste & Burk e, 1977; Lenski et al., 1998; Wray et al., 2002). As Dadds (1999) notes, litera cy can mean very diffe rent things to different teachers even those working in similar environments and with similar aims and approaches (p.10). Moreover according to Landis (1999), the
21 classroom teacher promotes certain defin itions of readers and reading (p. 214). These definitions are embedded in the in structional tasks and methods selected by teachers and in the nature and qualities of the activities and interactions around literacy in a particular classroom context (Moller, 1999; Nolen, 2001). These tasks, methods, and interactions seem to shape students construction of what it means to be literate. The conception of literacy as a social construction entails the collaboration and social exchanges of both students and teachers (Cook-Gumperz, 1986). However, whether we ackno wledge it or not, teachers r epresent the more expert literate partners and the ultimate power source in the classroom context. Therefore, even thoug h students are active participant s in the construction of literacy, teachers have control over t he way literacy is defined and over the events and tools that shape the construction of reading and writing in a particular classroom context. As Cambourne (2002) asserts, teachers have executive power to create the roles, routines, and relationships that permeate their classroom settings. The roles, routi nes, and relationships implemented by teachers set the tone for the negotia tion of literacy between students and teachers. Literacy is a socially construc ted phenomenon (Cook-G umperz, 1986, p. 1). From this perspective, every cl assroom represents a particular culture, which determines how literacy is defi ned and ultimately perceived by the members of that culture (Bloome, 1986). Th is implies that literacy construction is never neutral. In fact, reading an d writing take on meaning and social
22 importance through their uses within the clas sroom culture (Nolen, 2001, p. 99). Students, in the classroom context, ar e not only learning to use literacy strategies, they are also defining themselves as liter ate beings (Landis, 1999). The Construct of Teachers Beliefs Research on teacher thinking and belie fs has increased in volume in the last two decades (Hativa & Goodyear 2002). Rimm-Kaufman and Sawyer (2004) point out that bec ause of the current comple xity and challenge that teachers face, the topic of teachers beliefs has become one of national relevance. Furthermore, as Richardson (2003) noticed, teacher education has become highly cognitive in focus (p. 1). Consequently, the interest in beliefs, as a form of cognition, has increased also (Richardson, 2003). Table 1 presents a timeline regarding significant events and research in the study of teachers beliefs. According to Yero (2002), many studies have shown that the individual beliefs and values of teachers play a vita l role in shaping the objectives, goals, curriculum and instructional me thods of schools (p. 1). Pajares (1992) reports an extensive re view of literature related to the concept of beliefs, asserting that researchers have demonstrated beliefs influencing knowledge acquisition and in terpretation, task definition and selection, interpretation of course content, and comprehension monitoring. Moreover, he concluded that the investigation of teacher s beliefs is a necessary and valuable avenue of educational inquiry.
23 Table 1 The Study of Teachers Beliefs: Timeline Period Implications for the study of teachers beliefs Prior to the mid-1970s 1975 Mid-1980s to early 1990s 1985 1986 1992 Mid 1990s to 2000 Research emphasis on external and observable aspects of teaching. Lortie published Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study discussing the important role of private experiences in teachers perceptions, dispositions, and ideas about teaching. Dissemination of constructivist learning theories and the influence of cognitive psychology contributed to an increased interest in teachers thinking. Shulman refers to the absence of research on more implicit and internal aspects of teaching as the missing paradigm. Clark and Peterson, in a seminal article, emphasized the significant role of teachers thought processes in instruction, and categorized teachers beliefs as a major category of teachers thought processes. Pajares published a comprehensive and important review regarding the construct of teachers beliefs and educational research, stressing the critical role of beliefs in education and their potential to inform educational practice. Literature on teachers beliefs has increased substantially as a result of a renewed focus on quality teachers and teaching in an era of critical reflection, a highly cognitive focus to teacher education, and research-based practices.
24 Pajares (1992) reports an extensive re view of literature related to the concept of beliefs, asserting that researchers have demonstrated beliefs influencing knowledge acquisition and in terpretation, task definition and selection, interpretation of course content, and comprehension monitoring. Moreover, he concluded that the investigation of teache rs beliefs is a necessary and valuable avenue of educational inquiry. The construct of beliefs has been defined in different contexts and ways. Stone (1993) indicates that the term belief has been defined as some form of internal representation of external rea lity (p. 24). According to Yero (2002), beliefs are generalizations about things such as causality or the meaning of specific actions (p. 21). From her pers pective, the concept of beliefs comprises the judgments and evaluations that we ma ke about ourselves, about others, and about the world surrounding us. Pajares (1992) draws attention to the fact that beliefs have been studied in diverse fields and have resulted in diffe rent meanings. Richardson (2003), who has extensively studied the topic of t eachers beliefs, indicates that despite various meanings, there is significant agr eement pertaining to the definition of beliefs as psychologically held underst andings, premises or propositions about the world that are felt to be true (p. 2). Research has provided converging evidence about the nature of beliefs. Beliefs appear to be created through a pr ocess of social construction and are embedded in experience (Nespor, 1987; Paja res, 1992, Richardson, 2003; Yero, 2002). As Yero (2002) explains, all the experiences in our life, especially during
25 childhood, contribute to the development of our beliefs. Thus, a person may develop a generalization and, consequently, ado pt a belief through the result of one particular experienc e (Yero, 2002). Various investigators suggest that belie fs are often implicit, and generally represent unconscious views about the world (Bruning, Schraw, & Ronning, 1999; Yero, 2002). They could drive people s behavior automatically. Moreover, beliefs could affect individual percepti on and attention focus (Yero, 2002). As an example, Yero (2002) stat es that if a teacher bel ieves a program he/she has been told to use is based on a solid foundation, and if it corresponds to his/her beliefs, he/she will notice ways in which t he program works. On the other hand, if the teacher believes the program does not work or is useless, he/she will notice evidence supporting that belief. An interesting dynamic concerning teachers beliefs about school, teaching, and learning stem fr om their own experiences as students. As Yero (2002) explains, teachers have formed im pressions about themselves and their abilities, about the nature of knowledge, and about how knowledge is acquired or learned (p. 22). Similarly, Richardson ( 2003) suggests that teacher candidates possess strong beliefs about teaching and schooling that are rooted in their previous experience with schooling and inst ruction. After reviewing various studies regarding teacher beliefs Fang ( 1996) highlights several factors that seem to shape teachers beliefs: the influence of discipline subculture, the quality of pre-service experience in the classroom, and the opportunity for reflection on the pre-service experience.
26 Yero (2002) delineated four particu lar aspects (related to education) embedded in teachers beliefs. First, teachers beliefs include a personal definition of education that shapes and ci rcumscribes what the teacher decides to do and not to do. Second, each teacher has a set of beliefs about the nature of knowledge and how students acquire it. Third, each teacher has a set of beliefs and assumptions about the nature of learning. Fourth, each teacher has a set of values that determine the prio rities in the classroom. Thus, Yero suggests that the way in which teac hers define and conceive education, the nature of knowledge as well as teaching and learning, is highly influenced by their beliefs. According to Hativa and Goodyear ( 2002), there is consistent research evidence, suggesting that teachers theor ies about teaching and learning strongly affect classroom behavior. Medwell, Wray, Poulson and Fox (1998), claim that teachers belief systems influence their se lection of approaches to teaching. Hativa and Goodyear also noticed that teachers frequently tend to adopt an approach to teaching, which is congruent with their conceptions of learning. In fact, teachers practices and behaviors hav e been conceptualized as a result of teachers beliefs. Because beliefs are not observable behav iors, most research on teachers beliefs have relied on inferences about what these teachers say, intend, and do (Pajares, 1992). Various researchers hav e addressed this issue, pointing out that even though teachers beliefs are often implicit they are frequently evidenced in the form of instructional decisio ns and behaviors (Rimm-Kaufman & Sawyer,
27 2004; Wray et al., 2002; Yero, 2002). Ot her investigators (Clark & Peterson, 1986; Richardson, 2003) concur and claim t hat beliefs guide teachers thoughts, actions, planning, and decision-making. However, it is important to note that in some studies the relationship between beliefs and instructional practices varies or is inconsistent (Schraw & Olafson, 2002). According to Fang (1996), some studies have suggested that because of the constraints of classroom lif e and social realities, many teachers instruction is not consistent with their beliefs. Teachers Beliefs about Literacy Researchers became more interested in studying the connection between teachers beliefs and literacy in th e late 1970s and early 1980s (Muchmore, 2001). Such interest relied on the assu mption that teachers beliefs guided teaching action (Richardson, 2003). From this view teachers beliefs about literacy are of critical im portance in determining how teachers teach reading and writing. Research has revealed that, in effect, teachers hold subject specific and identifiable beliefs conc erning literacy (DeFord, 1985; Duffy & Metheny, 1979; Olson & Singer, 1994; Pajares, 1992; Wray et al., 2002). Harste and Burke (1977) hypothesiz ed that teaching reading and learning to read are theoretically based. In fact, they operationally defined the construct of teachers theor etical orientation as a particular knowledge and belief system about reading which strongly influences critical decision making related to both the teaching and learning of reading (p. 34). Harste and Burke suggested that teachers theoretical orientation has an impact on particular decisions and
28 aspects regarding reading instruction, su ch as the goals of the program, what teachers perceive as appropriate reading be havior, the materials selected and employed for instruction, and the criteria used to determine progress in reading. The construct of teachers theoretical orientation certainly had a major influence on later research related to the st udy of teachers thought and beliefs (Braithwaite, 1999; DeFord, 1985; Duffy & Metheny, 1979; Feng & Etheridge; 1993; Graham et al., 2001; Gove, 1982; Grisham, 2000). Research has demonstrated also that teachers conceptualize literacy in different ways (DeFord, 1985; Harste & Burke, 1977; Lensky et al., 1998; Wray et al., 2002). If teachers beliefs are t he result of their own experiences, observations, as well as their personal and professional k nowledge (Grisham, 2000; Richardson, 2003; Yero, 2002), such differences are plausible. According to Dadds (1999), even teachers with si milar aims and approaches define and understand literacy differently. Some researchers (Braithwaite, 1999; Madison & Speaker, 1996; Tidwell & Stele, 1992) propose that teachers differing views and beliefs about literacy are part of a continuum. At one extreme of the continuum teachers subscribe to the view that literacy education require s students to master hierarchies of subskills and at the other [extreme] are those teachers who view literacy learning in a holistic way (Braithwaite, p. 1). The view of literacy as a set of subskills is associated with traditional approaches of reading and writing instruction, whereas the view of litera cy as a holistic process is associated with constructivist and progressive approac hes of literacy instruction.
29 Furthermore, these differing views or or ientations toward literacy seem to be congruent with particular instructional approaches or methods selected by teachers in order to teach reading and writing. Schirmer and Casbon (1997) claim that teachers beliefs about l earning are reflected in the models and strategies employed by teachers in order to help children become readers and writers. Other resear chers (Hativa & Goodyear, 2002; Yero, 2002) have also noticed that teachers tend to favor instru ctional approaches t hat are compatible with their beliefs. Indeed, evidence from various studies indicates that most teachers implement literacy approaches that are in harmony with their beliefs about reading and writing instruction (D eFord, 1985; Feng & Etheridge, 1993; Gove, 1982; Poulson et al., 2001). Research on Teachers Literacy Beliefs As Grisham (2000) indicates, the study of the beliefs held by teachers about literacy and their implic ations for instruction have been studied for the last two decades and continue to be the focus of current investigation. From the research regarding teachers beliefs about literacy, it is possible to identify various purposes: to know and learn what teachers believe about teaching and learning to read and write; to explor e and document the relationship between teachers beliefs about literacy and their pr actices; and to explore how teachers beliefs influence literac y learning and learners. The earlier research The work of Duffy and Metheny (1979) marked a first attempt in conceptualizing and asse ssing teachers beliefs about reading. They developed an instrument (Proposition Inventor y), which categorizes
30 teachers beliefs about reading in terms of standard models such as basal text, linear skills, natural language, interest-bas ed, and integrated curriculum models. According to the researchers, their instru ment was the first efficient and reliable means in assessing teachers beliefs about reading (p. 6). They recognized also the significance of studying teachers be liefs in the field of reading and potential uses for instruments like the Proposition Inventory. According to Duffy and Metheny, identifying teachers beliefs about reading and their demographic characteristics could help researchers investigate the relationship between teachers particular beliefs and certain characte ristics. As they explain, this might provide descriptive and predictive knowledge about how teachers characteristics are related to conceptions (p. 7). DeFord (1985) reported a compre hensive and important study about teachers beliefs in reading instruction. Like Duffy and Metheny, (1979), DeFord developed an instrument, Theoretical Ori entation to Reading Profile (TORP), in order to determine teachers beliefs about pr actices in reading instruction and to validate the construct of t heoretical orientation. The instrument classifies teachers beliefs into three categories of theoretical orientation: phonics (isolation of phonemes/ emphasis on decoding), skills (isolation of skills/emphasis on word recognition), and whole language (emphasis on developing sense of story and text). In order to evaluate the reliability of the instrument, it was first administered to 90 teachers (30 of each category of theoretical orientation). Second, teac hers responses were compared by three judges in terms of their correspondence to the profiles expected from each
31 orientation. Third, 14 teachers were asked to respond to TORP and were observed in their classrooms. Ba sed on these observations, the trained observers predicted teachers responses to the instrument. Teachers and observers responses were analyzed, using a Spearman Rho correlation procedure in order to determine their degr ee of congruence. Research results supported the validity of the construct of theoretical ori entation and TORP reliability (r=.98). DeFord (1985) conclu ded that teachers of known theoretical orientation responded in consistent, predi ctable patterns to statements about practices in reading inst ruction (p. 363). DeFords (1985) study provided an inst rument that results in reliable scores that were useful inidentifying teac hers beliefs about specific practices in reading instruction. Furthermore the results of this parti cular study point toward a relationship between what teachers believe about reading instruction and what they actually do in their classrooms. However, with respec t to the study of teachers beliefs about literacy, TORP focuses only on particular practices of reading instruction. Thus, TORP does not provide access to gaining understanding about how teachers conceive literacy learning from a broader perspective, including its nature and purposes. Furthermore, the earlier instruments to assess teachers beliefs, such as TORP and Proposition Inventory, focused exclusively on reading. However, more current research on teachers beliefs and the literacy field (Braithwaite, 1999; Burgess et al., 1999; Lenski et al., 1998; Linek, Nelson, & Sampson, 1999; Madison & Speaker, 1996; Wray et al., 2002) comprises teachers beliefs about
32 reading and writing, labeled as literacy belie fs. Moreover, since research in the literacy field (especially during the early years) points out the dynamic relationship among reading and writing (Mo rrow, 2001), the study of teachers beliefs about literacy calls for the c onsideration of both processes. Beliefs and practices. Researchers have explored connections pertaining to DeFords (1985) research and the assumption that teachers beliefs about reading and writing are related to thei r practices. Feng and Etheridge (1993) conducted a descriptive study with first-gr ade teachers in order to determine their theoretical orientation to reading and its correspondence with their instructional practices. Data on 259 teachers beliefs about reading were collected using TORP (DeFord). Teachers were classified, in accord ance with their responses, as having phonics, skills, or whol e language orientation to reading. To assess teachers practices, the researchers selected a stratified sample of 15 teachers (5 from each orient ation). The 15 teachers were observed during reading instruction, and their pr actices were assessed using the Moss Classroom Analysis of Teachers Theoretical Orientation to Reading (CATTOR). Teachers were also interviewed regarding their criteria used for selecting their reading program and materials and the fa ctors which have influenced their beliefs about reading and reading instruction (p. 9). According to the researchers, 60% of the teachers demonstrated they taught reading in a manner consistent wit h their beliefs and as measured by TORP. Feng and Etheridge (199 3) concluded, most teachers do adhere to their theoretical orientations when teaching r eading (p. 26). However, since 40% of
33 teachers did not teach in accordance with their beliefs, the researchers suggest that the relationship between teachers beliefs and their instructional practices is a more complex one. Through a multiple case study design, drawing on field observations and interviews, Maxson (1996) also studi ed the congruencies between teachers literacy beliefs and their practices. Five t eachers of atrisk first graders were observed and interviewed for a year. T eachers in Maxsons study highlighted the significance of their convictions in t heir decision making as well as strong beliefs regarding the instructional paradi gms within which they operated, the diverse student population, and the environments they cr eated for their students (p. 10). According to Maxson, the anal ysis of the data revealed a direct relationship between teachers beliefs and practice (p. 10). However, the description of the results does not inco rporate explicit depictions of these teachers thoughts and beliefs. Thus, it is not clear to which specific beliefs regarding environments or instructional paradigms these teachers adhere. Moreover, the discussion does not incor porate precise expl anations of the association of particular beliefs with par ticular practices when illustrating such relationships. More recently, Poulson et al. (2001) used also TORP (DeFord, 1985) to explore the theoretical beliefs of 225 Brit ish primary school teachers, identified as effective teachers of literacy by school supervisors. Since TORP does not address writing instruction, the res earchers included additional statements related to the teaching of writing. Teac hers were also asked to rate a list of 12
34 teaching literacy activities (representing t he different theoretical viewpoints) in terms of their usefulness in readi ng and writing instruction. The effective teachers were compared with a validation sample taken from the same schools as the effective teachers, or from similar schools in the same local areas (Poulson et al., 2001). T he validation sample consisted of 71 teachers, not identified as effective. The researchers computed correlations between scores representing a theoretical orientation and teaching activities intended to correspond to these orientations. According to the investigators, the findings suggest significant levels of cons istency between the reported beliefs of effective teachers and their evaluation per taining to teaching activities. The results suggest that the effective teacher s were more coherent than the teachers in the validation group r egarding their beliefs about literacy and the teaching practices associated with these beliefs. Moreover, the effective teachers were also more oriented to holistic theoretica l positions than the validation sample. The researchers concluded that the theoretic al orientation of effective teachers of literacy appeared in many respects to be constructivist: prioritizing pupils ability to make sense of, and produce, wri tten texts in a range of contexts and for authentic purposes (p. 288). Focusing on beliefs that teachers hold about writing instruction, Graham et al. (2001) similarly developed an instrument to measure teachers orientations to the teaching of writing in primary grades. The Writ ing Orientation Scale was developed to determine teachers beliefs concerning two orientations in the teaching of writing: the natural learning approach (emphasis on incidental
35 learning and the process approach) and the skills-based approach (emphasis on explicit and systematic in struction and performance). A group of 153 firstto third-grade United States el ementary school teachers comp leted the Scale. The teachers were asked also to answer a questionnaire regarding how often their students participate in particula r writing activities and how frequently they employ specific instructional practices. The researchers computed correlations between teachers scores for the Writing Orientation Scale (assessing t eachers beliefs) and their reported classroom practices. The results indica ted that teachers beliefs associated with the natural learning orient ation were positively and significantly related to the frequent use of those activities characte rized within this approach (conferences, mini-lessons, shared writing, etc.). In contrast, teachers beliefs associated with the skills-based orientation were positively and significantly related to how often grammar and handwriting/spelling were taught . According to the researchers, teachers beliefs about writing instruct ion were congruent with their reported practices. However, the va lidity of these results is lim ited by the fact that they are based on self-reported data. Thus, in order to increase the meaningfulness of these findings, teachers reported bel iefs and practices should be corroborated with interviews or observations. According to Squires and Bliss (2004), all teachers bring to the classroom some level of beliefs that influence their critical daily decision making (p. 756). This statement is certainly based on an im portant body of research and literature (Braithwaite, 1999; Burgess et al., 1999; Clark & Peterson, 1986; DeFord, 1985;
36 Feng & Etheridge, 1993; Graham et al., 2001; Maxson, 1996; Poulson et al., 2001) that points toward a certain degree of c ongruency between teachers beliefs about reading and writing and their in structional practices. However, some researchers have reported discrepanc ies between what teachers believe and what they actually do in their classrooms (Bawden, Buike, & Duffy, 1979; Lenski et al., 1998; Schraw & Olafson, 2002). In a study related to teachers epistemological view s and educational practices, Schraw and Ol afson (2002) noted discrepanc ies between the view of teaching adopted by most teachers in their classrooms and the one that they supported in theory. The researchers attr ibuted this discrepancy to factors such as inexperience, restricted time for inst ruction, administrativ e constraints, and lack of support. Similarly, in a study rela ted to teachers conceptions of reading and their instructional practices, Bawden Buike, and Duffy (1979) pointed out that even though teachers beliefs are reflec ted in classroom practices, there are other external factors that influence teachers decisions. The influence of these factors result in conflicting practices in re lation to teachers stat ed beliefs. Lenski et al. (1998) noticed also that teachers beliefs and practices are not always aligned. An example of inc ongruent beliefs and practices might occur when teachers are in the process of changing beliefs. The researchers explain that a shift in beliefs may precede actual changes in practice (p. 7). Moreover, teachers may learn and agree with certai n theory regarding literacy but ignore how to put its principles in practice. In this case, teachers beliefs and their practices may be inconsistent as well.
