Teachers’ Views on Implementing Guided Reading in Early Grades on Reading Comprehension

Teachers’ Perspectives on Implementing Guided Reading in Early Grades on Reading Comprehension

Abstract

The purpose of this basic qualitative design study was to illuminate on how teachers perceived their practice of guided reading in early grades when teaching reading comprehension. It also determined the advantages and disadvantages of implementing guided reading in early grades. The sample comprised of 15 early grade teachers chosen from different schools in the Northwestern suburbs of Chicago who had extensive experience teaching early grades using the guided reading approach. The major sources of data were semi-structured interviews and the teacher’s lesson plans of guided reading lessons. The collected data were analyzed through a coding process to identify themes while the lesson plans were subjected to a color-coding process. The findings exposed the teachers’ opinions about their experiences with the guided reading, its significance, how they implement it, reasons for using guided reading, and its impact on reading comprehension. It also reveals teachers’ beliefs about guided reading including its positive impact on student achievement and social growth and the perceived challenges that mainly included time constraints and challenges in planning and selecting materials for guided reading (GR) sessions. The research contributes to teaching practice by recommending the use of more effective and adequate training, professional development, and mentorship programs as interventions capable of assisting teachers to effectively implement GR.

Keywords: Guided Reading, Reading Comprehension, Zone of Proximal Development, Reading Skills.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Background of the Study

There is a difference between learning to read and reading to understand. In other words, “decoding competence does not automatically lead to better comprehension of a text” (Nayak & Sylva, 2013, p. 87). Likewise, Nayak and Sylva (2013) stated that “10–15% of the students’ exhibit low-level reading comprehension despite having good decoding skills” (p.88). In early grades, it is important that students not only learn how to read the text more effectively, but that they also develop a good understanding of what they are reading (Fisher, 2008). This would ensure that they gradually become strong readers with better reading comprehension. In doing so, students would gain proper knowledge of the text, be in a position to employ their knowledge effectively in various situations and ultimately be capable of solving various problems over time (Fisher, 2008; Fountas & Pinnell, 1996; Fountas & Pinnell, 2012, Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). Guided reading is highly recommended by most education scholars for facilitating students’ learning and comprehension (Fisher, 2008; Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Oostdam, Blok, & Boendermaker, 2015). Guided reading is often “implemented either as a constituent of classroom reading instruction or as a supplemental intervention” (Denton, Fletcher, Taylor, Barth, & Vaughn, 2014, p. 269).

Guided reading has become one of the most significant and common practices in primary classrooms in the United States (Fawson & Reutzel, 2000). Guided reading is a method of teaching reading widely used in English schools (Hanke, 2014). Dfee (1998) as quoted in Hanke (2014) “National Literacy Strategy (NLS) introduced Guided reading to English primary schools in 1999 as a part of a ‘carefully balanced programme’ for teaching reading” (p, 136). The key features of guided reading are as follow: small-group reading instruction to four to six students with similar strengths and instructional needs or to heterogeneously grouped students, these groups meet at least three to five times per week for 20 to 30 minutes each session in order for students to make consistent reading gains, multiple copies of graded leveled books are carefully selected and used by the teacher based on the children’s instructional need and levels of children’s reading development (Avalos, Plasencia, Chavez, & Rascón, 2007; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). This approach uses the context of personalized instructions and reading-related skills through extended time spent with an early grade student to ensure effective reading comprehension (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). In implementing guided reading, teacher should act as a guide to build upon the knowledge, skills, and strategies the children already possess (Avalos e al., 2007; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). According to Miranda (2018), “ when teachers took the time to scaffold instruction, a guiding process, it led to increased reading performance” (p.2). Nevertheless, Iaquinta (2006), states that implementing guided reading instruction at the early stages of a person’s development is the good time since at this stage, it is easier to prevent reading problems. Student who is a poor in the first grade is 88% more likley to remian a poor reader in the forth grade (Iaqinta, 2006). According to research, students have a difficult time catching up when they start poorly in reading, and as a matter of fact, guided reading is one of the effective research-based strategies for keeping learners on track when it comes to reading (Iaqinta, 2006).

