The changing role of the reading specialist in independent schools: Caught in the crossfire of (un)spoken dialogues surrounding independent schools' ability to accommodate a range of student needs

Molly Warner Patterson, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This year-long study, which focuses on three recently hired reading specialists working in elite private schools, documents from the specialists' perspective the answer to the primary question "how does the reading specialist work to expand the ability of teachers and schools to accommodate a wider range of students?" A concurrent investigation of these private-school cultures unearths those aspects, both internal and external, that hinder or support the reading specialists in the fulfillment of their goals.^ Previous research on the role of reading specialists provides a myopic view of the techniques used in working with students and only refers in passing to contextual elements that might affect the reading specialist. My analysis, on the other hand, reveals that the schools in this study are currently under tremendous pressure, not all of it controllable, to change and yet at the same time remain the same. At the center of this tension lie issues of standards and the accommodation of student needs. My research shows that as advocates for students, as agents of change, as facilitators for professional development, and as administrators perceived to be supportive of or threatening to teachers (or both), reading specialists are in an unique position to witness, comment upon and ultimately influence the outcomes of these tensions.^ Using a modification of Lytle and Cochran Smith's Teacher-Research (TR) (1993), this research design addresses the issue of teacher isolation, a feature particularly relevant to the participating reading specialist. Data-collection techniques such as journalling, Oral Inquiry Groups (OIGs), and interviewing allowed for frequent contact and collaboration with the participating reading specialists. Furthermore, this research design avoids the often-exploitative nature of past research, well-documented in the literature of feminist research methodology. Ongoing participation by the reading specialists, the sharing of data and analysis, and the provision of frequent opportunities for adjustment and approval of the final product, have resulted in a work that is respectful of the participating schools, their staffs and participating reading specialists. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration|Education, Reading

Recommended Citation

Molly Warner Patterson, "The changing role of the reading specialist in independent schools: Caught in the crossfire of (un)spoken dialogues surrounding independent schools' ability to accommodate a range of student needs" (January 1, 1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI9819814.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9819814

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