37 Taking into consideration the premise that teachers beliefs and practices may not be congruent, Lenski et al. ( 1998) developed the Literacy Orientation Survey (LOS), an instrument that assesse s teachers beliefs and practices about literacy. The LOS classifies teachers lit eracy beliefs and classroom practices in three categories: constructivist, traditi onal, and eclectic. T hese categories seem to range along a continuum t hat provides a picture of the degree to which the teachers beliefs and practices are consistent with constructivist philosophy (p. 16). A panel of experts established the content validity of the instrument. In order to determine the reliability of the LO S, 30 teachers were asked to complete the Survey. The Cronbach Alpha reliability c oefficient for the instrument was .93. As part of a pilot study, the LOS was administered to a new sample of 95 teachers. The statement s concerning teachers beliefs and practices were correlated. According to the researc hers, even though the analysis points to a positive correlation between beliefs and prac tices (.65), this also demonstrated that these aspects (beliefs and practice s) are not always aligned (p. 14). It appears that there are some inconsis tencies regarding the relationship between teachers beliefs and their instructi onal practices. This fact underlines the necessity to extend the study of this domain, parti cularly because, as Tidwell and Stele (1992) aptly stated, the whol e notion of examining teacher beliefs stems from investigations which focu sed on the connection between a teachers stated beliefs and that teachers instruction in the classroom (p. 2).
38 Teachers beliefs and students literacy learning. Teachers beliefs about literacy seem to affect t heir classroom environments. An important function of teachers is creating classroom environm ents that encourage students literacy. Teachers plan, organize, and implement t he routines, activities, and conditions for literacy instruction. Bruning and Horn (2000) emphasize the pivo tal role of teachers beliefs in creating positive motivational conditions for their students writing. They claim that teachers decisions about the way they position writing in the curriculum and their reactions to students writing is based on their own experiences and beliefs about the nature and functions of writing. Teachers beliefs are reflected in their classroom motivational conditions for writ ing, which in turn influence students ideas about writing and their motivation to write (Bruning & Horn, 2000). Nielsen and Monson (1996) studied different lit eracy environments and their implications for childrens litera cy development. They found that literacy environments (physical environ ment of the cla ssroom, routines and nature of the literacy activities) tend to reflect the teachers i deas and views about literacy development. Similarly, in a study of exemplary literacy in struction, Morrow, Tracey, Gee Woo, and Pressley (1999) noticed how the physical classroom environment, the type of reading and wr iting experiences, and classroom management were based on the teachers assumptions about how children learn. Moreover, these particular char acteristics of the literacy environment apparently affect students understandings about meanings, forms and uses of literacy (Turner, 1995, p. 410).
39 Some researchers have explored the relationship between teachers beliefs about literacy and their students conceptions of reading and writing (Fang, 1996; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). According to Wing (1989) teachers theoretical beliefs about literacy development, influence their instructional practices and also shape ch ildrens perceptions of the nature and uses of reading and writing. The following sections will review liter ature and research regarding the meaning and significance of childrens lit eracy conceptions and its relationship with teachers practices and be liefs about reading and writing. Childrens Literacy Conceptions Various educators and researcher s have emphasized the impact of childrens ideas and understandings on liter acy development (Borko & Eisenhart, 1986; Bradley, 2001; Hutson & Gove, 1978; Long, Manning, & Manning, 1986; Michel, 1994; Moller, 1999; Rasinski & DeFord, 1985; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996). It appears that these ideas and understanding s could define and affect childrens later thinking and behavior as readers and writers (Rasinski & DeFord, 1985). Michel (1994) considers that an understanding of t he childs perspective is critical to comprehend how children become literat e. In addition, childrens ideas and understanding about reading and writing have the potential to inform researchers and teachers practices (Bradley, 2001; Long, Manning, & Manning, 1985; Michel, 1994; Moller, 1999; Rasinski & DeFord, 1988; Teale & Sulzby, 1989). Literature and research regarding child rens literacy conceptions exhibit an absence of specific and consistent definiti ons of this construct. Furth (1980)
40 defines childrens conceptions in a general se nse. According to him, they include images, ideas, and theories constructed by children. Rasinski and DeFord (1985) define childrens literacy concept ions as their ideas about literacy, particularly about the nature of reading and writing. Borko and Eisenhart (1986) describe students conceptions of reading as understandings of the process of learning to read. Thus, childrens li teracy conceptions could be defined as childrens ideas and understandings about the nature, purposes, and processes involved in reading an d writing. Henk and Melnick (1998) go beyond a defin ition, providing a description of the nature of these conceptions. They noted that literacy conceptions appear to be driven by childrens personal sense of the nature of the lit eracy process and by their contextual observations of t he instructional emphases and practices in the classroom. The study of childrens conceptions of reading and writing is not a new endeavor. Research on this topic includes studies related to conceptions about reading (Borko & Eisenhart, 1986; Bondy, 1990; Burns-Paterson, 1991; Dahlgren & Olson, 1986; Freppon, 1989; Hutson & Gove, 1978; Johns, 1974; Johns & Ellis, 1975; Knapp, 2002; Long et al., 1985; Michel, 1994; Moller, 1999; Reid, 1966; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996), studies wh ich address conceptions related to both reading and writing (Dahlgren & Ol son, 1986; Rasinski & DeFord; 1985; Wing, 1989), and some studies focused on writing conceptions (Bradley, 2001; Fang, 1996; Shook, Marrion, & Ollila, 1989). According to Rasinski and DeFord
41 (1985), even though the interest on this topic has been prevalent for several years, the research effo rts have not been intense. The topic of childrens literacy conc eptions has become more relevant since the 1970s, as researchers have engaged in a more intense study of childrens intuitive and explicit concept s about the nature and functions of reading and writing (Goodman, 1986). Mo reover, other fields such as psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, and sociolinguistics have influenced the study of reading and writing. As a consequence of the psycholinguistic perspective, reading was defined as a constructive process (Pearson & Stephens, 1994). The cognitive psychology field emphasized the important ro le of aspects such as intention, attitude, and motivation in literacy learning (Pearson & Stephens, 1994). Psychologists were also interested in how children came to understand what literacy is (Goodman, 1986). Equally important, the sociolinguistic perspective demonstrated the social nature of literacy and the fact that this process is not context free (Pearson & Stephens, 1994). Thus, the confluence and impact of these fields certainly contributed to the study of childrens conceptions about the nature, purposes, and processes in volved in reading and writing. Young children and beginni ng readers and writers. One of the earliest research efforts to study young childre ns ideas about literacy was conducted by Reid (1966) in Scotland. One of the purposes of her study was to explore fiveyear-old students perceptions or interpre tations of the reading process. Reid randomly selected and interviewed 12 st udents. According to her, these students demonstrated very vague ideas a bout the nature of reading. Reid
42 indicated that most students were not even able to differentiate whether one reads the pictures or letters on the page. She used the metaphor of mysterious activity to describe these student s vague notions about reading. Downing (1970) replicated Reids study. He expanded the method, introducing pictures (e.g., pi cture of a person reading) as stimuli. However, his conclusions were similar to Reids. Downings results indicated students had difficulty in determining the purpose of reading and had vague ideas regarding how people read. Denny and Weintraub (1963) conducted interviews with 111 first-grade students representing diffe rent socioeconomic backgrounds. The students responded to three questions: Do you want to learn how to read? Why? What must you do to learn to read in firs t grade? Students responses were taped, analyzed, and classified into previous ly identified categories. Denny and Weintraub concluded, a third of t hese children had no idea how reading was accomplished (p. 447). A large study related to childrens reading conceptions was conducted by Johns and Ellis (1975). The researchers were interested in determining if children were acquiring adequate c oncepts and understandings of reading through their reading instruction. They we re also interested in knowing if older children, like younger ones, lack an appropr iate understanding of the reading process. The sample consisted of 1655 children from grade one through eight. Individual interviews were conducted in order to gather responses to the following questions, What is reading? What do you do when you read? And, if
43 someone didnt know how to read, what w ould you tell him/her that he/she would need to learn? Students responses we re recorded, transcribed, and classified into five categories: no response or irrelevant responses, responses related to classroom procedures or the educational va lue of reading, responses related to decoding or word recognition procedures, responses that defined reading as understanding, and responses that referr ed to decoding and understanding. The results indicated that 69% of the students provided meaningless responses to the first question (What is reading?). With respect to the second question (What do you do when you read?) 57% of the responses were categorized as meaningless. Finally, 36% of students responses to the third question (If someone did not know how to r ead, what would you tell him/her that he/she would need to learn?) were categor ized as meaningless. However, just 8% of the responses to the third question referred to aspects such as comprehension or understanding. Bas ed on these results, Johns and Ellis concluded that most children exhibi t a lack of understanding of the reading process. They pointed out that most of the meani ngful responses described reading as a decoding process (p. 12). Howe ver, the results also indicated that older children possessed a better understandi ng of reading. Since most children perceived reading just as a classroom activity, the researchers described childrens view of reading as restricted. The Johns and Ellis study was significant, considering its large sample size. However, it has some limitations. First, as with all the previous studies based on interviews, there is a possibilit y that students responses were limited
44 by their ability to comprehend the questions employed. As Perlmutter, Bloome, Rose, and Rogers (1997) point out children may understand and respond too far more than they could articulate in these interviews (p. 68). Johns (1986) also noted the possibility of a warm-up effect for the three questions used during the interviews. Based on the fact that the number of irrelevant responses dropped from question to question, it was possible t hat students actual conceptions about reading were underestimated (Johns, 1986). Moreover, Johns and Ellis did not report the use of a pilot study to test the interview questions. Conducting a pilot study could have helped to reduce the possibi lity of the warm-up effect. In addition, even though participants were sele cted from several public and middle schools, the analysis did not take into cons ideration important variables, such as the instructional settings and the nature of literacy experiences in these schools. More recent studies (Borko & Eise nhart, 1986; Burns-Paterson, 1991; Freppon, 1989; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989) poi nt toward a relationship between these variables and childrens literacy conceptions. Certainly, early research (Denny & Weintraub, 1963; Downing, 1970; Johns & Ellis, 1975; Reid, 1966) related to literacy conceptions suggested that young children and beginning readers failed to see reading as a meaning-related activity and have a limited view and rest ricted understanding of literacy (Michel, 1994). However, more current research on this topic points toward a different direction. Dahlgren and Olsson (1986) conduc ted a qualitative study about preschool childrens conceptions of the usefulness of reading and of the reading
45 process. The participants of the study were 80 children from seven different preschools in Sweden. The schools we re selected from four districts administered by the municipal social se rvices. Direct observations and children interviews were conducted. The inte rview protocol included questions such as: Can you read? What can reading be usef ul for? How is reading done? What must you do to learn how to read? W hen will you learn to read? Children were also asked to show where and what you read in books and how to write names and short words. After one year (at the end of grade 1), the researchers conducted a follow-up study with 53 of t he 61 preschoolers who originally participated in the study. During the follow-up study, the researchers administered standardized tests (for Swedi sh children) of reading performance, reading speed and type of reading errors, and for measuring vocabulary and reading comprehension. The researchers analyzed the interviews and classified childrens responses related to the f unction of reading in two ways: as a possibility (reading is described as usef ul for the reader) and as a demand (the usefulness of reading is based on external demands from teacher s, peers, etc.). Childrens responses related to concept ions of the reading process were classified in four different ways: contextual (reading is guided by things external to the text), textual (reading as a textual construction based on graphic or phonetic aspects), interactive (reading as a reflection of the text), and bodily (reading is described by references to the body parts and movements involved in reading).
