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Review of Methods of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts
Date: Sun, 09 Oct 2005 15:50:15 -0400 From: Jeffrey S. Brown Subject: Methods of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts
EDITORS: Flood, James; Lapp, Diane; Squire, James R.; Jensen, Julie TITLE: Methods of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts SUBTITLE: The Methodology Chapters from the Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts, 2nd ed. PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2005
Jeffrey S. Brown, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Tennessee Tech University
The editors have selected eleven chapters that originally appeared in Part II of the "Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts, Second Edition" by Flood, et al., 2003. Each of the eleven chapters offer distinctly different approaches used in researching pedagogy and practices in teaching English language arts.
The intent of this text is given in the preface by Flood, et al. who noted, "The eleven chapters in this volume provide insight and knowledge about the ways to conduct effective research using existing methodological paradigms, and introduces 'new' ways of thinking about appropriate ways to conduct and represent findings from research" (p. viii).
Chapter 1 -- Understanding Research on Teaching the English Language Arts: An Introduction for Teachers In this introductory chapter, Sandra Stotsky and Cindy Mall provide an introduction that sets the tone for the remainder of the text by discussing the purposes for academic research, by exploring the meaning of research as it relates to teaching the English language arts, and by providing an excellent description of each of the basic modes of inquiry, which include conceptual inquiry, empirical research, qualitative methods, and quantitative methods. Moreover, the authors discuss relationships between academic and classroom inquiry, as well as the usefulness of research findings in the classroom setting.
Chapter 2 -- Teacher Professionalism and the Rise of "Multiple Literacies": How to Describe Our Specialized Knowledge? DiPardo provides intuitive insights into the world of teacher professionalism and the specialized knowledge utilized by teachers. She further notes that there is a gulf between theoretical research and classroom application as evidenced by her notation that, "The perceived split -- between knowing a field of study and knowing how to teach -- is as enduring as it is unfortunate..." (p. 26). DiPardo argues that a disparity exists between theoretical understanding of literacy and the ability to vocalize that understanding to the community at large.
Chapter 3 -- The Design of Empirical Research In this chapter, Calfee and Chambliss discuss how empirical research can be designed for use in the English language arts. The authors have provided excellent discussion and elaboration of research related practices that range from framing a research question to data analysis and interpretation.
Chapter 4 -- What Longitudinal Studies Say About Literacy Development - What Literacy Development Says About Longitudinal Studies In this chapter, Tierney and Sheehy argue that longitudinal studies are critical in the understanding of literacy development. They note that longitudinal studies will provide literacy researchers with a more salient picture of learners as they progress in ability and age. Tierney and Sheehy further note that not even longitudinal research is without difficulty when it comes to arriving at logical findings. Yet, longitudinal studies do provide researchers with an invaluable tool that will allow them to obtain a clearer picture of literacy development over a given time period.
Chapter 5 -- Case Studies: Placing Literacy Phenomena within Their Actual Context In this chapter, Birnbaum, Emig, and Fisher argue that while traditional, quantitative approaches are acceptable in literacy research, it is also important to consider qualitative approaches such as the case study. The authors discuss current methodologies used in case study research, provide a history of case study research, and suggest potential new directions for research.
Chapter 6 -- Ethnography as a Logic of Inquiry Green, Dixon, and Zaharlick provide an excellent discussion for understanding the use of ethnography as a tool for inquiry in education. The authors note many potential benefits, as well as possible problems that can arise out of an ethnographic study.
Chapter 7 -- Teacher Researcher Projects: From the Elementary School Teacher's Perspective In this chapter, Burton and Seidl note that traditional lines of educational research inquiry have neglected to consider the, "rich complexity of classroom life as children and adults experience it" (p. 195). In response to this traditional approach to research, the authors discuss the recent trends of regular classroom teachers in becoming active classroom researchers.
Chapter 8 -- Teacher Inquiry into Literacy, Social Justice, and Power In this chapter, Fecho and Allen argue against the perceived idea that the regular classroom provides something other than a "real world" environment. In order to gain deeper understanding of the implications of power, equity, and social justice in relation to literacy, the authors advocate the use of teacher inquiry.
Chapter 9 -- Synthesis Research in Language Arts Instruction In this chapter, Smith and Klein discuss the importance of research summaries and syntheses of research because of their immense potential contribution to the research community at large. The authors define synthesis research and offer suggestions for evaluating the synthesis paper.
Chapter 10 -- Fictive Representation: An Alternative Method for Reporting Research In this chapter, Alvermann and Hruby began with the point that "... research reports do not have to be boring to read, or for that matter, to write" (p. 273). While the point made by these authors is no doubt valid, it is important to consider that the jargon used in writing technical reports and research results is, perhaps, necessary in order to ensure the ability of those reading the study to replicate and understand the research findings.
Chapter 11 -- Contemporary Methodological Issues and Future Directions in Research on the Teaching of English In this concluding chapter, Wittrock discusses the importance of research in relation to teaching practices, research practices, and the role of the learner in the English language arts classroom.
Researching the act of teaching in the English language arts is a dynamic, ongoing process. As socioeconomic and cultural demands placed on our students change, concomitant changes in research methodologies also must be considered. Accordingly, this text provides vivid, useful descriptions of the various research methodologies that might be employed in assessing the present-day dynamics endemic to the English language arts classroom. Moreover, the text is written with such clarity that it is accessible by classroom teachers with little background in research methodology, an essential point to consider if one is to propagate the idea of "teacher as researcher" in the classroom.
It is apparent that the editors have accomplished their goal as set out in the introduction to this review. However, there is one chapter, which begs clarification. The chapter on Fictive Representation appears to advocate setting aside standard research protocol in favor of fiction mixed with research. Questions regarding the legitimacy of this approach will plague this reviewer's thoughts for years to come.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Jeffrey S. Brown is a doctoral student at Tennessee Technological University with interests in literacy, linguistics, and cognitive psychology. In addition, he is also a reading specialist in the Bledsoe County school system.