Hear Holly give a short explanation of Disciplinary Literacy here.
Literacy, and the foundational skills it encompasses, is critical to college and career readiness. The CEEDAR Center is committed to ensuring that teachers and leaders prepare students, particularly students with disabilities, for college and career readiness. One of the knowledge development tools that will be available is a revision and expansion of the Scientifically-based Reading Instruction innovation configuration developed by NCCTQ (now the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders http://www.gtlcenter.org/products-resources/scientifically-based-reading-instruction-innovation-configuration). One of the authors of the revision, Dr. Holly Lane (University of Florida), has spent her career researching and providing professional learning opportunities for pre- and in-service teachers in this area with an emphasis on meeting the needs of struggling readers through effective assessment, instruction, and intervention.
Holly has worked with students of all ranging from children in early learning settings, to college students who have learning disabilities. Her teaching and research are the foundation for preparing pre- and in-service teachers. She shared that through her courses and a number of projects, she helps them in becoming more effective at diagnosing reading difficulties, screening to note which young children are likely to struggle and preventing those problems, and providing appropriate interventions for those who are struggling.
Her philosophy and practice as a teacher educator, is that “it’s really important to get students involved with kids from the very beginning when they’re first learning about the constructs related to literacy development, getting them connected with children who are learning to read so they can see the theories they’re learning about actually being enacted.” She believes the traditional approach to preparation in this area tends to be fragmented by providing theory then practice and leaves teachers underprepared. Without experience in classrooms, prospective teachers have no concrete foundation for making sense of the abstract theories. We need to ensure that prospective teachers have good instructional models and guidance to help them process what they see.
As a professional development provider, Holly noted that it is all too common for teachers to admit that they had little preparation for teaching reading and no preparation for intervening on behalf of struggling readers. Overcoming these deficits requires individualizing to meet teachers’ specific needs and providing effective coaching on instruction and collecting and using data. She argues, “every teacher, and certainly every special education teacher needs to know how to help struggling readers. Learning disabilities is by far the biggest category of special education, and of kids who have an identified learning disability, about 90% of them have a reading disability. Why would we have anyone graduate from a special education teacher preparation program not knowing how to help struggling readers?”
Students’ reading skills are essential for their lifelong success. Holly offered the following recommendations for teacher education programs:
- Ensure faculty know how to teach reading and how to help struggling readers. Faculty must know about evidence-based practices, know about the reading process and what kinds of things can trip kids up as they’re acquiring that process, and know how to help their students learn those things.
- Think carefully about what goes into being prepared and what are all the things that teachers need to know and be able to do to teach reading and to intervene for struggling readers and to think about how those skills and how that knowledge can be built over time.
- Allow more time for teacher candidates to develop expertise. It’s not a one-or two-semester prospect. It’s something that needs to happen over an entire teacher education program with deepening expertise each semester as they get further and further along. They need to have the linguistic foundations and be able to determine what practices have an acceptable evidence-base.
- Keep the focus on the goal of reading instruction. Although expertise in teaching children to read words is critical, prospective teachers need to understand that everything they do is to help kids learn how to comprehend text.
Additionally, school leaders play a critical role in the ongoing development and success of teachers.
- Place the best reading teachers in the early grades where strong foundational skills should be learned and intervention can begin early, if necessary.
- Have curricular support specialists that know about reading and can provide individualized assistance to teachers as data coaches or to serve as in-class instructional models.
- Provide time and assistance for teachers to collect, analyze, and process their own student data. Teachers are inundated with data, but they do not always have time to collect it or make sense of it. Also, data collected by someone else is seldom as meaningful as data teachers collect themselves.