Even though guided reading is considered a significant approach to teaching learners the vital reading comprehension skills, teachers were even uncertain about what they were attempting to achieve with guided reading and how to achieve it (Marchard-Martella, Martella, & Lambert, 2015; Shang, 2015). Although numerous researchers provide evidence supporting the effectiveness of guided reading instruction and the benefits of student data (Burns, 2001; Burke & Hartzold, 2007; Burkins & Croft, 2010; Fountas & Pinnell, 1996; Kremer, 2013; Marchard-Martella et al., 2015; Massey, 2013; Saunder-Smith, 2009; Schulman, 2006; Shang, 2015), it is difficult to identify which strategies and skills contributed to improve student reading achievement. Researchers such as Belland et al. (2015) and Robertson (2013) concluded that guided reading was more effective when teachers reflected and adjusted their instruction to meet the reading needs of students, but the why to the decisions about which reading skill and strategy to use is unknown (Miranda, 2018, p. 6). Research also indicated that teachers need to have a better understanding of the use of skills and strategies to enhance comprehension and to meet the reading needs of students (Buckingham, Beaman, & Wheldall, 2014; Fuchs, Fuchs, & Vaughn, 2014; Johnson & Boyd, 2012; Leu & Maykel, 2016; Miranda, 2018; Muszynski & Jakubowski, 2015; Shang, 2015).

Problem Statement and Significance of the Study

Guided reading is generally believed to be difficult to implement within English speaking elementary schools as Hanke (2014) noted that teachers in primary school have continuing concerns about its interpretation and implementation. In fact, some teachers were even uncertain about what they were attempting to achieve with guided reading, let alone how they should go about achieving it (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017; Hanke, 2014; Marchard-Martella et al., 2015; Shang, 2015).

A review of recent literature shows a general shift within US schools with the aim of including guided reading as a crucial instructional approach for attaining quality literacy. While the practice has been used for several decades with success in primary school, several studies have explored guided reading within the early education context and discovered multiple concerns on the interpretation of the instructional approach (Fisher, 2008; Ford & Opitz, 2011; Hanke, 2014). Despite the extended research on guided reading as an instructional strategy, there is still a need for research that thoroughly investigates in-depth teachers’ perspectives on the implementation of guided reading, particularly pertaining to its influence on reading comprehension (Fisher, 2008; Ford & Opitz, 2011; Hanke, 2014). Based on the existing literature, few studies have examined the effects of implementing guided reading on reading comprehension using qualitative research designs, leaving this subject vulnerable to misinterpretation and partial implementation (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012).

In an attempt to address this gap, this study focused on the teachers’ perspectives on the implementation of guided reading in early grades and its effects on reading comprehension. Using a sample composed of 15 teachers selected from public schools located in the northwest suburb of Chicago, this study had two goals: 1) to explore how teachers describe their practices of guided reading in early grades when teaching reading comprehension, and 2) to determine the advantages and disadvantages of implementing guided reading in early grades.

Theoretical Framework

The guided reading strategy is aligned to Vygotsky’s (1978) perception of learning through the creation of an effective and meaningful social instruction setting (Young, 2018). Vygotsky (1978) stressed that guided reading is deeply rooted in social constructivism whereby the learners learn through interactions with other students and the teacher. The social aspect is hence a crucial tenet for guided reading sessions. Fisher (2008) echoed this in the claim that under the social-constructivist outlook, students in guided reading are often “encouraged to talk, think, and read their way to constructing meaning” (p. 20).

Consequently, the theoretical framework of this study is Vygotsky’s social constructivism, particularly the notion of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). According to Vygotsky (1978) ZPD is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (p. 86). Teaching and learning processes are, therefore, perceived to be constructive and active process that occur within social contexts, which particular extents characterize the guided reading approach as well. The social constructivism theoretical framework will assist in designing this basic qualitative inquiry and ensuring that the interview questions will be semi-structured so that the researcher can listen keenly to the experiences shared by the participants (Creswell, 2013). The theoretical framework will be discussed in details in the second chapter.

Researcher’s Positionality

According to Cormier (2018), “Most of the literature on insider/outsider researcher positionality deals with ethnicity and race, yet language is also an important position to explore” (p. 330). The characteristics that make up the researcher, specifically the language spoken (whether linguistic outsider or insider), can profoundly shape the nature of the data gathered. Other than affecting the dependability and the accuracy of the data, it can also determine the nature of the association established between the researcher and the participating individuals. Apart from language, of course, other factors that shape the quality of the data gathered include the researcher’s experience, interests, passions, perceptions, and values. Considering the amount of influence such factors can have on the data collected, it is necessary to disclose any such influence or connection to the potential reader given that they can either benefit the research or even harm it.