46 Results of the analysis revealed that most young children were able to answer questions about reading and writing. The researchers pointed out that children are interested in and think a gr eat deal about reading well before they have started school and acquired some reading competence (p. 18). Furthermore, 40% of the preschool ch ildren emphasized the communicative nature of reading and writing. On t he other hand, children in grade one (who were able to read) express less possibilities of using reading and writing as a means for communication than do preschool children (p. 11). In the particular context of this study, the conception of reading and writing as communicative acts seemed to decrease from preschool to first grade. Unlike previous research, this st udy suggests that young children have and are capable of articulating rich conc eptions about the natur e and functions of literacy. The result that indicates a decrease in the conception of reading and writing as communication acts is very inte resting. One could hypothesize that the instruction provided to first-graders c ould be related to the dramatic change in childrens conceptions reported by the res earchers. However, the study does not provide explicit details or descriptions of the participating schools and their instructional approaches and settings. Thi ck descriptions constitute important criteria in this kind of research (Anfar a, Brown, & Mangione, 2002). Certainly, it could lead to richer interpretations and in crease the transferabilit y of the results. Moreover, recognizing the social and cult ural nature of literacy, information regarding cultural practices related to reading and writing, t he school system, and
47 their instructional settings might contribut e to a better understanding of the origin and development of childrens literacy conceptions. Other researchers and educators concur with Dahlgren and Olsson (1986) with respect to young childrens abilit y to understand and verbalize appropriate conceptions of the nature, purposes, and processes involved in reading and writing. After interviewing her group of 24 kindergarten students, Edwards (1994) concluded that, although in a simple lan guage, young children are able to explain complex aspects of literacy. Edwards s students demonstrated their attention to meaning and understanding in their respon ses to questions such as: What is reading? What do you do when you read? Similarly, Weiss and Hagen (1988) interviewed 110 kindergarten children about t he reasons for reading. The results indicated that 41% of the res ponses demonstrated understanding of the connection between reading and acquiring in formation and 32% of the responses described reading as a source of pleasur e. Kita (1979) also interviewed 20 kindergarten children in order to explore t heir conceptions of reading and writing. The first part of the interview consis ted of questions related to childrens conceptions of reading. In the second part of the interview, children were asked to complete a writing sample on a topic of their choice. Kita concluded that the participants conceptions of the purposes of reading, in practical situations, were explicit and appropriate. However, purposes for reading books were classified as vague. In addition, accordi ng to Kita, childrens responses with respect to the nature and purpose of writing were specif ic and implied understanding of writing as a means of communication.
48 Some studies have focused specifically on childrens conceptions about writing (Bradley, 2001; Fang, 1996; Shook, Marrion, & Olilla, 1989). Most of these studies have been conducted with beg inning writers. Bradley (2001) interviewed sixty nine first-graders in order to explor e young writers understandings about writing. Children responded to questions such as: What is writing? How can you tell if someone has done a good job writing something? According to Bradley, 84% of the childr en provided an appropriate definition of writing and could articulate their i deas and understanding about writing. Similarly, Shook et al. (1989) explored first-graders conceptions about the purposes of writing through interviews. According to the researchers, the data indicated that first-graders are cap able of understanding the communicative nature of the writing process. In light of more recent research, it is important to acknowledge that young children and beginning reader s and writers are able to develop and articulate complex and appropriate concept ions of what literacy is for and how it operates in literate cultures (Bradley, 2001; Dahlgren & Olsson, 1986; Edwards, 1994; Kita, 1979; Michel, 1994; Moller, 1999). These conceptions are not only possible during the early years, t hey also seem to be an important step in becoming lifelong and efficient readers and writers. Some studies have sugges ted a relationship between childrens literacy conceptions and their reading abilities (Bondy, 1990; Jo hns, 1974; Johns & Ellis, 1975; Long, Manning, & Manni ng, 1985). These studies support the importance of childrens literacy c onceptions based on the resu lts of investigations
49 comparing good and poor readers. Johns (19 74) interviewed 53 fourth and fifthgrade children. The researcher adm inistered the McGinitie reading comprehension subtest to the students. Based on the test scores, students were classified into groups of good and poor r eaders. Johns was interested in how good and poor readers viewed the reading proc ess. Each student responded to the question: What is reading? The res earcher classified childrens responses using the following categories: no res ponse or irrelevant responses, responses related to classroom procedures or the educational value of reading, responses related to decoding or word recogniti on procedures, and responses that defined reading as understanding, responses that referred to decoding and understanding. The results indicated cons istently that good readers had betterdeveloped understandings of reading than poor readers. Hutson and Gove (1978) reported similar results after a r eanalysis of Johns and Ellis (1975) data. In order to determine the relationship between reading skill and the complexity of reading definition, the re searchers conducted a Chi-Square analysis. The analysis revealed a relationship between reading skill and the complexity of reading definition. Result s indicated that among t he children who provided responses considered as immatur e reading definitions, 72% had reading scores below fourth grade. Long, M anning and Manning (1985) interviewed seventy high and low achieving first-grade readers (the five highes t and five lowest readers from seven first-grade classrooms) with re spect to their ideas about the reading process. The responses of both groups were compar ed and reported in terms of their raw
50 score relative to the total group. Ev en though the researchers reported some overlapping between the responses of both groups, there were also some differences. Particularly, the results indicated variation with respect to the question: Why do people read? According to the results, the high achievers provided more functional responses whereas the low achievers provided answers related to school reas ons or no answers at all. Similarly, Bondy (1990) was interested in determining if there were differences between children from low and high reading groups in terms of their reading definitions. She observed and in terviewed six highgroup children and nine low-group children in one first-grade cl assroom. Data collection focused on childrens statements about r eading, their reading-relat ed behavior, and their use of reading materials. Bondy identi fied six different re ading definitions constructed and used by the children. The following reading definitions were common among the low-group children: reading is saying words correctly, reading is schoolwork, and reading is a sort of status. In essence, low-group children constructed reading definitions based on a conception of reading as an externally imposed task. This definit ion of reading coincides with the one described by Knapp (2002) in the case of Joshua, an at-risk read er. On the other hand, the high-group defined reading as: a so cial activity, a way to learn things, and as a private pleasure. On the whole, research comparing high and low readers conceptions of reading suggests that good readers have more complex, meaningful, and functional conceptions of literacy. This might imply a relationship between
51 childrens literacy conceptions and their reading and writing abilities. However, the exact nature and direction of this re lationship remains an open question. Since most of these studies (Bondy, 1990; Johns, 1974; Long, et al., 1985) have been of a qualitative nature, causal-com parative studies will be necessary in order to provide additional evidence to validate this apparent relationship. Even stronger conclusions about this relationshi p would require exper imental studies. Shaping Literacy Conceptions As Pearson and Stephens (1994) assert, we no longer think of literacy as an independent, isolated event (p. 37). From a social constructivist viewpoint, classrooms are sociocultural settings and literacy is a social construction (Bloome, 1986; Cook-Gumperz, 1986). According to Turner (1995), the classroom context influences students developing conceptions of literacy and their engagement in literacy behavior. In fact, the results of various studies (Borko & Eisenhart, 1986; Burns-Pate rson, 1991; Freppon, 1989; Rasinski & DeFord, 1985; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989) suggest that classrooms instructional settings and approaches have a powerful impact on childrens conceptions about literacy. The influence of instruction. Similar to the studies discussed in the previous section, Borko and Eisenhart (1986) examined the conceptions of reading held by low and high reading groups in second grade classrooms. However, Borko and Eisenhart were also interested in the connection of the students reading conceptions with their re ading experiences in the classroom. The researchers conducted interviews to obtain information about students
52 conceptions of reading and observed reading lessons for each ability group. The results were analyzed using ethnographic pr ocedures. The results indicated that, in effect, high-group and lowgroup students had different c onceptions of reading. High-group students responses focu sed on reading skills and a holistic orientation toward reading, whereas low-group students responses focused more on behavioral aspects (readingappropriate behavior) and on materials and procedures (related to inst ructional aspects). Mo reover, the researchers concluded that some patterns in their data suggested a relationship between these students conceptions of reading and their classroom readi ng experiences. Borko and Eisenhart noted differences in the nature of the reading experiences of high and low groups. In the low-gr oup reading activities, teachers tended to focus more on decoding skills, student behavi or, and instructional procedures. In contrast, in the high-group activities, teachers focused more on global reading, reading discussions, and independent reading. Bondy (1990) reported similar differences with respect to the nature of the reading experiences provided for low and high reading groups. In her study, the high-group reading activities focused on reading, discussing stories, and working independently in workbooks. However, the low-group reading activities emphasized explicit lessons on letter s ounds, practice on words from a basal, and practice on reading words in isolat ion. Bondy found that the low-group childrens reading definitions (reading is saying words correctly, reading is schoolwork) were congruent with their r eading instruction. Thus, both
53 investigations suggest that students c onceptions of reading reflect, to some extent, certain aspects of their reading instruction. Studies with average beginning readers have also revealed differences on childrens literacy conceptions, which seem to be connected to their instructional literacy approaches (Burns-Paterson, 1991; Freppon, 1989; Rasinski & DeFord, 1985). Rasinski and DeFord (1985) addr essed conceptions related to both reading and writing. They were intere sted in how childrens conceptions about reading and writing might be associated with and influenced by the instruction provided. They studied three separate first-grade classrooms, each based on a different approach of literacy instruction: a content-centered mastery learning program (instruction based on particular s ounds or segments of target words); a traditional and eclectic basal reading pr ogram (instruction based on teaching letters and sounds, the use of basal series, workbooks and some trade books); and a literature-based progr am (integrated instruct ion based on authentic literature incorporated thr ough thematic units). Children were asked three questions: What is reading? What is writing? What do you do when you read and write? Childrens responses were transcribed and scored on a seven-point scale, with one corresponding to a response related to decoding and seven to a meaning-based or holistic response. The students of the literature-based program obtained the highest scores, asso ciated with the holistic or meaningbased conceptions. On the other hand, t he students from the mastery learning program obtained the lowest scores, a ssociated with the most superficial conceptions. The scores of the students from the basal reading program fell in
54 the middle of the scale. As a conclusi on, Rasinski and DeFo rd pointed out that, the type of instruction and the context fo r instruction affect significantly and powerfully the way that first-grade ch ildren perceive lit eracy and literacy activities (p. 14). Subsequently, other res earchers (Burns-Paters on, 1991; Freppon, 1989) have compared different instructional approaches in order to determine if students reading conceptions differ accord ing to instruction. Burns-Paterson (1991) and Freppon (1989) have documented specific differences on firstgraders reading conceptions, which seem to be congruent with their instructional settings and literacy approaches. Overall, the preceding studi es illustrate how instruction can be related to alternative conceptions of reading and writing (Rasinski & DeFord, 1988). However, despite the temptation to conc lude that instructi onal programs are the cause of the nature and depth of childrens li teracy conceptions, it is necessary to acknowledge the complexity of literacy and the multiple factors that influence its development. Furthermore, it is also important to take into account that most of the cited studies were not designed for determining a causal relationship. Significant intervening variables such as: socioeconomic status, gender, and home experiences, among others, were not contro lled. Most of these variables are known to affect the development of reading concepts (Freppon, 1989). Therefore, since studies on childrens literacy conceptions and their connection with instruction are looking at natural va riations, statistical procedures could be
55 necessary in order to control for these variables and increase the internal validity of such studies. In addition, most of the cited studi es involved comparisons between groups, classrooms, and schools. C onsequently, data can be analyzed at multiple levels: groups within cla ssrooms, classrooms within schools, and schools within districts, among others (G all, Gall, & Borg, 2003). Thus, it is important to decide the levels to be incor porated in a study in order to collect and analyze the data appropriately (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003). Teachers beliefs and childrens literacy conceptions. In general, the findings of research concerning liter acy instruction and students literacy conceptions tend to associate the natur e of literacy instru ction with the way children define and understand the nature and purposes of literacy. Researchers relying on such a relationship have also addressed the possible connections between teachers beliefs about literacy and their students conceptions about reading and writing (Fang, 1996; Reut zel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). In what is described as an initial empirical study, Reutzel and Sabey (1996) investigated possible connecti ons between teachers beliefs about reading instruction and first grade students concepts of reading as a result of these beliefs. The researchers select ed three teachers from each of three different theoretical viewpoints: sub skills/decoding, skills, and whole language (based on DeFords TORP) and a total of 36 first-grade students (4 from each class, 17 girls, and 19 boys) were random ly selected and interviewed about their
56 attitudes toward reading, concepts about the reading process, and the strategies used during reading. Although the researchers discovered many similarities in students conceptions of reading across the groups, the results indicated differences. According to Reutzel and Sabey (1996), t he findings of the study showed that in many respects teachers beliefs regarding reading instruction were similar to their students concepts about reading. For in stance, teachers wit h a whole language orientation to reading tend to emphas ize book reading activities and the development of a sense of story and text (DeFord, 1985). Similarly, in this study, students from teachers whose beliefs were congruent with a whole language orientation tended to c onsistently consider their ability to read books as an indication of their reading aptitude. Thus, their self-perception regarding reading skills was mostly based on their capacity to read books. In contrast, students from teachers whose beliefs were congruent with a skills orientation tended to base their perceptions on reading sk ills according to their acquisition of sight words, accurate reading, and ev en a general sense of being smart. These responses are compatible with a skills orientation that emphasizes accuracy on word recognition (DeF ord, 1985). Moreover, whole language orientation students were able to articu late 40 to 50 percent more reading strategies and ideas about how children le arn to read than students of teachers whose beliefs corresponded to a different reading orientation. The researchers concluded that teachers instructional or ientation to reading might differentially
57 influence some very specific aspects of students concepts about reading and becoming a reader. Reutzel and Sabeys (1996) study wa s replicated by DAmicos (1997) obtaining similar results. Students from a whole language orientation were more capable of describing and s peaking about the reading proc ess, incorporating a wider range of reading strategies t han the students from the other groups (DAmico). Moreover, whole language st udents showed a tendency to perceive themselves and their classmates as ex pert readers. In c ontrast, the students from traditional orientations considered their teachers as the expert readers. These results might be associated with particular characteristics of a whole language orientation, such as a rich language and literacy environment, shared reading and writing experiences, an em phasis on meaningful communication, and the recognition of children as capable readers and writers. Through a case study, Fang (1996) investigated the relationship between teachers beliefs about writing and thei r fourth grade students conceptions of good writing. The researcher conduct ed interviews with the teacher and 15 students about their perceptions of good wr iting. After analyzing the data, the researcher found that student s ideas about what characterizes good writing were highly correlated with their teachers beliefs about good wr iting. Students and teachers excerpts about their defin ition of good writing showed noticeable similarity. Fang, therefore, concluded t hat the teachers beliefs impact students conceptions of literacy.
