Reading in the Classroom: Systems for the Observation of Teaching & Learning
reviewed by William Brown - 2004
Title: Reading in the Classroom: Systems for the Observation of Teaching & Learning
Author(s): Sharon Vaughn and Kerri L. Briggs (Editors)
Publisher: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, Baltimore
ISBN: 1557666512 , Pages: 300, Year: 2003
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This book is a collection of articles about various methods for assessing the teaching and learning of reading in the classroom. The foreword was written by Louisa C. Moats, who has been prominent for many years in the field of reading. The editors are associated with the Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts at the University of Texas, Austin. Dr. Briggs is currently serving as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U. S. Department of Education, and is associated with implementing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The main focus of this book is on instruments and methods for observing reading classes. It might have been clearer had the main title been “Observing Reading in the Classroom” instead of the more generic title, since the reader might be led to think that the book will address how best to teach reading—which it does not do.
The book provides a balanced presentation of various styles for assessing the teaching and learning of reading. Included are Curriculum Based Measurement, Instructional Content Emphasis, Classroom Climate, English-Language Learner, DIBELS, Ethnography, and Informal Assessment. Some approaches are quantitative, and some qualitative. The presentations include data from actual research, including comparative data from studies of several different published reading series.
Tools used in the production of this book focus mainly on teaching and learning processes, and not on learning outcomes. Many of the techniques described in the book involve careful observations of behaviors at frequent time intervals, leading to a thorough knowledge of how the teachers and students used their classroom time. They do not, however, tell us whether the instruction actually led to better reading by the students. Of course, knowledge of how teachers and students use their time can be valuable in improving teaching methods, and this alone may justify the amount of effort put into systematic classroom observation.
As is true of many collections by diverse authors, the readability of the chapters varies widely. Most of the instruments and methods described in the book are far too tedious for general use in the schools, although serious researchers will find much useful information to guide their search for validated observational tools. Some chapters seem to be excessively tedious and weighed down by large, complex tables and difficult-to-interpret graphs, while others provide clear examples of learning scenarios that many educators will find interesting.
The editors have done a reasonably thorough job of covering a wide range of observation systems, and the book should prove valuable to those who wish to use systematic observation to conduct research into reading instruction in the classroom. Teachers who are interested in learning about results of the kinds of research reported in the book may also find it useful.