Cormier (2018) states, “outsider researchers are often defined as ‘neutral’ and ‘objective.’ As such, participants may feel more comfortable talking about political issues or sensitive topics with outsiders who are not involved in the same way as an insider researcher” (p. 330). At the time of conducting the study, there was exist no working relationship between myself and the participants, hence ensuring the collection of more credible data. However, the participating teachers were of different native language (English) from mine (Arabic). The language difference had improved the interview process; the participants gave more detailed responses and offer clarifications, considering that I am not a native speaker. Additionally, it was easier for me to ensure anonymity given that no previous relationship exists between the participants and me, hence making them more open to sharing their opinions.

Purpose of the Study

This study was to explore teachers’ perspectives on the implementation of guided reading in early grades and its effects on reading comprehension. The purpose of this study was to: 1) explore how teachers describe their practices of guided reading in early grades when teaching reading comprehension, and 2) determine the advantages and disadvantages of implementing guided reading in early grades. The outcome of the study provided a greater understanding of the implementation of guided reading which, in turn, affect my decision on using this particular strategy when I will be back home to my country.

Research Questions

This qualitative study was guided by the following questions:

R1: How do elementary school teachers describe their experiences with guided reading strategies?

R2: What are teachers’ perspectives of the impact of guided reading on reading comprehension in early grades?

R3: How do teachers describe advantages and disadvantages of utilizing guided reading in early grades?

Rationale for Methodology

This research followed a basic qualitative study (BQS) approach. Generally, basic qualitative studies are interested in the way in which meaning is constructed as well as how persons make sense of their lives and that of their surrounding (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). Thus, the fact that the researcher will have to attentively listen to the participants’ words with the aim of capturing their view and experiences about the implementation of guided reading makes basic qualitative study methodology appropriate for this study.

15 teachers from public schools were selected to explore their perspective of implementing guided reading in early grades on reading comprehension. Semi-structured interviews and artifacts in the form of teachers’ lesson plans, were considered as data sources in this study. These data were analyzed thematically using an inductive analysis method.

Definition of Terms

For this study, the following definitions applied:

Reading: Reading is unlike the major assumption that reading simply means isolating words in a text, reading is more of a productive process where the reader creates meaning, the ultimate goal being comprehension, hence a more complex process that involves phonemic awareness, identifying words, being fluent, mastering the use of vocabulary, and understanding the reading material (Tompkins, 2010, p. 42).

Balanced Literacy: Based on a view of scaffolded instruction or gradual release of responsibility where teachers provide varying levels of support based on children’s needs, balanced literacy instructional practices are often enacted through the use of specific instructional routines such as guided reading, shared reading, interactive writing, literacy centers and independent reading and writing. (Bingham & Hall-Kenyon, 2013)

Guided Reading: A small-group instructional context in which a teacher supports each reader’s development of system of strategic actions for processing new texts at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty. Students in the group are similar (although not exactly the same) in their development of a reading process, so it is appropriate, efficient, and productive for them to read the same impact … The ultimate goal of instruction is to enable readers to work their way through a text independently, so all teaching is directed toward helping the individuals within the group build systems of strategic actions that they initiate and control for themselves. Guided reading leads to the independent reading that builds the process; it is the heart of an effective literacy program. (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017, pp. 12-13)

Reading Comprehension: A process of making meaning from texts. It implies that readers do not make meaning from the printed words which are set directly in essays or paragraphs, but they build meaning from pieces of information, from whole sentences that are correlated to each other in those essays. (Muliawati, 2017, p. 94)

Zone of Proximal Development: The zone of proximal development refers to that with the backing of another person with better capabilities, the learner has an increased chance of doing better than they could individually (Vygotsky, 1978).

Summary and Organization of the Remainder of the Study

This chapter addressed a brief discussion of implementing guided reading in early grades. Through well-organized guided reading sessions, such students have a better opportunity for learning how to read effectively as well as putting the knowledge gained into use in various situations, thus having the ability to solve real-world problems (Fisher, 2008). This is considering that effective reading involves both the ability to decode information as well as to comprehend whatever is being read. Based on the Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, guided reading assumes that learners are born different in both background and abilities, hence the need to form small groups in classrooms where the learners showing similar reading behaviors and with same instructional needs are exposed to reading at about the same book level with active involvement and support of their teacher (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).

Nonetheless, because teachers have various perspectives on the implementation of guided reading in early grades on reading comprehension, which forms the major purpose of this research, a basic qualitative research design was suffice in answering the study’s research questions. Through semi-structured interview questions, the research brought into perspective the teachers’ describing of the impact of implementing guided reading in early grades on reading comprehension, the advantages/disadvantages of guided reading in early grades, and how teachers describe their practices of guided reading strategies. The justification for the use of basic qualitative approach was because the study was primarily interested in the discovering the manner in which meaning is constructed by the participants (Merriam, 2009).