58 The results of the previous studies (DAmico, 1997; Fang, 1996; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996) suggest that teachers beliefs seem to be related to their particular students conceptions of readi ng and writing. However, these results are limited by the small sample sizes and the lack of statistical analysis (Reutzel & Sabey, 1996). The fact that research on the rela tionship between teachers beliefs and students conceptions about literacy is scarce and exploratory in nature underlines the importance of studying this topic. The present study extends the previous research findings. In order to a ccomplish that purpose, it is important to analyze the methodological implications re lated to the assessment of teachers beliefs about reading and writing and st udents literacy conceptions. Assessing Teachers Beliefs about Literacy Recent literature in the literacy fi eld suggests an increasing interest concerning teachers beliefs (Graham et al., 2001; Muchmore 2001; Poulson et al., 2001; Richards, 2001; Squires & Bli ss, 2004). Certainly, educational cognitive focus and todays attention to teachers accountability and their influential role in students performance, have contributed to a renewed interest in this topic. Nevertheless, the study of teachers beliefs about literacy presumes important methodological considerations. Teachers beliefs about literacy have been studi ed using different research approaches. Although earlier studies (D eford, 1985; Duffy & Metheny, 1979) relied on quantitative approaches, more recent studies have employed qualitative methods as well (Fang, 1996; Grisham, 2000; Linek et al., 1999; Muchmore,
59 2001). In fact, the most appropriate method in assessing teachers beliefs is still a matter of disagreement. Nevertheless, as Pajares (1992) aptly notes while discussing this particular issue, the c hoice of a quantitative or qualitative approach will of course, ultimately depend on what researchers wish to know and how they wish to know it. (p. 327) Based on the importance of consider ing the personal and situational context of teachers beliefs, various in vestigators (Muchmore, 2001; Squires & Bliss, 2004) in the literacy field advocate for the use of qualitative methods in studying this domain. They claim t hat through a qualitative approach it is possible to gain a more accurate and complete understanding of this phenomenon. Certainly, qualitative studies concerning teachers beliefs about literacy provide rich descriptions about t he participants, their personal histories, and their actual context. These detailed des criptions and their respective analysis and interpretation (Muchmore, 2001; S quires & Bliss, 2004) have revealed interesting patterns regarding the nature, relevance, and role of such beliefs. On the other hand, qualitative research related to teachers beliefs about literacy has particular limitations. Th is approach has relied on single case studies or small sample sizes, thus limit ing the generalizability of the results. Moreover, the very specific nature of the teachers context (his/her unique reality) also limits the possibility of maki ng comparisons and generalizations. Although earlier research was based on self-report instruments and belief inventories to assess and measure teacher s literacy beliefs, the use of these instruments represents anot her methodological issue. As Pajares (1992)
60 noticed, for some researchers these m easures cannot encompass the variety of contexts under which specific beliefs emerge. Moreover, some researchers argue that it is possible t hat teachers may respond to the inventories as they think effective teachers should answer (Olson & Stinger, 1994). In considering the limitations, concerning the use of self-report measures, Pajares suggests including additional measures, such as open-ended interviews and observations of behavior in order to make richer and mo re accurate inferences about teachers beliefs. In fact, more recently, researc hers interested in the study of teachers' literacy beliefs (Graham et al., 2002; P oulson et al., 2001) have incorporated or recommended the use of additional measures such as observations and interviews in order to corroborate and s upplement the data collected through selfreport instruments. The present study uses a quantitative approach to study teachers literacy beliefs. The purposes of this study incl ude the description of the beliefs of a population of first-grad e teachers. Thus, the use of a survey as an initial way to explore this phenomenon is appropriate. Moreover, since this population consisted of a large number of teachers, the use of a quantitative approach facilitated the collection and analysis of the data. Nevertheless, considering the limitations of self-report instruments, additional measur es were incorporated in order to confirm teachers reported beliefs. Accessing and Assessing Students Literacy Conceptions Literature on childrens literacy concepti ons is not extensive. Lloyd-Smith and Tarr (2000) suggest that childrens views have been neglected in educational
61 research. Lewis and Lindsay (2000) conc ur and describe researching childrens perspective as an underdeveloped task. However, even though assessing young childrens perspectives is not an easy ta sk, it is certainly possible and also valuable. According to Dockrell, Lewis, and Li ndsay (2000) there are various ways to assess childrens perspectives. Direct or indirect measures can be used. As Dockrell et al. explain direct measures involve asking the child or significant other, about the childs views and understand ings of a situation or getting the child to solve a task that is known to address certain key developmental achievements (p. 49). Indirect measur es include the use of particular methods and techniques in order to measure the vari able of interest. The use of indirect measures requires a high degree of in ference and interpretation of the instruments and techniques employed which implies a greater risk of misinterpreting the collected dat a (Dockrell et al., 2000). Interviews figure among prominent direct measures of childrens perspectives (Lewis & Lindsay, 2000). This method can be useful, particularly with young children who are not fluent readers and writers. Michel (1994) points out that by listening carefully to w hat children say about literacy, we can understand things that we cannot learn in other ways. However, there are some concerns with respect to the validity and reliability of childrens responses to interviews (Lewis & Lindsay, 2000). Thus researchers need to take into account the practical difficulties and implicat ions involved in conducting and using childrens interviews to assess ch ildrens ideas and understandings.
62 There are important cons iderations regarding t he appropriate examination of childrens perspectives through interviews. The interview format is very important, especially with y oung children (Dockrell et al ., 2000). Thus, it should be carefully planned. In considering the most effective ways in which to put questions to children, Dockrell et al. emphasize: to use open-ended questions, to avoid yes/no questions, and to use appropriate language. The use of open-ended questions allows young children to answer in their own terms (Oakley, 2000) and to extent t heir responses (Lewis & Lindsay, 2000). Closed questions (yes/no questions) tend to inhibit childrens full expression, which is crucial to obtain valid res ponses about their understandings and ideas (Lewis & Lindsay, 2000). Moreover, an appropriate wording of the interview questions, congruent with the childs developm ental level, would contribute to the validity of the information provid ed through the interview. Another consideration related to the validity of young childrens responses is the interviewer. Lewis and Lindsay ( 2002) describe the approp riate role of the interviewer as facilitative and non-intrusive. This is particularly relevant in the case of young children. Children have demonstrated a tendency to agree with the interviewer and to be very vulnerable to leading questions or comments and to recurrent probing for details (Dockrell et al., 2000). Certainly, a valid and reliable interview is critical in assessing childrens ideas and understandings. T herefore, piloting interviews is a necessary condition to obtain reasonably unbiased data (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003). By piloting interviews it is possible to test both questions and procedures. Among
63 other things, researchers should be al ert to: communication problems, the wording of the questions, evidence of i nadequate motivation of the participants, ambiguous questions or statements, and questions that can be interpreted differently by different participant s (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003). Previous research on childrens literacy conceptions has relied on interviews. In fact, the present study uses this method as an appropriate means to assess and evaluate these conceptions. However, interview protocols should be evaluated individually in order to dete rmine the validity and reliability of these instruments. Moreover, interviews to be conducted with young children have to be carefully planned and tested considering aspects such as the nature of the questions, the complexity and struct ure of the language employed, the appropriate role of the interviewer, and the developmental characteristics of young children. Finally, it is also important to a cknowledge the limitations involved in research based on childrens perspective s. Lewis (2002) states: accessing childrens views can never be achieved perfe ctly. However, the researcher has a responsibility to check t hat the views expressed seem to be a fair and typical response (p. 115). Chapter Summary This chapter discussed the constr uct of teachers literacy beliefs and childrens conceptions about reading and writing. The discussion is framed within the conception of lit eracy as a socially constructed phenomenon. The conception of literacy as a social constr uction entails the collaboration and social
64 exchanges of both stu dents and teachers (Cook-G umperz, 1986). Through these exchanges teachers communicate what literacy is, its importance, and how it works (Nolen, 2001). In the same way, from their conversations, interactions, and relationships with teachers, st udents derive information regarding the meaning, value, and functions of literacy. As Pajares (1992) claims, all teacher s hold beliefs, however defined and labeled, about their work, their students, their subject matter, and their roles and responsibilities. The literacy field or dom ain is not an exception. Research has demonstrated that teachers have identifia ble beliefs about literacy (Olson & Stinger, 1994). These beliefs seem to be related to young childrens views and conceptions of literacy (Fang, 1996; R eutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). These conceptions involve the way in which children define and understand the nature and purposes of literacy (Meloth, Book, Putnam, & Sivan, 1989; Moller, 1999; Wing, 1989). Nevertheless, since few studies have been conducted in this area, additional evidence is necessary in order to validate previous results and obtain a better understanding of this relationship.
65 Chapter 3 Method This chapter explains the methodology of the study. It outlines the research questions, design of the study study population and participants, data collection procedures, instruments, and procedures used in data analysis. The Purpose of the Study and Research Questions This study had two main purposes. The firs t purpose was to examine and describe first-grade teachers literacy be liefs and practices. First-grade was chosen because it represents the starti ng point of formal instruction. The pertinent research questions were as follows : (1) What are the literacy beliefs of first-grade teachers? (2) To what extent are first-gr ade teachers literacy beliefs aligned with their practices? (3) Ar e there demographic differences among teachers whose literacy beliefs correspond to a constructivist, an eclectic, or a traditional viewpoint? The second purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and ch ildrens conceptions about reading and writing. The research questions related to this purpose were as follows: (1) To what extent are teachers literacy beliefs related to childrens conceptions about reading and writing? (2) Are there any differences in conceptions about reading and writing among children whose teachers hold diffe ring literacy beliefs?
66 Design of the Study The first purpose of this study was concerned with t he examination and description of first-grade t eachers literacy beliefs. This relied upon descriptive research, which involves making careful descriptions of educational phenomena in order to understand their form, actions, changes over time, and similarities with other phenomena (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003). In this study descriptive research provided information related to what t eachers believe about literacy learning, what they do in their classrooms, and whet her in effect, what they do in their classroom practice aligns with their literacy beliefs. The second purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and ch ildrens conceptions about reading and writing. The researcher was interested, par ticularly, in differences in conceptions about reading and writing among children whose teachers hold differing literacy beliefs and practices. The study used a non-experimental design to investigate the stated problem sinc e the study described an existing phenomenon and looked at natural variations. Research Context This study was conducted in Puerto Rico. The educational system in Puerto Rico consists of public and privat e schools. The Department of Education of Puerto Rico (DEP) provides public educ ation from kindergarten to grade 12. The school term in public schools begins in August and runs through late May. Instruction is conducted in Spanish and E nglish is taught as a second language.
67 Teachers are required to hold a bachel ors degree in education from an accredited university in order to teach in public schools. The study was conducted with first-grade t eachers and students from two public school districts. First-grade teachers are required to possess an early childhood specialization and be ce rtified as early childhood teachers. Most firstgrade teachers provide instruction in all ac ademic subjects: Sp anish, arithmetic, science, and social studies. However, reading and writing is the core of instruction in first-grade. The Department of Education of Puerto Rico, in the Spanish curriculum (Instituto Nacional para el Desarrollo Curri cular, 2003), proposes a constructivist and holistic approach regarding literacy and its instruction. The Spanish curriculum is based on principles such as the student as an active apprentice in the construction of his or her own lear ning, the relevance of functional and meaningful learning, the teacher as a guide, and the significance of integrated instruction and curriculum (Instituto Naciona l para el Desarrollo Curricular, 2003). However, actual reading and writing instruction in most Puerto Rican firstgrade classrooms could be described by an informed observer as traditional. Literacy instruction in most first-grade cl assrooms is characterized by direct and whole group instruction, a curriculum and full day schedule divided into separate subjects, traditional reading methods, the use of textbooks (provided by the Department of Education) and worksheet s, and an emphasis on the form of writing rather than the pr ocess. At the end of the school year, first-grade
68 students are expected to be independent reader s (Instituto Nacional para el Desarrollo Curricular, 2003). Participants Participating teachers For the first part of this study, the population consisted of 101 first-grade teachers wh o were teaching in two large urban school districts, in the north region of the island. These districts contain a total of 41 primary schools. Statistica l data from the Department of Education of Puerto Rico (2004-2005) indicate that from the pop ulation of first-grade students in these two districts, approximately 80% of students are below t he poverty level, defined by a yearly income of $3,500 or less. Each district has a Spanish supervisor who serves as a liaison between schools, directors, teacher s, and the Spanish Program of the Department of Education. The main function of distri ct supervisors is to facilitate and support teachers and curriculum development. However, intervention of district supervisors in schools needs to be requested by a teacher or a school director. Thus, district supervisors do not have fr equent contact with teachers. Teachers in schools are directly supervised by thei r school directors. However, teachers are not selected by school directors. The Department of E ducation of Puerto Rico is in charge of the selection of teachers from an ordered list of eligible candidates. First-grade teachers from the two dist ricts were approached and asked to complete the Literacy Orientation Survey. The final sample was comprised of 76 teachers (75%) who completed the LOS. A stratified random sample of 12
69 teachers, four from each literacy vi ewpoint (constructivist, eclectic, and traditional), were selected. These teachers were selected as a sample of potential participants. Teachers were matched by years of experience and educational level (bachelor level, master level, doctoral level). In order to facilitate matching teachers years of ex perience, the following categories were used: 1 to 3 years, 4 to 6 years, 7 to 9 years, and 10 or more years. Once matched by years of experience and educational level, six teachers, two from each literacy viewpoint (construc tivist, eclectic, and traditional) were purposively selected to participate in the second part of the study. Participating teachers age group, years of experience, and educational level are summarized in Table 2. Each teacher in each group was t eaching in a different school and represented a different literacy viewpoint: constructivist, ecle ctic, or traditional, as defined and categorized by the LOS. These categories were not related to teachers developmental or career stages. Table 2 Participating Teachers Demographics Demographics Traditional Ec lectic Constructivist Age group 37-40 45-48 Educational level Bachelor Teaching Experience 7-9 years 10 + years 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 2 1 1
70 Participating students A total of 48 first-gr ade students (18 girls and 30 boys) participated in the second part of the study. Partici pating students age ranged from 6.5 to 7.5 years old. A si mple random sample of 8 students was selected from the classroom s of each one of the six teachers, who represented the three differing literacy beliefs, which correspond to a constructivist, an eclectic or traditional viewpoint. In view of the fact that some studies (Bondy, 1990; Johns, 1974; John & Ellis, 1975; Manning & Manning, 1985) have suggested differences in literacy conceptions between low and high achievin g readers the sample was stratified by reading ability: four low achieving r eaders and four high achieving readers. High achieving readers were defined as students reading above their expected level. Low achieving readers were defined as students reading below their expected level. Students reading abili ty was first established based on the teachers judgment. After that, running reco rds were taken by the researcher in order to verify teachers assessment and se lect the participating students. The running record is a method introduced by Clay (1991) for determining a childs reading competence at a given moment in time with a spec ific level text (Shea, 2000). This method uses a specific set of codes to record, on a copy of the text, the readers behaviors, competencies, and accuracy during a read-aloud event. As evidence of its validity, Ross (2004) not es that running records correlate with other literacy measures and have been recommended as an effective assessment by national curriculum authorities.
71 Prior to taking the running records, the researcher requested teachers feedback and recommendations in order to select the running record material appropriate for the gro up of low achieving r eaders and the group of high achieving readers. Various Spanish leve led texts were considered, taking into account the following criteria: text and print features, voc abulary, sentence complexity, content, text st ructure, language, theme, and literary features (Clay, 1996). Teachers agreement regarding the appropriateness of the text material was established in order to select instru ctional texts for the reading records. Students were introduced, by the researc her, to the running record text the preceding day. Therefore, they had to some extent familiarized themselves with the message and meanings of the story, bu t were required to apply reading work and problem solving to read the text at 90% or above of accuracy level (Clay, 1996). The researcher obtained running reco rds and calculated results. In the analysis 96% of the running records re sults were consistent with teachers judgment. As a result of two cases of inconsistency between teachers judgment and the running records results, two additi onal students (high achieving readers) were selected and assessed in order to participate in the study. Students with inconsistent results were not included in the sample. Instruments Teachers literacy beliefs. Teachers literacy beliefs and practices were assessed by the Literacy Orientation Survey (LOS). This instrument is a 30-item measure entailing15 belief statements and 15 practice statements, which employs a 5-point Likert scale rangi ng from 1 to 5 (see Table 3).
72 Contrary to earlier instruments for assessing teachers literacy beliefs (Proposition Inventory, 1979; TORP 1985), the LOS comprises beliefs concerning both reading and writ ing processes. This is relevant considering the interrelationship between these processes during the early years. Furthermore, the LOS can be used to determine how much teachers beliefs and practices about literacy correspond to constructivism (Lenski et al., 1998). The LOS was conceptually congruent with t he theoretical framework of this study because the conception of literacy as a social constr uction relies substantially on principles and implications of constructivism. During the original development of t he LOS, the reported Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient for the instrument wa s .93 (Lenski et al., 1998). The validity of the instrument was assessed using a process verification protocol to determine the congruency between teachers responses regarding their practices and their actual way of operating in t he classroom. A group of 42 teachers was observed and interviewed. Based on these observations and interviews the teachers were classified as traditional, ecle ctic or constructivist. Then, the LOS was administered to these teachers. An Analysis of Variance was conducted to compare LOS scores. The results of the analysis were significant (F=66.01, p<.01), suggesting the validity of the LOS in predicting actual classroom practice (Lenski et al., 1998). According to Lenski et al. (1998) indi vidual scores of beliefs and practices can show how closely teachers beliefs ali gn with their practices. If the score for beliefs is closest to 51, these beliefs ar e similar to a traditional teacher. A score
73 closest to 61 corresponds to beliefs sim ilar to an eclectic teacher, and a score closest to 69 corresponds to beliefs similar to a constructivist teacher. The LOS employs a similar interpretation of scores fo r teachers practices. If the score for practices is closest to 51, these practice s are similar to a tr aditional teacher. A score closest to 56 corresponds to practice s similar to an eclectic teacher, and a score closest to 63 corresponds to practices similar to a constructivist teacher. The combined score of the survey was used to categorize teachers as constructivist, eclectic, or traditional with regard to thei r literacy beliefs and practices. In accordance with the LOS, a teachers score in the 90-110 range is categorized as a traditional teacher, a score in the 111-125 range is categorized as eclectic, and a score in the 126-145 range is categorized as constructivist. Since the participants of the study were Spanish-speaking teachers, an available and previously employed Spanis h translation of the instrument (Weber, 2003) was used. Weber (2003) administer ed this version of the instrument, translated by two linguists, to inservice and preservice teachers in Peru. A panel of experts read and edited it before it was distributed. The Panel had found 10 translation issues. These issues we re discussed with and addressed by the researcher. Weber conducted a pilot study with the translated instrument. The researcher reported no probl ems associated with the use of the instrument. However, there is no additional data relat ed to the reliability and validity of the instrument once translated to Spanish.
