A reading specialist's story of reflection and collaboration: An endeavor to support peers as they practice flexible grouping to meet students' literacy learning needs

Linda Strite Irwin, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The purposes of this study were: (a) to examine how elementary teachers were managing flexible grouping for literacy instruction while implementing a commercial, literature-based program; and (b) to discern how the building reading specialist could support the teachers in their endeavors to utilize flexible grouping to meet students' literacy learning needs. Observations, interviews, and surveys from six focal teachers, as well as documents, other surveys, and a reflective journal were analyzed to discern patterns of teachers' practices and teachers' needs. The results were as follows: (a) the change in practice from ability to flexible grouping resulted in a paradigm shift that created tension for some teachers as they were confronted with new ideas about literacy teaching and learning; (b) many teachers had questions and uncertainties related to the practice of flexible grouping; (c) as teachers experimented with more flexible grouping patterns, there was still a need to find a balance between whole class instruction and flexible groups; (d) the use of literature circles, as a form of flexible grouping, was innovative to many teachers; (e) the reading specialist, while on a professional leave of absence, acted as a consultant and coach, and promoted professional growth and collaboration through a constructivist approach to staff development by conducting interactive workshops and a study group. The main conclusions reached were that: (a) teachers are practicing flexible grouping with varying levels of comfort and the practice differs in format and dimension from classroom to classroom; (b) there are some valid issues related to the practice of flexible grouping that still need to be addressed through collaboration and ongoing staff development; (c) the use of literature circles is an essential component of a comprehensive literature-based program; (d) the reading specialist's role, acting as a consultant and trainer for peers, is a powerful one; and (e) further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of flexible grouping compared to ability grouping for literacy instruction.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Irwin, Linda Strite, "A reading specialist's story of reflection and collaboration: An endeavor to support peers as they practice flexible grouping to meet students' literacy learning needs" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9908048.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9908048

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