The second chapter of the study focuses on the current literature relevant to this study. The third chapter presents the methodology as well as the procedures that will be utilized in the inquiry.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two: Literature Review

Introduction to the Chapter

This study aimed at exploring teachers’ perspectives of the impact of implementing guided reading on reading comprehension among early graders. This study, therefore, explored how teachers describe their practices of guided reading in early grades when teaching reading comprehension, and determine the advantages and disadvantages of implementing guided reading in early grades. Using a number of peer-reviewed articles and scholarly books, this chapter has reviewed existing literature to offer a comprehensive analysis of the guided reading strategy of learning and teaching, in accordance to the study’s theoretical framework.

First, the analysis entailed an overview of the theoretical framework followed by a discussion of teachers’ knowledge of comprehension instruction and its implementation. Second, it examined the literature on guided reading and reading comprehension. Third, the analysis entailed a historical context of guided reading including a discussion of the origin of guided reading, its definition, modern scope, and teacher’s knowledge of guided reading. Fourth, it included a detailed understanding of the guided reading approach, the structure of a guided reading lesson, and the grouping in guided reading sessions. Fifth, it looked at some of the significant underpinning theories. Finally, it addressed literature on the teachers’ perspectives on the use of guided reading.

Theoretical Framework

In reference to the theory of guided reading, Young (2018) stated that:

In theory, it seems that guided reading should work. Most prominently, it has roots in social constructivism. Firstly, students are able to learn by interacting with the teacher and their peers. Thus, the social aspect is obvious in this context. Furthermore, the framework certainly resembles social constructivist learning theory. (p. 1)

Accordingly, the theoretical framework of the proposed study is social constructivism of Lev Vygotsky, particularly Vygotsky’s notion of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). In fact, Vygotsky (1978) defined ZPD as “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (p. 86). Learning is thus perceived as a constructive and active process occurring in social contexts, which to a considerable extent characterizes the guided reading approach as well. In guided reading, the teacher offers varying levels of support during the instructional activities, all aimed at scaffolding the control of each learner (Gaffner, Johnson, Torres-Elias, & Dryden, 2014; Marchard-Martella et al., 2015). Consequently, the amalgamation of events enables a gradual move within the student’s zone of proximal development (ZPD), “what the individual learners can do with the involvement of the teacher, to full and independent control” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). In guided reading instruction, the teacher usually organizes the teaching or learning collaboration thoughtfully while considering the make-up of the small groups as well as text selection.

Social constructivism has greatly influenced past research that primarily focused on literacy and language learning and teaching (Powell & Kalina, 2009). Besides, social constructivism has also contributed immensely to the underpinnings of the guided reading as it illuminates the significance of social context and its effect on the learning process. Moreover, the notion of reading comprehension to be explored in this research often encompasses and is influenced by social constructivism, whereby the students interact, think, share their perception, read to construct meaning, and respond to the text with reference to their real life experiences (Fisher, 2008).

The proposed research will utilize a basic qualitative methodology as the researcher is interested more in the actual outer-world content of her questions (the actual opinions themselves, the participants’ reflections themselves) and less on the inner organization and structure of the participants’ experiencing processes (Percy, Kostere & Kostere, 2015). Consequently, the research will be approached through a social constructivism lens in general and through the ZPD in particular. According to Mensah, (2015), social constructivism “provides a frame that shifts emphasis from the individual construction of knowledge to a view of collectively constructed meaning” (p. 3). In accordance with Creswell (2013), people construct subjective meanings and interpretations of their experiences in the effort to understand their world. Such subjective meanings are often mediated historically and socially. Utilizing this theoretical framework, therefore, will heavily rely on the interaction processes of the teacher participants. In obtaining an in-depth understanding of the teachers’ subjective experiences in the implementation of the guided reading approach, the social constructivism will be effective in creating close relations with the teacher participants. The aim of this research will be to understand how elementary school teachers make sense of their teaching experiences using the guided reading approach.

The current research will rely on the early grade teachers’ views on the effects of guided reading on reading comprehension. Accordingly, the questions for the semi-structured interviews will be general and broad to enable the participants to construct meanings of various situations attained through their interactions when implementing guided reading. Generally, social constructivism will assist in designing the basic qualitative inquiry, ensuring that the questions will be more open-ended so that the researcher can listen keenly for what the participants do and say about their experiences (Creswell, 2013).