74 Table 3 Beliefs and Practices Included in t he Literacy Orientation Survey (LOS) Belief Statements Practice Statements 1. The purpose of reading instruction is to teach children to recognize words and to pronounce them correctly. 2. Reading and writing are unrelated processes. 3. Students should be treated as individual learners rather than as a group. 4. Students should use fix -up strategies such as rereading when text meaning is unclear. 5. Teachers should read aloud to students on a daily basis. 6. It is not necessary for students to write texts on a daily basis. 7. Students should be encouraged to sound out all unknown words. 8. The purpose of reading is to understand print. 9. Reading instruction should always be delivered to the whole class at the same time. 10. Grouping for reading instruction should always be based on ability. 11. Subjects should be integrated across the curriculum. 12. Students need to write for a variety of purposes. 13. Parents attitudes toward literacy affect my students progress. 14. The major purpose of reading assessment is to determine a students placement in the basal reader. 15. Parental reading habits in the home affect their childrens attitudes toward reading. 1. When students read text, I ask them questions such as What does it mean?. 2. When planning instruction, I take into account the needs of children by including activities that meet their social, emotional, physical and affective needs. 3. I schedule time every day for self-selected reading and writing experiences. 4. I encourage my students to monitor their comprehension as they read. 5. I use a variety of prereading strategies with my students. 6. I hold parent workshops or send home newsletters with ideas about how parents can help their children with school. 7. I organize my classroo m so that my students have an opportunity to write in at least one subject every day. 8. I ask parents of my students to share their time, knowledge, and expertise in my classroom. 9. Writers in my classroom generally move through the processes of prewriting, drafting, and revising. 10. In my class, I organize reading, writing, speaking, and listening around key concepts. 11. I teach using themes or integrated units. 12. I use a variety of grouping patterns to teach reading such as skill groups, interest groups, whole group, and individual instruction. 13. I take advantage of opportunities to learn about teaching by attending professional conferences and/ or graduate classes and by reading professional journals. 14. I assess my students reading progress primarily by teacher-mad e and/or book tests. 15. At the end of the day, I reflect on the effectiveness of my inst ructional decisions. Pilot study. In the present study the transla ted version of the instrument and the original instrument were present ed to a panel of 3 bilingual experts in order to assess any translation issues. The panel found 4 language issues due to linguistic differences from the Peruvian teac hers for whom it was first translated.
75 These issues were discussed and reso lved with the researcher. Consequently, some terminology was substituted with equiva lent terms more familiar to Puerto Rican teachers. The researcher conducted a pilot st udy in which the instrument was administered to a sample of 15 firstgrade teachers in order to detect any problems related to the instrument and it s use. The instrument was administered to a sample of 15 first-grade teachers. The Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient ( =0.83) revealed good internal consist ency (Field, 2005; Mujis, 2004; Nardi, 2003). As part of the pilot study, the instru ment allowed participants to make recommendations or observations concerni ng the use of the instrument (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2003). However, pa rticipants did not indicate any recommendations or observations. In order to explore participants reactions to the issue of anonymity versus confident iality of their responses, the following question was also included: Would it affe ct your responses if your identity was coded with numbers for later identificati on? All the participants provided a negative response; that is, 100% indicated t hat it would not affect their responses if their identity were coded for later identification. Students conceptions of reading and writing Students conceptions of reading and writing were assessed through individual interviews using Wings (1989) interview protocol. The protocol consists of 11 semistructured questions about childrens conceptions of readi ng and writing. Wings protocol encompasses open-ended questions allowing young children to answer in their
76 own terms and to extend thei r responses (Lewis & Lindsay, 2000). This interview protocol was originally developed to assess young childrens conceptions about reading and writing. The interview questions are concerned with the purposes and nature of reading and writing. Pilot study The researcher translated and s ubmitted the interview protocol to a panel of bilingual experts for evaluati on. A pilot study tested the interview protocol and the questions. A sample of six first-grade students was interviewed using the protocol. Students responses were tape-recorded, transcribed, and coded by the researcher as a way to test the protocol and data collection procedures. An expert with a doctoral degree in childhood literacy education used a sample of the transcribed intervie ws to assess the Protocol. Some probing questions were recommended and included in the protocol to elicit more students responses and dialogue. The in terview questions and examples of the probing questions are listed in Table 4. Students answers to each question were classified into the three major categories delineated by Wing (1989). Res ponses were coded as holistic/reader based (WH) if they referred to units lar ger than a word, functions of reading and writing, or incidental learning. Res ponses were coded as specific skills/testbased (ST) if they referred to words, letters, sounding out, direct instruction, practicing, or copying. Responses regar ding family or ot her events outside of school were coded as influence of home and other experiences (HO). To provide a measure of reliability, a second coder with a specialization in language arts, also analyzed the results. The researcher calculated inter-rater reliability, the
77 number of agreements divided by the total number of obs ervations, as 95% of agreement. Procedures and Data Collection The first part of this study was descriptive employing surveys of teachers literacy beliefs and practices. In order to conduct the study, the researcher requested and obtained author ization from the Res earch Division of the Department of Education of Puerto Ric o. The study was also reviewed and authorized by an Institutional Review Boar d of a metropolitan research university in the United States. The researcher employed a group of school contacts to distribute and recover the Surveys. The school contac ts were instructed regarding the data collection procedures. The researcher ex plained the information related to the study to participating teachers through the Spanish version of an IRB-approved consent form (see Appendix C). Resear chers school contacts distributed the LOS to the teachers with t he consent form and a cover letter. Participating teachers were asked to return the surveys to their school contacts after a week. Surveys were coded in order to identify t he participating teacher s to participate in the second part of the study. The researc her kept a record of the coded surveys and the participating teachers informa tion was kept by the researcher.
78 Table 4 Students Interview Protocol Wings Interview Protocol Probing Questions 1. What is your favorite book? 2. Do you do any reading in school? When? 3. Do you do any writing in school? When? 4. What do you think reading is? 5. What do you think writing is? 6. How old do you have to be to learn how to read? 7. How old do you have to be to learn how to write? 8. How does a person learn how to read? 9. How does a person learn how to write? 10. Do you know anybody who can read? 11. How do you know they can read? *Why? What do you like about it? How do you get the book? Does anyone read it to you? How often? *Do you ever write your name? Do you ever write letter or numbers? Do you copy words that you see around you? When you play do you ever write? Does your teacher write/read? *When you hear someone reading/writing, how do they do it? What do they do first, second, etc. What happens in their head? What happens in their head to help make writing? *Why? *Why? Is he/she a good reader? How does she/he do that? *Could you write something for me? *Tell me about it. Note. Wing (1989). After responding to the survey, teac hers returned them to their school contacts and each contact returned the surve ys to the researcher. A total of 61
79 surveys (60%) were recover ed. After the contacts ma de several requests to the remaining teachers, they returned 16 additional surveys. The remaining percentage of teachers (25%) did not to complete or return the survey. The response rate for this study reached an adequate percentage of 75, since a response rate over 70% is considered good in survey research (Nardi, 2003). Informati on contained in the surveys wa s transferred to a computer program (SPSS 14.0). The researcher ca lculated each surveys combined score and categorized it by teachers viewpoint (constructivist, eclectic, or traditional). The researcher also calculated individ ual scores of beliefs and practices. From the sample of 76 teachers, t he researcher selected a stratified random sample of 12 potentia l participants (4 from eac h literacy viewpoint) for the second part of the study. Potential participants were matched by years of teaching experience and educational level. After that, 6 teac hers (2 from each literacy viewpoint: constructivist, ecle ctic, and traditional) were purposively selected to participate in the second part of the study. The researcher contacted the indi vidual teachers and each schools principal in order to confi rm their availability to parti cipate in the second part of the study. As a measure to provide additional evidence about the teachers literacy viewpoint and congruence of thei r literacy beliefs and practices, the researcher scheduled and conducted interv iews and classroom observations with the teachers. The researcher used Wing s (1989) interview protocol designed for teachers and directors. The protocol cons isted of five semist ructured questions about their beliefs and practices regarding literacy teaching and learning. The
80 interview probed the following issues: teac hers perspective on literacy teaching and learning, the nature of t he reading and writing activiti es in their classrooms, and the uses and functions of literacy in t heir instructional settings. The interview protocol included the following questions: 1. In your professional opinion how do children learn how to read and write? 2. What do you believe are the most important things that help children learn how to read and write? Why? 3. What are the signs that a child is ready to read and write? Why? 4. What types of activities do you provide to promote reading and writing? Why? 5. What is the schedule of the day? In addition to the interviews, the res earcher conducted an average of four consecutive hours of observation of each teacher, during literacy instruction, in order to corroborate and supplement t he data collected thr ough the self-report instrument. Observations of literacy instruction were registered in a form elaborated by the researcher based on the format of an instrument, designed by Olson and Singer (1994) to record classr oom observations (see Figure 1). The instrument focused on particular aspects of literacy instruction embedded in the LOS. The researcher analyzed teachers observations and responses to the interview questions based on the definitions of teaching practices delineated by Lenski et al. (1998) (see Table 5).
81 Figure 1. Observation Instrument The researcher analyzed and coded teac hers responses to the interview questions and classroom observations as tr aditional, eclectic, or constructivist. As a measure to check for reliability, a second coder with a specialization in language arts, also analyzed and coded the re sponses. A prevalence of codes in traditional, eclectic, or constructivi st viewpoints established each teachers consistency or inconsistency with the se lf-reported literacy or ientation. The researcher interviewed and observed a tota l of seven teachers, from the sample of potential participants in order to select the six teachers for the second part of the study. Since one of t he teachers who was categoriz ed as eclectic based on the LOS, did not correspond to her ow n reported literacy viewpoint another teacher from the remainin g sample of potential participants was selected. Once the group of six participating teac hers (two from each literacy viewpoint) was established, the researc her selected the parti cipating students.
82 The researcher explained the study to students parents and obtained their permission through the Spanish version of an IRB-approved parental informed consent form (see Appendix D). Each teachers list was used to select a stratified random sample of eight students: four low ability readers and four high ability readers. Reading ability was first established based on each t eachers judgment and verified by the researcher using running records as an assessment procedure. Table 5 Lenskis Definitions of Teaching Practices Teachers Viewpoint Characteristics Traditional Uses traditional reading methods such as basal reading instruction. Teaches using primarily direct instruction. Think of students as blank slates. Eclectic Uses some traditional methods and some constructivist practices. Uses conflicting instructional methods. Unsure about how students learn. Constructivist Uses whole texts and integrated instruction. Teaches using primarily an inquiry approach. Views students as using prior knowledge to construct meaning.
83 Once participating students were se lected, the researcher scheduled individual interviews with the students. Before conducting each interview, the researcher requested the st udents assent to participat e in the study. The researcher explained the instructi ons to the students and conducted the individual interviews. Students res ponses were recorded on audiotape and the researcher took brief fiel d notes in some instances. After finishing the interviews, the researcher tr anscribed students responses from the audio recordings. Answers to each question were classified into the three major categories delineated by Wing (1989): (1) holistic/reader based orientation; (2) specific skills/test -based orientation; and (3) influence of childrens homes and other experiences. Students responses were coded as holistic/reader based (WH) if they refer to units larger than a word, relate to the functions of reading and writing, or refer to incidental learning. Responses were coded as specific skills/test-based (ST) if they refer to word s, letters, sounding out, direct instruction, practicing, or c opying. Responses regarding family or other events outside of school were coded as influence of home and other experiences (HO). In the case of answers with multiple parts, more than one code was used. The prevalence of codes in WH, ST, or HO was used to categorize students conceptions of reading and writing.
84 Data Analysis The research questions concerned with the first part of the study were: (1) What are the literacy beliefs of firstgrade teachers? (2)To what extent are first-grade teachers literacy beliefs aligne d with their practices? (3)Are there demographic differences among teachers whose beliefs correspond to a constructivist, an eclectic, or traditional viewpoint? In order to answer these questions the researcher analyzed teacher s responses to the LOS using SPSS software (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), Version 14.0. Question 1. Information on the surveys was transferred to a computer program (SPSS). The combined score of the LOS was calculated and used to categorize teachers according to thei r literacy beliefs and practices as constructivist, eclectic, or traditional (90-110 traditional, 111-125 eclectic, and 126-145 constructivist). Mean scores, fr equency, and percentage of teachers by theoretical viewpoint were also calculated in order to describe the nature of firstgrade teachers literacy beliefs. Question 2. The researcher also calculated individual scores for beliefs and practices in each survey. In accor dance with the LOS, scores for the belief and practice statements are compared to check whether teachers literacy beliefs and practices are aligned or correspond to the same viewpoint, as categorized by the LOS. If the score for beliefs is closes t to 51, these beliefs are categorized as traditional, a score closest to 61 is categorized as eclectic, and a score closest to 69 is categorized as constructivist. Similarl y, if the score for practices is closest
85 to 51, these practices are categorized as traditional, a score closest to 56 is categorized as eclectic, and a score closest to 63 is categorized as constructivist. However, in the present study, due to the possibility of scores on beliefs and practices equally close to more t han one viewpoint, a paired t-test was conducted in order to determine alignment between teachers literacy beliefs and practices. Since the difference betw een belief and practice scores should be small in order to be congruent, a statistica lly significant difference in means (for belief and practice scores) would suggest a lack of alignment between beliefs and practices. Observational data were also used to address whether there was congruence in teachers self-reported lit eracy beliefs and practices. The researcher interviewed and observed a s ubset of the sample of participating teachers. Teachers observations and inte rviews were analyzed in light of the definitions of teaching pr actices delineated by Lenski et al. (1998). Question 3. The researcher calculated and summarized frequencies and percentages of teachers age, experience, and educational level. In order to address demographic differences among teachers whose literacy beliefs correspond to a constructivist, eclectic, or traditional viewpoi nt the researcher used a multiple regression analysis to explore relationships between teachers LOS total scores (used to categorize t eachers viewpoint) and teachers age, educational level, and teaching experience. The second part of this study focused on investigating the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and childrens conceptions of reading and
86 writing. The research questions related to this purpose were: (1) To what extent are teachers literacy beliefs related to childrens conceptions about reading and writing? (2) Are there any differences in conceptions about reading and writing among children whose teachers hol d differing literacy beliefs? Questions 1and 2. The researcher conduct ed a chi-square test to determine differences in conceptions about reading and writing among children whose teachers hold differing literacy beliefs Since the data were categorical (teachers literacy beliefs were classified as : constructivist, eclectic or traditional and childrens conceptions about literacy were classified as holistic/reader based, specific skills/test based, or influenced by childrens home/other experiences) a chi-square test was appropriate. The ch i-square test is used to analyze data that are reported in cat egories (Fraenkel & Wallen, 1996, p. 220). The data analysis was conducted using SPSS software, Version 14.0. Frequencie s of the students coded responses were calculated and students conceptions of r eading and writing were cat egorized according to the appropriate codes. The researcher generated a cross-tabulation with the expected and observed frequencies for students conceptions about reading and writing by teachers literacy viewpoint. A chi-square analysis was conducted to determine differences in conceptions among students whose teachers held differing theoretical viewpoint.
87 Similarly, the researcher calculated expected and observed frequencies for students conceptions of reading and wr iting by reading ability. A chi-square analysis also served to examine the re lationship between students conceptions of reading and writing and their reading ability. This chapter has explained the methods used in this study. The next chapter presents the results obtained by those methods.
