The Role of Sustained, On-Site Continuing Professional Development in the Promotion of a Whole-School Approach to Comprehension Strategy Instruction.
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This study examines the extent to which a sustained, coherent, on-site professional development approach, incorporating a school-based facilitator, can support the staff of a large urban primary school in the implementation of a research-validated approach to comprehension instruction. Informed by international research on effective professional development, the study promotes a differentiated approach, incorporating modelled lessons, one-to-one consultations, reflective dialogue and the development of an authentic community of practice. This research also explores changes in teacher knowledge and practice as a result of this professional development and examines its impact on pupil learning and engagement. Qualitative in nature, this case study design explores the multiple perspectives of teachers, the principal and pupils across the first two years of the implementation process. Data gathered from questionnaires, semi-structured individual and group interviews, audio and video recording of lessons, in addition to researcher observations, was coded to facilitate the emergence of conceptual categories. The complexity of implementing school-wide initiatives is highlighted by the study, with time, multiple reform efforts and the withdrawal of pupils impacting on teachers’ ability and motivation to engage in educational reform efforts. The findings indicate that within a community of practice, teachers gradually assumed more control over their own learning, but that this is contingent on effective leadership and scaffolding from the facilitator. The study also suggests that modelled lessons and one-to-one consultations are integral features in developing an atmosphere of trust in which teachers are comfortable sharing concerns and anxieties. Teachers valued the explicit and structured nature of comprehension strategy instruction introduced, and a dialogic approach which emphasised the collaborative development of personal interpretation of text was observed in many classrooms. Teacher scaffolding was identified as an area in need of further support. The emergence of higher-order thinking skills was noted among all pupils, leading teachers to reconsider their perspectives of younger and weaker readers. Findings also indicate that through the use of Comprehension Process Motions, children in the infant classroom are capable of thinking strategically with minimal teacher prompting. In addition, increases in pupil engagement and perceptions of themselves as readers were noted. In conclusion, the findings of this study reinforce the need for sustained, inschool support through the medium of informed, on-site facilitation in the development of a collaborative approach to the implementation of new initiatives. The development of active and engaged readers of all ages and the emergence of higher-order thinking skills emphasise the need for a whole-school approach to comprehension instruction.
Continuing professional development