Teachers’ Knowledge of Comprehension Instruction and its Implementation

Reading comprehension is essential in learning, understanding, and knowing language as a medium of communication. It is the motive behind reading whereby effective reading only occurs when the reader is able to understand the text rather than only decoding the words (Bria, 2018; Kuşdemir & Bulut, 2018). Reading comprehension can be defined as the process by which meaning is constructed from texts. Therefore, rather than constructing meaning from printed words found directly in paragraphs and essays, meaning is constructed from pieces of information gathered from and scattered across correlating whole sentences within the essay or text (Muliawati, 2017). Effective reading comprehension requires the reader to have cognitive skills. Reading comprehension also requires the reader to rely on prior knowledge on the subject covered in the text, prior experience as listeners and readers, using their vocabulary, knowledge of syntax, the text structure, and cognitive strategies to make sense of the text being read.

Additionally, various skills are required of the reader for him/her to accurately comprehend texts. These skills include having a purpose for reading and being active during reading; ability to analyze text while making predictions prior to the actual reading; eliciting meanings of the words used in the text and the context in which they are used; leveraging in previous knowledge; ability to reconstruct meaning; ability to summarize both events and characters in fictional texts (Bulut, 2017). According to Bulut (2017), reading comprehension is, therefore, a complicated process that necessitates a combination of the reader’s previous knowledge and vocabulary, interacting with the text, and the ability to use reading comprehension strategies.

Various literature provide different classifications and titles for comprehension strategies. On major classification of comprehension strategies was suggested by Taraban, Kerr, and Rynearson (2004) who classified comprehension strategies into pragmatic and analytical reading strategies. Taraban et al., (2004) defined analytical reading strategies as those that necessitate the reader to evaluate, contemplate on how they can later utilize what they acquire from the text, deduce meanings from titles by relating to the content in the text, and making inferences. It also requires the readers to review, make inferences, make guesses and check whether such guesses are correct, visualize the text, identify relevant information, and identify the text’s difficulty level (Taraban et al, 2004). On the other hand, pragmatic reading strategies are those that assist readers in remembering what they read through the use of various actions that include highlighting major points, note taking, re-reading, and using the margin to take notes (Asikcan, Pilten, & Kuralbayeva 2018; Taraban et al, 2004).

Another major classification of reading comprehension strategies makes use of the order in which the strategies are utilized during reading processes. These include pre-reading strategies; during/while-reading strategies, post-reading strategies, and strategies used throughout the entire reading process (Asikcan et al., 2018; Bulut, 2017). Pre-reading strategies include the preparation of reading plans, making predictions based on the main title, sub-titles, and visual presentations, determination of the reading speed, activation of prior knowledge, creation of pre-teaching vocabulary, selecting texts and guiding students to selects texts according to the stipulated criteria, and constructing word pools (Asikcan et al., 2018; Bulut, 2017).

During/while-reading strategies focus on the objectives of the pre-reading strategies (Asikcan et al., 2018; Bulut, 2017). During reading strategies include absorbing and fluent reading, utilizing study guides and drafts for informative texts, use of flow diagrams and timelines, note taking, visualizing narrative texts, definition of vocabulary, answering and creating new questions, connecting information obtained from different paragraph, and utilizing textual clues (Asikcan et al., 2018; Bulut, 2017).

Post-reading strategies on the other hand are aimed at synthesizing and strengthening knowledge obtained during the pre-reading and during-reading strategies (Asikcan et al., 2018; Bulut, 2017). Common post reading strategies include summarizing texts, answering questions, relating answers from different questions, analyzing and evaluating new information, reflective thinking, identifying the major idea of the text, discussion with peers, and checking for the validity of predictions made during pre-reading process (Asikcan et al., 2018; Bulut, 2017).

In addition to the above strategies are general strategies used throughout the reading process for different purposes. These include strategic note-taking, “the SQ4R (survey, question, read, recite, relate, review), SQ3R (survey, question, read, recite, review), KWL (Know, want to know, learned), POSSE (predicting, organizing, searching, summarizing, and evaluating), DRA (directed reading activity), and Coop-DIS-Q (Cooperative discussion and questioning)” (Bulut, 2017, p. 24).

Numerous studies indicate that readers who have challenges in reading and comprehension can be guided to overcome such challenges more effectively if they are taught the afore-discussed comprehension strategies explicitly. (Antoniu & Souvignier, 2007; Asikcan et al., 2018; Bulut, 2017; Eilers & Pinkley, 2006; Scarlach, 2008). Comprehension is thus important for readers to deepen and expand their understanding of a text and enable them to react critically to a text. Comprehension is the reason behind reading with an aim of attaining meaning from a particular text.

