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Review of  Methods of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts

Reviewer: Jeffrey S. Brown
Book Title: Methods of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts
Book Author: James Flood Diane Lapp James R. Squire Julie Jensen
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 16.2945

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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

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
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.


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.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0805852581
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 352
Prices: U.S. $ 39.95