88 Chapter 4 Results As stated in the first chapter, t he study reported here had two main purposes. The first was to examine and describe first-grade teachers literacy beliefs and practices. The second purpos e was to investigate the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and thei r students conceptions about reading and writing. This chapter reports the results of the present study. The chapter is organized in terms of the specific research questions concerned with these purposes. Teachers Literacy Beliefs and Practices The first part of the study wa s concerned with the examination and description of first-grade teachers literacy beliefs. The pertinent research questions were as follows: (1) What ar e the literacy beliefs of first-grade teachers? (2) To what extent are firs t-grade teachers literacy beliefs aligned with their practices? (3) Are ther e demographic differences among teachers whose literacy beliefs correspond to a cons tructivist, an eclectic, or a traditional viewpoint? The first question focused on the descr iption of first-grade teachers literacy beliefs. A total of 76 first-gr ade teachers (75%) completed the Survey. Participants had an average of 10 or more years teaching experience and were
89 an average of 45-48 years old. All par ticipants held a Bachelors degree and 20% held a Masters degree. In order to answer the first question, the combined score (scores for the 15 belief statements and the 15 practice st atements) of the LOS was calculated and used to categorize teachers according to their literacy beliefs and practices as constructivist, eclectic, or traditional. The results of the respondents surveys are summarized in Table 6. Table 6 LOS Score Mean, Frequency and Perc entage of Teachers by Theoretical Viewpoint Theoretical Viewpoint N M SD % Traditional Eclectic Constructivist Total 38 34 4 76 103.13 117.62 131.50 111.11 6.763 3.962 2.38 10.165 50.0 44.7 5.3 100 As shown in Table 6, the largest number of teachers (n= 38, 50%) corresponded to a traditional viewpoint, a ccording to the LOS total scores. A large number (n=34, 44.7%) indicated an eclectic viewpoint, and the smallest number of teachers (n= 4, 5.3%) corres ponded to a constructivist viewpoint. The second question addr essed whether there was congruence in teachers self-reported literacy beliefs and practices. The relationship between teachers scores for beliefs and practi ces, as measured by the LOS, was explored using Pearson product-moment co rrelation coefficient. The results of
90 the analysis indicated a relationship betwe en teachers scores for beliefs and practices (r=.56, n=76). Table 7 provi des descriptive statistics for teachers scores for beliefs and practices Table 7 Teachers Scores for Beliefs and Prac tices: Descriptive Statistics (N=76) M SD Minimum Maximum Skewness Kurtosis Beliefs Practices Total 56.50 55.42 111.11 4.646 9.804 10.165 43 31 81 66 99 135 -.227 .824 -.319 -.179 4.476 .657 A paired t-test was also conducted on teachers beliefs scores and practices scores to determine if there was any significant difference. The results of the paired ttest (see Table 8) di d not indicate any significant difference between teachers self-report ed literacy beliefs and practices, t (75) = .882, p> .05, which suggests that first-grade teac hers literacy beliefs were congruent with their practices. Table 8 Paired T-Test of Teachers Self Reported Literacy Beliefs and Practices M SD SE t p Beliefs Practices BeliefsPractices 56.50 55.42 1.079 4.64 9.80 10.66 .533 1.12 1.22 .882 .381
91 However, a subset of potential part icipants was observed and interviewed in order to select a sample of six fi rst-grade teachers for the second part of the study. Observational data were used to categorize teachers as congruent or incongruent with their self -reported literacy beliefs. As a result, 86% of the teachers observed and interviewed were found to be congruent with their selfreported literacy beliefs, as assessed by the LOS. The remaining 14% corresponded to one of the potentia l participants, categorized as eclectic based on t he LOS. However, after analyzing observational data, the researcher det ermined the teachers reported literacy orientation inconsistent with the observ ed practices. Teachers observational data revealed an instructional approach co mpatible with a traditional literacy viewpoint characterized by an emphas is on phonics, skills, and the use of phonics exercises as prevailing materials fo r literacy instruction. Table 9 shows the number of teachers obs erved, teaching in ways congruent and incongruent with their self-reported literacy beliefs. This finding suggests that teachers literacy beliefs and practices are not always aligned. Table 9 Number of Teachers Observed as C ongruent and Incongruent with their Self-Reported Beliefs Traditional Eclectic Constructivist Total Consistent Inconsistent 2 2 1 2 6 1 Total 2 3 2 7
92 Teachers observations and interviews were analyzed in light of the definitions of teaching prac tices delineated by Lenski et al. (1998). The observed practices described in Table 10 were the result of the observations and interviews conducted with participating t eachers that were found congruent with their self-reported literacy beliefs. Sample quotes from teachers interviews are presented in Table 11. Table 10 Observed Literacy Practices of Participat ing Teachers by Theoretical Viewpoint Teachers Theoretical Viewpoint Observed Practices Traditional Emphasis on phonics and skills Emphasis on memory and repetition of sounds, letters, and words Focus on decoding, handwriting, and copying Reading and writing are taught as separate subjects Direct instruction and large group activities most of the time Eclectic Use trade books as means to introduce and emphasize particular sounds, letters, and words Writing activities consists of copying (words, sentences, etc.) A reading center is available for students to use after completing a task or during recess Classroom is arranged in small groups or work stations, but students work individually Constructivist Trade books and childrens literature are a main component of literacy instruction Emphasis on reading comprehension (reading aloud, discussion of the stories and illustrations, story retelling and rewriting) Writing activities included students responses to stories, experience charts, etc. Whole group instruction, small group instruction and one-to-one instruction Reading materials are available and used by students during different periods Content areas are taught through thematic units in an integrated fashion
93 Table 11 Illustrative Quotes from Partic ipating Teachers Interviews Teachers Literacy Viewpoint Question: In your professional opinion, how do children learn how to read and write? Question: What do you believe are the most important things that help children learn how to read and write? Question: What type of activities do you provide to promote reading and writing? Traditional They have to learn the letters, all the vowels and then the consonants. Learning the sounds. To learn the letters and sounds. Repetition and practice. Dictation tests, charts, and workbooks. To practice todays sound, the alphabet, identifying the letter that each picture begins with, etc. Eclectic They begin recognizing letters and sight words in different contexts. From whole to parts. For instance, they need to know that words are made by letters and then to recognize the letters. Childs maturity and a structured routine to practice reading and writing every day. A variety of materials: flash cards, books, experience charts, and worksheets. I like to use big books. First, I introduce the new words, we read the story and then we work on comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar. We review the alphabet emphasizing the sounds, we practice reading with flashcards and charts, and read books for comprehension. Constructivist It is a natural process, they learn through their lifeexperiences. First of all, they need to be motivated to read, they learn through interesting activities, they learn as they play with language. Interesting books and stories, and their home experiences. Concrete experiences and their parents help. We read aloud a book and talk about it. Sometimes we make books and art activities related to the stories. We use wordgames, we read and retell stories, we talk about the pictures, sometimes they write or make drawings bout the story.
94 Literacy practices of traditional teachers were based on a synthetic method that emphasized isolated units of language (sounds/letters), and instruction was focused on mechanical as pects of reading and wr iting. In the case of eclectic teachers, they co mbined elements associated with traditional approaches and some constructivist practi ces such as the use of childrens books during instruction but with a skill-bas ed orientation. On the other hand, constructivist teachers demonstrated more holistic practices, since whole texts and the construction of meaning were foca l components of literacy instruction. However, even though the observed teac hers showed fundamental differences regarding their theoretical view point, they also exhibited some parallel practices. All teachers seemed to provide more time and attention to r eading over writing instruction. Even teachers categorized as constructivist, in this study, devoted less time and effort to wr iting instruction. The third question of the study addressed whether there were demographic differences among teachers wh ose literacy beliefs correspond to a constructivist, an eclectic, or a tr aditional viewpoint. Table 12 shows and summarizes participants demographic inform ation on age, teaching experience, and educational level. In order to look at the bivariate relationships between teachers theoretical viewpoint and their age and teaching experience, the researcher conducted two separate ANOVA. The analysis showed no statistically significant difference in teachers age (F(2, 58)=.401, p>.05) and years of teaching experience (F (2, 69) =.29, p>.05) by teachers literacy viewpoint.
95 The relationship between teachers theoretical viewpoint and their educational level was examined by Chi-squa re analysis. The results indicated no significant relationship between teachers literacy viewpoint and their educational level (x (2)= 2.27, p>.05). Table 12 Teachers Age, Experience, and Educatio nal Level by Theoretical Viewpoint Theoretical Viewpoint Demographics Frequencies Cumulative Percent Traditional Age 21-24 25-28 29-32 33-36 37-40 41-44 45-48+ Missing Data Total Experience 1-3 4-6 7-9 10+ Missing Data Total Educational Level Bachelors Masters Ph.D. Missing Data Total 0 2 2 4 6 4 14 6 38 2 5 5 25 1 38 33 5 0 0 38 6.3 12.5 25.0 43.8 56.3 100 5.4 18.9 32.4 100 86.8 100 Eclectic Age 21-24 25-28 29-32 33-36 37-40 41-44 45-48+ Missing Data Total Experience 1-3 4-6 7-9 10+ Missing Data Total Educational Level Bachelors Masters Ph.D. Missing Data Total 0 2 3 4 4 8 5 8 34 0 1 7 23 3 34 24 9 0 1 34 7.7 19.2 34.6 50.0 80.8 100 3.2 25.8 100 72.7 100
96Table 12 (Continued). Theoretical Viewpoint Demographics Frequencies Cumulative Percent Constructivist Age 21-24 25-28 29-32 33-36 37-40 41-44 45-48+ Missing Data Total Experience 1-3 4-6 7-9 10+ Missing Data Total Educational Level Bachelors Masters Ph.D. Missing Data Total 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 4 0 0 1 3 0 4 3 1 0 0 4 33.3 66.7 100 25.0 100 75.0 100 The survey responses were also ex amined using a multiple regression analysis to examine relationships betw een teachers LOS total scores (which categorized teachers by theoretical viewpoint) and teachers age, educational level, and teaching experience. The assumptions of normality and multicollinearity were considered. Data screenings suggested that the assumption of normality did not appear to be violated. In order test for multicollinearity, intercorrelations between the predictor variables were examined. No intercorrelations of .90 or above were found, indicating that the independent variables were not correla ted with one another (Muijs, 2004). Outliers were screened for using standardized residuals. Outliers are defined as cases that have standardized residual values above 3.0 or below -3.0 (Pallant,
97 2005). The results indicated one case with a residual value of -3.008. However, this case represents less than 10 percent of the sample which is considered unproblematic (Mujis, 2004). The results of the multiple regression, shown in Table 13, indicate that no statistically significant relationship was found between teachers LOS scores and their age, educati onal level, and teaching experience. Table 13 Multiple Regression Analysis for Teachers LOS Total Scores Related to Age, Educational Level and Teac hing Experience (N=76) B SE B Constant Age Educational Level Experience 107.09 3.66 7.06 -.005 2.83 4.34 3.46 4.34 .17 .28 .00 Note R =.08 (ps<.001). Teachers Beliefs and t heir Students Conceptions of Reading and Writing The second part of this st udy focused on investigating the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and thei r students conceptions about reading and writing. The research questions related to this purpose were as follows: (1) To what extent are teachers literacy beliefs related to childrens conceptions about reading and writing? (2 ) Are there any differences in conceptions about reading among children whose teacher s hold differing literacy beliefs? A total of six first-grade teachers (two from each literacy viewpoint), matched by years of experience and educati onal level, participated in the second
98 part of the study. Partici pating teachers were select ed from a stratified random sample of 12 potential participants (four fr om each literacy viewpoint: traditional, eclectic, or constructivist). A total of 48 first-grade students participat ed in the second part of the study. A simple random sample of 8 st udents, stratified by reading ability (high achieving readers and low achieving reader s) was selected from the classrooms of each of the six teachers who represent ed the three differing literacy beliefs. Students responses to the interview pr otocol were transcribed and coded as holistic/reader-based (WH), skills/test-based (ST), or influence of home and other experiences (HO). Frequenc ies of the coded responses were calculated and students conceptions about reading and writing were ca tegorized according to their prevalent codes. Most of the first-grade students concep tions about reading and writing were categorized as ST (68.8%), whereas a smaller number of conceptions were categorized as WH (31.3%). Even though several students responses were coded as HO, this category was not prev alent for any of t he participants. Sample quotes from students interviews are presented in Table 14 in order to illustrate each category of students c onceptions about reading and writing.
99 Table 14 Participants Reading and Wr iting Conceptions Categor ies with Sample Quotes Reading and Writing Conceptions Categories Sample Quotes Skills/test-based (ST) You have to look at the letters and say the letters. You have to practice reading. First, you make the sounds very slowly. You have to repeat what the teacher says. Holistic/reader-based (WH) You have to think things about the story. When I write, I take my pencil first and I write, then I make drawings and paintings. I just take a book and open the book and begin to read. Home and other experiences (HO) Sometimes, I ask my sister to help me. She tells me the words and I write them. My uncle and my grandmother read a lot, they go to church and read many stories. When I was five years-old I wrote I love you to my mom. Table 15 presents a cross-tabulat ion with the expected and observed frequencies for the students conceptions ab out reading and writing by teachers literacy viewpoint. Interestingly, t he observed frequencies of skills/test-based and holistic/reader-based literacy concept ions among students whose teachers held a traditional and eclectic literacy vi ewpoint were equal. However, students whose teachers held a constructivist point of view exhibited fewer frequencies of skills/test-based conceptions and more frequencies of holistic/reader-based conceptions than the student s whose teachers held a tr aditional or an eclectic literacy viewpoint.
100 Table 15 Expected and Observed Frequencies for Students Literacy Conceptions by Teachers Viewpoint (N=48) Teachers Viewpoint Total Traditional Eclectic Constructivist Count 13 13 7 33 Expected Count 11.0 11.0 11.0 33.0 % within Literacy Conceptions 39.4% 39.4% 21.2% 100.0% % within Teachers Viewpoint 81.3% 81.3% 43.8% 68.8% ST % of Total 27.1% 27.1% 14.6% 68.8% Count 3 3 9 15 Expected Count 5.0 5.0 5.0 15.0 % within Literacy Conceptions 20.0% 20.0% 60.0%100.0% % within Teachers Viewpoint 18.8% 18.8% 56.3%31.3% Literacy Conceptions WH % of Total 6.3% 6.3% 18.8%31.3% Count 16 16 16 48 Expected Count 16.0 16.0 16.0 48.0 % within Literacy Conceptions 33.3% 33.3% 33.3%100.0% % within Teachers Viewpoint 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%100.0% Total % of Total 33.3% 33.3% 33.3%100.0% A chi-square analysis was conducted to determine differences in conceptions about reading and writing among children whose teachers held differing theoretical viewpoints. T he results of the analysis indicated a statistically significant association between teachers literacy viewpoint and students conceptions about reading and writing ( x (2) = 6.98, p<.05). Firstgrade students whose teachers held a construc tivist literacy viewpoint seemed to have more holistic/reader-based concept ions of reading and writing, whereas
101 students whose teachers held a traditional or an eclectic literacy viewpoint seemed to have more skills/test-based concep tions of reading and writing. Table 16 presents quotes from the participants interviews that illustrate differences among first-grade students' conceptions abo ut reading and writing by teachers literacy viewpoint. Illustrative quotes, included in Tabl e 16, are representative of the observed differences in conceptions about reading and writing among first-grade students whose teachers hold differing lit eracy beliefs. Students whose teachers hold a traditional literacy viewpoint tended to focus their definitions of reading and writing on isolated skills an d small units of language such as letters or words. Similarly, students with eclectic teachers also emphasized skills and small units of language; defining reading and writing as mechanized activities or drills. These responses were categorized as reading and writing conceptions with a skills/testbased orientation. On the other hand, students whose teachers hold a constructivist literacy viewpoint show ed more holistic responses, emphasizing book reading, texts, functions of reading and writing, and the construction of meaning. These types of responses were categorized as reading and writing conceptions with a holistic/r eader-based orientation. Students quotes incl uded in Table 15 represent segments of the students responses to the interview. Even though st udents definitions of reading such as To practice the book and To open a book and look at it might seem similar, they had different connotations that were evident through the course of the interviews. Definitions such as practicing the book or practicing the words were related to classroom
102activities were students read aloud passages from a book as a mechanical exercise, emphasizing fluency and accuracy but overlooki ng the construction of meaning. On the other hand, a response such as To open a book and look at it was followed by the students comments regarding the story and the pictures of the book; demonstrating a conception of reading as a meaningful activity and books as meaningful material. Table 16 Students Quotes about the Nature of R eading and Writing by Teachers Literacy Viewpoint Teachers Literacy Viewpoint Conceptions about the Nature of Reading: Students Quotes (What do you think reading is?) Conceptions about the Nature of Writing: Students Quotes (What do you think writing is?) Traditional To look at the letters. To say the letters. To study for the test. To practice the words. You have to recognize the letters and you have to be aware so you do not make a mistake. To write on the line. Moving the pencil and doing all the work. To make letters with your hands. To copy the words that the teacher says. To write letters and numbers. Eclectic To learn the letters. To study the words. To practice the book. To practice the words. To look at the words and say the words. To make a list of words. To do homework. To write what the book says. To copy the topic and the homework. If the teacher writes something on the board you have to write it too. Constructivist To open a book and look at it. To think about the story. To read a story to someone and look at the pictures. It is nice because you read about adventures. It is fun and it helps you to know what you have to do. You have to think about what you are going to write about and then you do it. Sometimes you have to think something about the story that you read. You look at things, like trees, and you write about them. To write and then to draw lions, flowers, and children. To write the title of the story that you read.