 

Despite the abundance of research-based evidence supporting instruction using reading comprehension approaches, studies conducted in the U.S.A, Ireland, and Australia (Concannon-Gibney & Murphy, 2011; Ness, 2009; Pilonieta, 2010; Platterson et al., 2018) have indicated that most teachers do not implement reading comprehension instruction while teaching. For instance, Ness (2009) reported that in his study examining the level to which teachers implement reading comprehension instruction in adolescent classrooms, none of the high school learners’ study time was dedicated to reading comprehension instruction (Ness, 2009). Haager and Vaugn (2013) maintain that irrespective of the certainty assured through research that comprehension is an essential element of reading instruction, past studies indicate the absence of comprehension instruction within classrooms (Klingner, Urbach, Golos, Brownell, & Menon, 2010). There exist numerous evidence-based comprehension instruction strategies (Boardman et al., 2016; Dexter & Hughes, 2011), nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly difficult to implement such effective practices to classrooms (Landrum, Cook, Tankersley, & Fitzgerald, 2007; Platterson et al., 2018).

A major reason cited by most teachers for not implementing reading comprehension instruction in their classrooms is the lack of training in comprehension instruction (Mehigan, 2005; Ness, 2016; Platterson et al., 2018). In Ness’ (2016) study aimed at examining the frequency at which reading comprehension was used in both middle and high school science and social studies classroom contexts, teacher participants claimed they lacked training and professional knowledge in reading comprehension instruction, which acted as the major barrier to their implementation of this instructional approach. Consequently, some teachers felt unqualified and never comfortable implementing reading comprehension instruction claiming they had not received such training (Ness, 2016).

Another reason as to why comprehension instruction is unpopular in classrooms, especially elementary classrooms is the teachers’ lack of understanding and knowledge in the active elements of reading that form the basis of reading comprehension (Ness, 2011; Platterson et al., 2018; Pressley, 2006). Additionally, most teachers lack the knowledge and skills needed to teach comprehension strategies as these strategies are often complicated, especially as they entail challenges in delicately balancing the appropriate comprehension strategy and the text’s content and challenges in identifying ideal texts (Block & Lacina, 2009). The mental modeling necessary for the effectiveness of comprehension instruction could also be challenging for most teachers considering that it takes an average of one year for a teacher to be proficient in implementing comprehension instruction (Pressley & El-Dinary, 1997, Ness; 2011).

Despite the issues that teachers claim to have related to the implementation of comprehension instruction, a review of past research indicates that most of these issues are not mainly based on the teacher’s knowledge or their perceptions and attitudes but rather on their confidence on their ability to implement comprehension instruction continuously (Silver & Png, 2015). Landrum et al., (2007) suggested that teachers fail to use research based instructional approaches such as comprehension instruction as they are not presented in a manner that they can be readily applied. In addition, Platterson et al. (2018) proposed that teachers are likely to adopt and respond more positively to descriptions by other teachers on instructional approaches that have worked in their classrooms. Consequently, Landrum et al., (2007) suggested that most teacher pre-service preparation services equip most teachers with the knowledge of different comprehension instructional approaches, however, testimonies of the effectiveness of such a teaching approach could foster implicit endorsement of implementation and usability when such sentiments come from fellow teachers. Consequently, adequate and effective training and professional development in a narrow number of content-specific comprehension instructional strategies rather than a wide-variety of strategies integrated to research based testimonials from fellow teachers could assist in improving the knowledge base and the resultant implementation and uptake of such an approach (Kissau & Hiller, 2013; Landrum et al., 2007; Nurie, 2017).

Since the above research findings indicate that teachers are either unaware or not confident in teaching comprehension, the next sections explore guided reading as an approach to teaching comprehension and its effect on reading comprehension in early grades.

Guided Reading and Reading Comprehension

Nayak and Sylva (2013) argued that about 10 to 15 percent of learners show low-level reading comprehension abilities despite being ranked highly in decoding skills. According to Muliawati (2017), reading comprehension is:

A process of making meaning from texts. It implies that readers do not make meaning from the printed words which are set directly in essays or paragraphs, but they build meaning from pieces of information, from whole sentences that are correlated to each other in those essays. (p. 94)

Over the recent past, there has been a growing interest in research on reading comprehension, especially in Canada and the USA (Nayak & Sylva, 2013). This has necessitated research on instructional strategies and materials capable of nurturing reading comprehension to address the needs of students facing reading challenges. (Nayak & Sylva, 2013).

