Chapter I Introduction Learning to read is a complex task easily accomplished by most students. One of the major educational concerns is ensuring success for those students who have difficulty learning to read. (Anderson, Heibert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985; Adams, 1990; Allington & Walmsley, 1995; Fountas & Pinnell, 1996; Routman, 1996; Bond & Dykstra, 1997; Graves & Dykstra, 1997; Readence & Barone, 1997; Duffy & Hoffman, 1999). Some envision reading as a task the students teach themselves individually with the reflective support of others (Smith, 1988, 1990; Clay, 1991a; Lyons, Pinnell & DeFord, 1993;). From the perspective of ensuring success, learner initiative or independence is essential for the process of learning to read to develop smoothly. Some students who initially have difficulty in learning to read do help themselves by “bootstrapping”(Stanovitch, 1986), but research suggests that most students who do not learn to read in the primary grades continue to find reading difficult throughout their lives, if they are successful at all (Chromsky, 1972; Juel, 1988; Clay, 1990; Hiebert, 1991). A conceptual shift offered by Watson supports the current study described here: “The problem is not student learning; it is that educators and researchers have not discovered how to teach all students yet” (B. Watson, Feedback on a Reading Recovery lesson, personal communication, Reston, Virginia, 1992). If independence is essential for learning, then fostering that independence is a necessity for unsuccessful emergent readers. Studying the instructional setting that fosters student independence provides insight for teachers who seek increased student success. The study described here illuminates the process of fostering student independence while students learn to read. For the study, Reading Recovery instructional dyads were observed through the lens of Vygotsky’s theory of learning in a social context, and independence, intersubjectivity, and scaffolding were examined within this qualitative study project (Vygotsky, 1978). Independence Although not always understood or specified, independence is an unspoken goal of all reading programs. The case can be made that intentional fostering for independence is a key ingredient for learning to read (Mooney, 1990; Clay, 1991a; Watson, 1994; Watson, 1999). Often in educational literature, independence refers to the physical setting of a student working alone with no reference to the quality of the student’s work or to a developing ability level supported by an instructor (Watson, 1994). In this study, the operational definition of independence is defined as a student’s ability to understand reading within the current ability level and to apply strategies to solve the reading problems that occur, thus negating the need for teacher support. (See more in Independence section of Chapter 2.) Others define fostering independence as modeling for behaviors, instruction for metacognition, and for self-regulation (Dorn, 1994; Cox, Fang, & Schmitt, 1998).
Whether or not a student has achieved independence in reading can be determined by observing student behaviors such as self-monitoring, checking work for accuracy, anticipating outcomes, and evaluating accuracy of the task performance. Unfortunately, unsuccessful emergent readers may believe that they can neither master nor control the reading process. With this attitude they neither participate in their learning process nor evaluate how their performance supports or hinders success. To overcome this dilemma it is important to help students by fostering independence from the beginning of instruction so that students can contribute to their reading success (Clay, 1991a). Independence is a disposition or a character trait nurtured by opportunities to express reflective, inquisitive, problem-solving behaviors when confronting a problem (Katz, 1987). If a student lacks the disposition for independence, then teachers should foster problem...
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