103 Despite the differences in concepti ons about reading and writing among students whose teachers hold differing belie fs, the analysis of the results also indicated some similarities. Most of the students referred to peers and family members as examples of readers and good readers; demonstrated more ability to articulate their conceptions of reading than writing; and appeared to conceptualize literacy learning as a function of school instruction. Students conceptions of reading and wr iting with regard to their reading ability were also examined by chi-squar e analysis. The results indicated no significant relationship between students co nceptions of reading and writing and their reading ability group ( x (1) = 0.87, p>.05). Table 17 shows a crosstabulation with the expec ted and observed frequencie s for students literacy conceptions by reading ability. Even though no significant relationship was found, there is an interesting trend evident (see Figure 2). First-grade students categorized as low achieving readers exhibited more frequencies for skills /test-based literacy conceptions and fewer frequencies for holistic/reade r-based conceptions than students categorized as high achieving readers. In contrast, high achieving readers tended to exhibit a smaller number of frequencies for skills/test-based literacy conceptions and more frequencies for holis tic/reader-based literacy conceptions than students low ac hieving readers.
104 Table 17 Expected and Observed Frequencies for Students Literacy Conceptions by Reading Ability (N=48) Reading Ability Total Low Achieving High Achieving Count 18 15 33 Expected Count 16.5 16.5 33.0 % within Literacy Conceptions 54.5% 45.5% 100.0% % within Ability Group 75.0% 62.5% 68.8% ST % of Total 37.5% 31.3% 68.8% Count 6 9 15 Expected Count 7.5 7.5 15.0 % within Literacy Conceptions 40.0% 60.0% 100.0% % within Ability Group 25.0% 37.5% 31.3% Literacy Conceptions WH % of Total 12.5% 18.8% 31.3% Count 24 24 48 Expected Count 24.0 24.0 48.0 % within Literacy Conceptions 50.0% 50.0% 100.0% % within Ability Group 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% Total % of Total 50.0% 50.0% 100.0%
105 ST WHLITERACY CONCEPTIONS LowAchieving HighAchievingR EA DING A B I L I T Y Figure 2. Literacy Conceptions by Reading Ability. This chapter presented the results of the study. The next and final chapter discusses the research findings and their relationship with previous investigations. In addition, the final chapt er discusses the imp lications of these findings for literacy teaching and learning in early childhood.
106 Chapter 5 Discussion This chapter presents an overview of the pr esent study and a summary of the results. The findings of the study, it s relationship to previous research, and their implications for early childhood and for literacy teaching and learning are discussed. Overview The prom inence of literacy achievement is evident within todays educational discourse. The passage of the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002 has contributed to an enhanced public awareness of the importance of literacy instruction (Young & Draper, 2006). Linked to No Child Left Behind were initiatives to improve literacy lear ning and teaching, an emphasis on the accountability of both schools and teacher s, and research-based instructional interventions (Shapiro, 2006). Conseque ntly, increasing attention has been given to the teachers role in effect ive literacy instruction (Allington, 2002; Pressley, 2001; Poulson & Avramidis, 2003 ; Poulson et al., 2001; Seung-Yoeun, 2005; Taylor et al., 2002; Wray et al., 2002). Some studies have focus ed on the practices of outstanding or exemplary literacy teachers and their relationship to student achievement (Pressley, 2001; Poulson et al., 2001; Taylor et al., 2002). Research on literacy teachers has revealed that effective teachers ow n vast knowledge about literacy and
107 consistent philosophies about literacy teaching (Wray, et al., 2002). Teachers philosophies include particular beliefs about the nature and learning of reading and writing that seem to be internally consistent with their practices (Burgess et al., 1999; Wray et al., 2002). It appears that teachers literacy beliefs play a role in quality teaching (Poulson et al., 2001). Research on teachers beliefs has shown that teachers conceptualize literacy learning in different ways (DeF ord, 1985; Duffy & Metheny, 1979; Fang, 1996; Harste & Burke, 1977; Lenski et al ., 1998; Wray et al., 2002). Teachers literacy beliefs have been categorized by t heir theoretical orientation including different reading models (D uffy & Metheny, 1979); reading approaches, such as phonics skills, or whole language (DeFord, 1985); and various theoretical points of view such as constructivist, traditi onal or eclectic (Lenski et al., 1998). The influence of teachers beliefs in literacy instruction has been emphasized and documented by various st udies and researchers (Braithwaite, 1999; DeFord, 1985; Duffy & Metheny, 1979; Feng & Etheridge, 1993; Gove, 1982; Lenski et al., 1998; Maxson, 1996; Ric hards, 2001; Wray et al., 2002). It appears that teachers beliefs are rela ted to the way teachers define and conceptualize literacy, the m anner in which they construct their literacy learning environments, and their choice of inst ructional approaches or methods for literacy instruction. Howeve r, it is important to rec ognize that the relationship between teachers beliefs and practices is not always consistent. Therefore, stronger evidence is necessary regarding the ways that their beliefs link to practice (Wray et al., 2002).
108 Teachers beliefs about literacy have been linked to students perceptions, conceptions, understandings, and perfo rmance regarding r eading and writing (Fang, 1996; Harste & Burke, 1977; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). Childrens conceptions of reading and writing comprise their definition of what literacy is, its nature, its purpose, and an understanding of the relationship between the reader and the text (Meloth, Book, Putnam, & Sivan, 1989; Moller, 1999; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). Research suggests that these ideas and understandings could define and affect ch ildrens later thinking and behavior as readers and writers (Rasinski & DeFo rd, 1985). Moreover, some studies suggest a connection between teachers literacy beliefs and the way their students conceptualize readi ng and writing (Fang, 1996; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989). Nevertheless, bot h the literature and the research in this area are still sparse. The study of teachers beliefs repr esents a provocative and interesting topic, considering the significance of t eachers in promoting literacy achievement, the impact of teachers thinking on t heir pedagogy, and the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs, their prac tices, and their students ideas and perspectives about reading and writing. T hus, the present study was conducted in order to examine a nd describe first-grade teac hers literacy beliefs and practices and to investigate the relati onship between teachers literacy beliefs and their students conceptions of reading and writing. This study consisted of two parts. For the first part of this study, a sample of 76 first-grade teachers, from two sc hool districts, completed the Literacy
109 Orientation Survey (LOS). The combi ned score of the LOS was calculated and used to categorize teachers according to their literacy beliefs and practices as constructivist, eclectic, or traditional (90-110, traditional; 111-125, eclectic; 126145, constructivist). A multiple r egression analysis was used to explore relationships between teachers LOS tota l scores and teacher age, educational level, and teaching experience. The res earcher also calculated individual scores for beliefs and practices in each survey. A paired t-test wa s conducted in order to determine alignment between teacher s literacy beliefs and practices. Observational data were also used to address whether there was congruence in teachers self-reported liter acy beliefs and practices. After matching by years of experience and educational level, a stratified random sample of six teachers, two from each literacy view point (traditional, eclectic, and constructivist), and 48 first-grade students was selected to participate in the second part of the study A simple random sample of eight students (four low-achieving readers and four high-achieving readers) was selected from the classroom s of each of the six teac hers, who represented the three differing literacy beliefs. The res earcher conducted individual interviews with the students, using Wings (1989) interv iew protocol, in order to assess their conceptions of reading and writing. A chi-square analysis was conducted to determine differences in conceptions about reading and writing among children whose teachers held differing literacy beliefs. A chi-square analysis was also used to examine the relationship betw een students conceptions of reading and writing and their reading ability.
110 Findings of the Study Teachers literacy beliefs and practices The first purpose of this study was to examine and describe first-grade teac hers literacy beliefs. As a primary finding, the results of t he LOS, administered to t he participating teachers, showed that most teachers reported lit eracy beliefs were consistent with a traditional viewpoint. A large number of teachers reported beliefs were consistent with an eclectic viewpoin t, and the smallest number of teachers reported literacy beliefs were compatib le with a construc tivist viewpoint. A second findi ng was that, based on the results of the LOS, most teachers literacy beliefs seemed to be congruent with their practices. However, observational data, on a subs et of the sample of parti cipating teachers, showed that beliefs and practices were not always aligned. Finally, as a third finding concerned with the nature of teachers literacy beliefs, no relationships were found bet ween teachers literacy viewpoint and their age, educational level, and teachi ng experience. Thus, no demographic differences were found among teachers whose literacy beliefs corresponded to a constructivist, eclectic, or traditional viewpoint. Students conceptions of reading and writing. The second purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and their students conceptions about reading an d writing. The major finding related to this purpose was that a significant association was found between teachers literacy viewpoint and their students conc eptions about reading and writing. First-grade students whose t eachers held a constructivist literacy viewpoint
111 seemed to have more holistic conceptions of literacy, whereas students whose teachers held a traditional or an eclectic literacy viewpoint seemed to have more skills or test-based conceptions of reading and writing. Thus, first-grade students ideas regarding the purposes and nature of reading and writ ing appear to be compatible with their teacher s literacy beliefs and practices. This finding may have important implications for literacy t eaching and learning in early childhood. As an addi tional finding, no significant relationship was found between students conceptions of r eading and writing and their readi ng ability. However, lowachieving readers exhibited more sk ills or test-based conceptions and fewer holistic-based conceptions than high-ac hieving readers. In contrast, highachieving readers tended to exhibit fewe r skills or test-based conceptions and more holistic-based conceptions than low-achieving readers. Relationship of the Current Study to Prior Research Teachers literacy beliefs This study was an initia l attempt to examine and describe first-grade teachers literacy beliefs in Puerto Rico. The results of this study indicated that most teachers appear to hold traditional literacy beliefs and practices, whereas a very small number of the participant teachers seem to hold literacy beliefs and practices categorized as constructivist. This means that literacy instruction for the ma jority of the participant t eachers is characterized by traditional reading methods, direct instru ction, and the assumption that literacy learning is the result of mastering par ticular skills (Lenski et al., 1998). In contrast, a holistic view of literacy and lit eracy instruction is held by a reduced number of teachers. These results were similar to the findings of previous
112 research (Feng & Etheridge, 1993) describ ing first-grade teachers theoretical orientation toward reading. In th e study conducted by Feng and Etheridge (1993), the majority of surveyed teachers reported a skills-based orientation to reading, which corresponds to a traditi onal literacy viewpoint; whereas the smallest number of teacher s held a whole language theore tical orientation, which is compatible with a constr uctivist literacy viewpoint. Thus, despite the current conception of literacy as a construction, linked to social practices and functional competencies (Bloome, 1986, 2000; Cook-G umperz, 1986; Hruby, 2001; Nolen, 2001; Turner, 1995), for most participating teachers in this study, literacy still appears to be a set of discrete skills that presumes a mechanical approach to teaching and learning. This study was also c oncerned with the congruency of teachers literacy beliefs and practices. Even t hough the statistical analysi s of the teachers selfreported literacy beliefs and practices score s did not show significant differences, observational data suggest that these as pects are not always congruent. This finding is consistent with previous re search showing inconsistency between teachers literacy beliefs and practices (F eng & Etheridge, 1993; Foote, Smith, & Ellis, 2004; Lenski et al., 1998). Theref ore, the findings of the current investigation support the notion suggest ed by previous research about the complexity of the relationship between teachers beliefs and practices (Feng & Etheridge, 1993; Nelson, 1999). The lack of alignment between teacher s beliefs and practices could be explained in light of fact ors such as teachers i nexperience, lack of support,
113 restricted time for instruction, administrat ive and classroom life constraints, social realities (Fang, 1996; Schawn & Olafs on, 2002), and the imbalance caused by a shift in beliefs (Lenski et al., 1998). Moreover, the use of self-report instruments to assess teachers literacy beliefs and pr actices, such as the LOS used in the first part of the current study, might be another factor related to inconsistency between teachers beliefs and practices. That is, some teachers may have responded to these instruments as they think effective teachers should answer (Olson & Stinger, 1994), the inconsistency may be a function of their knowledge rather than their beliefs, since beliefs appear to be less receptive to external evaluation or critical analysis than k nowledge (Nespor, 1987). Thus, the results of the current study regarding the congruenc y of teachers beliefs and practices confirm the importance of in corporating the use of s upplementary measures to verify and substantiate the results obt ained from self-report measures. In the present study no significant demographic differences were found among teachers whose literacy beliefs corres ponded to constructivist, eclectic, or traditional viewpoints. However, previ ous descriptive studies addressing this relationship (Feng & Etheridge, 1993; Poul son et al., 2001; Seung-Yoeun, 2005) have shown mixed results. In th e study conducted by Feng and Etheridege (1993), results indicated that older teachers tended to have more traditional orientations to reading (phonics) wher eas younger teachers tended to approach a holistic orientation (whol e language); nevertheless, no differences were found between teachers reading orient ation and their educational le vel. In contrast, in a similar study conducted in England, P oulson et al. (2001) found that younger age
114 and less experienced teachers tended to agree more with a phonics orientation than older age and more experienced teacher s. According to the researchers, even though no significant differences we re found between teachers theoretical orientation and their educat ional level, teachers with the highest education appeared to be more disapproving of phonics orientation and more positive toward the whole language or ientation. More recently, in a study conducted in Korea, Seung-Yoeun (2005) also examined teachers literacy beliefs and their relationship with teacher age, educational degree, and years of teaching. The results indicated that educational degr ee was the only variable that appeared to be related to teachers literacy beliefs. Howe ver, it is important to consider that, in Seung-Yoeuns study, t eachers educational level varied from a high school diploma to a masters degree, whereas, in the current investigation, the level varied from a bachelors to a masters degree. Thus, the broader range of differences in educational levels among the Korean teachers might have contributed to a more significant relati onship between these teachers beliefs and their educational level. The inconsistent results regarding t he relationship of teachers beliefs and their age, educational level, and teaching experience suggest the possibility that differences in teachers beliefs might be associated with other factors. As discussed in Chapter 2, several scholars and investigators support the idea that teachers beliefs are the result of t heir own experience as students (Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992; Raths, 2001; Richardson 2003; Yero, 2002). In view of that assertion, one could hypothesiz e that the nature of the teachers in struction, as a
115 student, might be more related to his or her literacy beliefs than age or teaching experience. Thus, there is a need to extend the study of this domain. Teachers beliefs and students conceptions of reading and writing. The results of the present study revealed a si gnificant association between first-grade teachers literacy beliefs and their st udents conceptions about reading and writing. This implies that first-grad e students ideas and per spectives regarding the nature and purposes of reading and writing appeared to be compatible with their teachers literacy be liefs and practices. In this study, firstgrade students whose teacher s held constructivist literacy beliefs demonstrated more ho listic conceptions about reading and writing. A significant number of student responses about understanding the nature of literacy emphasized the construc tion of meaning in reading and writing ( To think about a story. You have to th ink about what you are going to write about and then you do it. You have to think things about the story ). These responses also denoted a conception of reading and writing as processes that involve thinking which might suggest a le vel of metacognitive awareness that was not evident in the case of student s with traditional and eclectic teachers. According to Garner (1994) a readers fo cus on making sense of the text rather than decoding is indicative of metacognition. On the other hand, most of the res ponses of students with eclectic and traditional teachers demonstrated readi ng and writing conceptions focused on skills and isolated units of language ( You need to observe the letters. You have to look at the letters and then say the letters. You have to look at the
116 words that your teacher writes on the board. ). The marked emphasis on letters, words, and decoding denotes a restricted and limited conception of literacy as a mechanical and meaningless activity. Th is focus on mechanical aspects of reading and writing appear to be congruent with the em phasis on decoding and skills of traditional and eclectic teachers in this study. The substantial differences in conc eptions of reading and writing among students of teachers who held differing lit eracy viewpoints, as previously discussed, are consistent with the results of prior qualitative research (Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Rasinski & DeFord, 1985, 1988 ). In these investigations, students whose teachers held traditional litera cy orientations demonstrated literacy conceptions characterized by an emphasis on superficial aspects of reading and writing, such as letter-sound relationships, recognizing words in isolation, drilling, and practicing, as opposed to students with whole language teachers, whose literacy conceptions were more oriented toward meaning and books. The focus on the construction of meaning for the students with constructivist teachers was also extended to visual dimensions of the text, such as the pictures ( When I read a story to someone I read it and then I show them the pictures. You have to read the titl e of the book, then you read the letters and look at the pictures. When I write, I take my penc il first and I write, then I make drawings and paintings. ). It appears that thes e students recognized the visual and verbal nature of texts and picture books. Th is might imply a certain level of awareness and understanding of t he dialogical relationship between words and images in books (Arzipe & Styles, 2003), which could be associated