However, according to Denton et al. (2014), there is limited experimental research that examines instructional interventions and strategies that implement the guided reading strategy. Moreover, only a few studies have explored the impact of guided reading on reading comprehension (Denton et al., 2014; Ferguson & Wilson, 2009; Nayak & Sylva, 2013; Scull, 2010; Tobin & Calhoon, 2009). Their findings have indicated mixed conclusions and concerns over the impact of guided reading on reading comprehension.

Nayak and Sylva (2013) experimentally assessed the guided reading strategy as a supplementary English reading strategy for ESLs in Hong Kong against reading a similar text from e-books without teacher-led guidance. Their findings, though suggestive rather than conclusive, indicated that students in the guided reading setting outperformed their counterparts in reading comprehension and accuracy. This was despite the fact that there were no major differences between the two interventions. The findings suggested a need for teacher guidance on interaction and comprehension strategies to assist in negotiating the meaning in groups.

Ferguson and Wilson (2009) also reported that teachers across four Texas schools who reported using guided reading in the classroom had students with greater reading comprehension and fluency. In fact, teachers noted that students who were exposed to guided reading would often independently draw upon the guided reading strategies to improve their reading comprehension and fluency (Ferguson & Wilson, 2009). Similar results were also discovered in a comparative study that was done by Whitehead and de Jonge’s (2013-14). Their findings indicated that guided reading fostered the students’ engagement levels and their comprehension of science texts. Scull’s (2010) report showed that modeling reading strategies, guidance fostered by thoughtful motivation, careful questioning, and the introduction of clear and ideal comprehension and processing strategies supported young students in processing and comprehending text at higher levels. Scull’s findings were significant as these teaching strategies are the most utilized by teachers of guided reading.

On the other hand, Tobin and Calhoon’s (2009) comparison of the impact of the guided reading strategy against an extremely explicit intervention that offered direct instruction in comprehension and phonics strategies reported trivial differences in their effects on the students’ reading and learning outcomes. Denton et al. (2014), though supporting guided reading suggested that using a more explicit instructional strategy has a greater impact on the students’ text reading comprehension, fluency, and phonemic decoding. The authors emphasized that students encountering learning challenges could develop a greater reading comprehension from a more structured, explicit, and sequential instructional approach. Another study by Savage, Abrami, Hipps, and Deault (2009) compared the impacts of a balanced literacy approach that used guided reading against two computerized phonics-oriented reading strategies. Their findings indicated that the computerized strategy had significantly better and superior outcomes on listening comprehension, reading comprehension, phonemic awareness, and reading fluency compared to the balanced literacy approach that used guided reading. Fisher (2008) also observed a similar scenario in the small-scale research where she reported the absence of evaluative comprehension and the lack of the transfer of inferential comprehension skills to the students in the sessions that she observed.

There are several studies which have revealed that reading comprehension required teacher scaffolding strategies to improve the students’ problem-solving skills, ability of inquiry, and efficacy (Fisher, 2008; Denton et al., 2014; Ferguson & Wilson, 2009). Based on this literature review, it is evident that few studies have examined the effects of implementing guided reading on reading comprehension using experimental or quasi-experimental research designs. Moreover, there are even fewer studies which have directly studied the effect of guided reading on reading comprehension for early graders from the teachers’ perspective.

 

 

The Historical Context of Guided Reading

Though the works of several scholars such as Tierney and Readence (2000) and Tyner (2004) have linked the foundation of guided reading to Fountas and Pinnell (1996), guided reading, as an educational concept is not as recent as many may think (Piercey, 2009). Historically, guided reading has its origins in New Zealand schools whereby its use in giving guidance and direction to students, particularly by nurturing reading, has been utilized since the 1940s after the establishment of Bett’s (1946), “Directed Reading Activity” (Ford & Opitz, 2011, p. 226). As highlighted by Ford and Optiz (2011), the term ‘guided reading’ based on Betts’s concept of teacher-directed teaching, was later on used by educators such as Dora Reese and Lilian Gray in their teaching practice for lessons and classes designed to facilitate young student’s reading development. From this, several other subsequent scholars such as Manzo (1975) would contribute to the idea of guided reading (Piercey, 2009).