117 with social practices around literacy in t he context of purposeful tasks (Millard & Marsh, 2001) such as discussing storie s and illustrations. Certainly, for the students with constructivist teachers, this implies the development of a broader view of literacy that includes the ability to read visual images and interpret visual texts. Most of the responses, of students wit h constructivist teachers regarding literacy learning or how does someone l earns to read and write focused on experiences with books or whole text s. Thus, these students seemed to conceptualize books as mediating tools in literacy learning. This might also suggest the underlying idea of whole texts as a necessary condition for reading or, as Strommen and Fowles (1997) a ssert, the notion t hat readers read meaningful material. The signi ficant role of books in literacy learning was also evident in their ideas of who a good reader is and what good readers do ( My friend, she is reading a st ory right now. My uncle and my grandmother, because they read a lot of stories and the Bible. My sister, because she took a book and read it to me. ). In contrast, most students with tradition al and eclectic teachers qualified reading and good readers in te rms of their ability to be fast and accurate ( My cousin, he is in second grade and he reads very fast. When we have a new letter, Carlos always says it very fast . She says the words without making any mistake. ). These findings in the current stud y are also consistent with those of Reutzel and Sabey (1996), which indi cated that students of whole language teachers relied significantly more on reading books and their experiences with
118 books as key resources in learning and as indicators of someones literacy ability in comparison with students whose teacher s held traditional orientations to reading. In this study, the students with tradition al teachers exhibited a particular trend concerning their conceptions of lit eracy learning or of how does someone learns to read and write. More than half of their responses seemed to conceptualize literacy learning as a function of behavioral aspects ( You have to do what the teacher says. You have to be quiet. You need to pay attention to the teacher. You have to look at the word s that your teacher write on the board and when you finish you need to put your head down.) These responses stressed a behavioral conception of litera cy that appears to be congruent with the traditional teachers literacy viewpoint that included a passive conception of the learner, emphasis on direct instruction, little support for students autonomy, and beliefs and practices of literacy as obs ervable behaviors (handwriting, decoding). This finding is consistent with those of Borko and Eisenhar t (1986) who found that students with teachers that focused more on decoding skills, student behavior, and instructional procedures tended to articulate conceptions of reading that relied on reading-appropr iate behavior and on the materials and procedures related to their instruction. However, despite the differences in conceptions about reading and writing among students whose teachers hel d differing literacy beliefs, the results of this study also indicated some similarities. First, almost all students referred to peers and family members as examples of readers and good readers. This finding
119 concurred with the results of the expl oratory study conducted by Reutzel and Sabey (1996), who indicated that firs t-grade students tended to identify parents and peers as models of good reading. Second, all students, regardless t heir teachers literacy viewpoint, demonstrated more ability to articulate thei r conceptions of reading than writing. This common element seems to be compatible with the fact that every teacher, in the current study, appeared to provide mo re time and attention to reading instruction in relation to writing. This issue has been addressed by Elbow (2004) who argues that there is a general conception of lear ning that relies primarily on reading; consequently, in most schools writing instructi on is less crucial. Thus, the lack of equal time and effort devoted to writing instruction by the teachers in this study might be related to their student s lack of ability in conveying their conceptions about writing or in develo ping appropriate writing conceptions. Finally, in this study, most firstgrade students across teachers literacy viewpoints appeared to conceptualize lite racy learning as a function of school instruction. The majority of the students conceptions concerning literacy learning and their definitions of r eading and writing emphasized classroom activities, materials, and peers. This fi nding is consistent with those of Moller (1999) and Michel (1994), who observed that, in many cases, childrens definitions of literacy ar e descriptions of their tasks in the school context. Moreover, it validates a central assumpti on of the present in vestigation; i.e., school experiences as influential forces in the construction of notions, ideas, and assumptions of what literacy is and what it means to be literate (Bloome, 1986;
120 Hammerberg, 2004; Landis, 1999; Mic hel, 1994; Moller, 1999; Nolen, 2001; Turner, 2000). Implications for Practice: Literacy Teaching and Learning The current study suggests important implications for literacy teaching and learning, particularly within an educationa l climate extremely focused on literacy achievement and high-quality instructi on (Young & Draper, 2006). According to Allington (2002), in order to improve lit eracy achievement, we must focus on developing effective teachers. This c ontention was, in fact, an underlying assumption of this study. The results of the current study have certainly highlighted the importance of studying teachers and their critical role in literacy learning. If, in effect, as indicated in this study and prior investigations (Rasinski & DeFord, 1988; Reutzel & Sabey, 1996; Wing, 1989), students i deas about the natur e, purposes, and definitions of literacy are re lated to their teachers liter acy beliefs and practices, teachers are not only teaching them how to read and write; they are also shaping their notions regarding what it means to read and write, why people need to read and write, and even under what circumst ances. The lack of meaning-oriented and comprehensive conceptions of litera cy, evident in students with traditional and eclectic teachers in this study, must be a major concern for educators and the literacy field; considering that cu rrent perspectives on literacy achievement require students to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate a diversity of texts (International Readi ng Association & National Council of Teachers of English, 1996). However, these standards may be difficult to achieve by students
121 who define and understand literacy as si mple school-based skills or as meaningless pieces. Moreover, if, in fact, childrens ideas and definitions of reading and writing determine in some way their approach to literacy tasks (Borko & Eisenhart, 1986; Hutson & Gove, 1978; Knapp, 2002; Nolen, 2001; Rasinski & DeFord, 1985); students with simplistic and superficial i deas about reading and writing-such as saying the words looking at the letters or simply to be quiet-might not be able to focus on constructing meaning of spoken, written, and vis ual language, adopt a critical stance as readers and writers, or read for personal fulfillment in other contexts different from school. These ideas and understandings seem to affect the individual orientation toward literacy. Dyson ( 2000) stresses the significance of childrens understandings and ideas about literacy, as she st ates children not only build on what they know, they build with it (p.354). Thus, if students conceptions about reading and writing consti tute part of what they know about literacy, these concepti ons will contribute to s hape future literacy tasks and events. Teachers also need to examine and understand their students conceptions about reading and writing. A better comprehension of the way their students define, understand, and interpre t literacy and their literacy tasks have implications for the way teachers pl an, and approach literacy instruction. Students conceptions about reading and writing could in form teachers practice in order to support and enc ourage the development of appropriate and positive
122 literacy conceptions that are congruent with the ultimate outcome of literacy education: to contribute to the devel opment of lifelong r eaders and writers. The fact that almost the majority of the students in this study referred to peers and family members as examples of readers and good readers might be a warning sign about the teachers ability to portray a good reader and demonstrate what readers and wr iters do. This fact might be associated to the lack of read aloud events that was evident in most of the observed classrooms. When teachers do not read aloud they fa il in demonstrating what good readers do, the purposes of reading, and the process of constructing and reconstructing meaning from the text. As Cambour ne (1987) states, the way teachers approach reading and writing demonstrate their attitude to ward literacy: whether they like to read and write and whether they think reading and wr iting are hard or easy (p.67). Thus, teachers must reflec t on their literacy practices, particularly on what kind of statements about literacy these practices are conveying to their students. An important implication of the current study is concerned with the significant role of teachers beliefs in lit eracy instruction. In this study, teachers literacy beliefs seemed to be related to t heir instructional practices, even though this relationship was not always consisten t. The results of th is study indicating that most teachers reported traditional literacy beliefs and practices, requires serious thought, particularly consideri ng that these teachers are supposed to subscribe to a constructivist theoretic al framework that proposes a holistic approach to literacy and its instruction (I nstituto Nacional para el Desarrollo
123 Curricular, 2003). Thus, this clearly poses a challenge for the Department of Education in Puerto Rico, and indicate s a distinct mismatch between its theoretical approach to literacy and the ac tual classroom approach in practice. Additionally the large number of teachers in th is study who reported eclectic beliefs and practices might indica te the existence of conflicting beliefs and practices in many teachers. This coul d be the result of t he teachers lack of a strong theoretical base or knowledge r egarding how to implement constructivist principles in practice (Lenski et al., 1998) or the product of the primacy of beliefs over knowledge (Foote et al., 2004). Theref ore, teachers literacy beliefs need to be acknowledged and considered in any attemp t to improve literacy instruction. The significance of literacy beliefs implies the need for inservice and preservice teachers to examine and re flect on their own dispositions and assumptions about teaching and learning to read and write, what literacy is, and what constitutes its ultimate goal. T eachers need to understand the powerful role of beliefs in shaping their educational pr actices (Murphy, Delli, & Edwards, 2004) and their students views and perspective s about literacy. Teacher educators need to recognize that future teachers enter to their prepar ation programs with particular and well established beliefs about literacy instruction (Murphy, et al., 2004; Raths, 2001; Yero, 2002). Teacher education programs need to address preservice teachers beliefs providing time and space for their ongoing examination and reflection, in order to be able to provoke genuine changes of shifts in teachers thinking.
124 Even though the LOS, us ed in the present study, was designed to measure inservice teachers literacy beliefs and classroom practices, the subscale of the instrument focus ed on literacy beliefs might be used by preservice teachers as a quantitative m easure to assess and compare over time their beliefs about literacy teaching and l earning. Similarly, other instruments such as the Literacy Acquisition Pe rception Profile (LAPP) (McMahon, Richmond, & Reeves-Kazelskis, 1998) and the Philosophical Orientation to Literacy Learning (POLL) (Linek, Nelson & Sampson, 1999) might be used to explore preservice teachers litera cy beliefs. Other me thods to examine preservice teachers literacy beliefs include the use of autobiographies (Norman & Spencer, 2005) and students stories about literacy education in order to promote their reflection about themselv es as readers and writers and their interpretation of teaching and learning in light of those beliefs. Implications for Further Research As discussed in the first chapter, even though the topic of teachers literacy beliefs and students concepti ons about reading and writing has been previously studied, research efforts have been limited. In fact the current study was an attempt to extend previous inve stigations through the inclusion of statistical analysis and by adding a different social and cultural research context. The results of the current study have pr ovided additional evidence to validate the findings of previous qualitative studi es. However, there is still a need for additional studies addressing the relationship between teachers literacy beliefs and students conceptions about reading and writing, in particular, studies
125 employing complementary research met hods in order to provide richer and broader descriptions of teachers beliefs and students conceptions about reading and writing. Even though the current study used a non-experimental design, which implies that many important variables c annot be controlled, future research on students conceptions about reading and writing may choose to consider intervening variables such as so cioeconomic status, gender, and home experiences. Additionally, fu ture studies should take into consideration the need for larger sample sizes, given that most of the research on this topic has relied on small numbers of participants. Certai nly, an increase in the number of participants (teachers and students) will cont ribute to the generalizability of previous findings. Finally, further study of teachers literacy beliefs should focus on what factors and influences, in addition to teacher age, educational level, and experience, contribute to particular litera cy beliefs. In future studies, researchers might take into consideration the natur e of teachers inst ruction and their own experiences as students, which may offer insight into the role of these experiences in teachers beliefs and practi ces. Moreover, since research findings regarding the relationship between teachers literacy be liefs and their practices are inconsistent, there is also a need to continuing studying this domain. Limitations and Reflections During the course of this investigati on it was evident for the researcher an absence of a research culture for mo st teachers and the school context where
126 this study was conducted. Even though the response rate fo r the first part of this study was adequate (75%), it was the resu lt of many efforts and contacts with these teachers and school directors. The level of difficulty concerning teachers participation increased during the sec ond part of the study due to the need to conduct observations and interviews, which seemed to be intimidating for several teachers and directors. Mo reover, the IRBs requirements concerning the form and content of the consent forms for teachers and students parents, in this study, appeared to have an intimidating effect for some participant s. In fact, for some parents the parental permission form resulted difficult to understand and the statements regarding the risks of bei ng part of the study was a cause of concern. Certainly, these factors need to be considered and addressed in future investigations. As noted in the first chapter, the pr esent study relied on categorizations delineated by previous research. T eachers literacy beliefs and students conceptions about reading and writing were categorized according to particular categories and definitions. Certainly, this represents a limitat ion for the current study and a challenge for next investigatio ns addressing the nature of teachers literacy beliefs and students concepti ons of reading and writing. Conclusion The current study had two main pur poses. First, it examined and described first-grade teacher s literacy beliefs in Puerto Rico. The second purpose was to investigate the relationshi p between teachers literacy beliefs and their students conceptions about reading and writing. The results of this study
127 indicated that most teachers possess litera cy beliefs compatible with a traditional orientation, even though t he theoretical framework of the Department of Education in Puerto Rico subscribes to a constructivist perspective. A large number of teachers beliefs in this study were compatible with an eclectic literacy viewpoint, whereas a small number of teac hers indicated beliefs compatible with a constructivist viewpoint. For most of these teachers, their literacy beliefs appeared to be congruent with their practices. Certainly, the nature of these findings poses many challenges for literacy instruction, the educational system, and teacher preparation programs since, even though the current professional di scourse embraces comprehensive and constructivist approaches to literacy, most teachers are at t he other extreme of the continuum. However, the study of teachers literacy beliefs also represents a first step in understanding these teachers premises or proposit ions about literacy instruction and how they are related to their practice, certainly a necessary condition in order to make changes or reforms. With regard to the relationship bet ween teachers literacy beliefs and students conceptions about reading and writing, the re sults of this study confirmed and extended the findings of pr evious research indicating that students ideas and perspectives on the nature and purposes of reading and writing appear to be compatib le with their teachers liter acy beliefs and practices. Students with constructivist teachers dem onstrated more holistic and meaningoriented conceptions about reading and wr iting, whereas student s with traditional and eclectic teachers focused on skills and isolated units of language.
128 The results of the current study valid ate the conception of literacy as a social construction. Teachers and student s, in this study, demonstrated how alternative definitions of literacy are constructed thr ough their daily interactions, conversations, and literacy tasks. Some definitions may support a comprehensive perspective of literacy, whereas other definitions may promote simplistic and limited views of reading and writ ing. Thus, it is the belief of this researcher that, in effect, literacy teac hing and learning are never neutral.
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147 Appendix A: Literacy Orientation Survey
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151 Appendix B: LOS-Spanish Version
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156 Appendix C: IRB-appr oved Consent Form
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159 Appendix D: Spanish Versi on of IRB-approved Consent Form
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162 Appendix E: IRBapproved Parental Informed Consent
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165 Appendix F: Spanish Version of IR B-approved Parental Informed Consent
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About the Author Mildred Falcn-Huertas received a Ba chelors Degree in Preschool and Elementary Education in 1991 and a M.Ed. in Early Ch ildhood Education in 1996 from the University of Puer to Rico. She worked, as an early childhood teacher, for the Department of E ducation of Puerto Rico and since 1996 she has been a faculty member of the Univer sity of Puerto Rico, Bayamn Campus. In 2001, she moved to Tampa, Florida in order to pur sue a doctoral degree. After finishing her doctoral coursework, she returned to Puerto Rico where she continues teaching.