Manzo (1975) stated that guided reading procedure is designed to “improve reading comprehension by stressing attitudinal factors- accuracy in comprehension, self-correction, and awareness of implicit questions, as well as cognitive factors, unaided recall and organizational skills” (p. 291). According to Piercey (2009), “in 1975, Manzo described a ‘guided reading procedure’ that, despite its rigid structure, bears some similarities to the current model of guided reading described by Fountas and Pinnell” (p. 7).

Before the work of Fountas and Pinnell (1996), Mooney (1990) had also addressed the concept of guided reading in her book Reading to, with, and Children. Later on, after the publication of Guided Reading: Good first Teaching for All Children (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996), “guided reading has become a common term used among educators in Canada and the United States” (Piercey, 2009, p. 7). Fountas and Pinnell (1996) contributed to the field of guided reading by arguing this approach is at the heart of a balanced literacy program.

Despite the inadequate number of studies focusing solely on guided reading, most recent studies seem to agree on the definition of the approach as an element of a balanced literacy intervention (Ford & Optiz, 2008). Fountas and Pinnell (2017) provided one standard definition for the guided reading strategy from 1996 until 2017 as:

A small-group instructional context in which a teacher supports each reader’s development of system of strategic actions for processing new texts at increasingly challenging levels of difficulty. Students in the group are similar (although not exactly the same) in their development of a reading process, so it is appropriate, efficient, and productive for them to read the same impact. The ultimate goal of instruction is to enable readers to work their way through a text independently, so all teaching is directed toward helping the individuals within the group build systems of strategic actions that they initiate and control for themselves. Guided reading leads to the independent reading that builds the process; it is the heart of an effective literacy program. (pp. 12-13)

Mooney (1990) also defined guided reading as an instructional approach implemented in classrooms to help the students become “independent readers who question, consider alternatives, and make informed decisions as they seek the meaning” (p. 47).

The main goal of guided reading is to enable the students to synthesize and process texts by becoming effective and efficient independent silent readers (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012). As a literacy program in the classroom context, research on guided reading emphasizes the significant role it plays as an integral part of balanced and quality literacy intervention (Ford & Optiz, 2011; Fountas & Pinnell, 2012). To enable the students to develop into strategic readers, teachers have the role of guiding them to nurture reading behaviors. This can only happen if the educators themselves acknowledge and are aware of the efficient reading behaviors to assist in identifying the required amount of support (Denton et al., 2014; Hulan, 2010). According to Denton et al. (2014), teachers are often guided by explicit objectives aimed at offering direct justifications and modeling various skills, concepts, while creating chances for both independent and guided practice to prompt overt educative and progressive feedback. This is reiterated by Ford and Optiz (2008), who asserted that the success of the guided reading approach, particularly in the achievement of the desired outcomes, is dependent on the teacher’s know-how on the needed elements and its implementation.

The teachers identify and utilize the needs of the struggling readers with an aim of designing instructional practices capable of attaining accelerated and intensive instruction, numerous reading opportunities, and promoting authentic discussions based on the reading (Allington, 2013; Hulan, 2010; Peterson & Taylor, 2012). Guided reading groups are an essential part of guided reading sessions whereby the teacher is expected to thoughtfully construct groups and introduce a leveled book to the students who, in turn, are required to read simultaneously and independently with the teacher acting as the coach and following up with specific interruptive discussions (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012). In accordance with (Ford & Optiz, 2008), these student groupings ought to be flexible and fluid in nature and as backed by Morgan et al. (2013), founded on the needs of the individual students with respect to their specific reading abilities and experiences. The students are then expected to read at almost the same level while using a common and leveled text, but guided by an effective instruction to support them in reading texts that could be on the edge of their reading and learning abilities (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012). The implementation and design of guided reading groups based on the students’ needs and continuous reliable assessment data enables the teachers to effectively and efficiently address the dynamic needs and varying learning paths of the students (Ford & Optiz, 2008; Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Morgan et al., 2013).

Teacher’s Knowledge of Guided Reading

Effective implementation of the guided reading approach necessitates comprehensive knowledge of this instructional approach, the choice of quality and appropriate tests, the process of reading development, and the reading process, which often demands time, professional development, and/or support from a coach (Fountas & Pinnel, 2012; Fountas & Pinnel, 2017). Additionally, past studies exploring the perceptions of teachers on the elements of guided reading indicated that most teachers perceived some elements of the approach to be more difficult demanding more time for them to attain skills and knowledge needed to implement the guided reading approach effectively (Fountas & Pinnel, 2012; Fountas & Pinnel, 2017). Research indicates that the process of selecting the ideal text is perceived to be the least challenging whereas targeted teaching to address the immediate needs of the learners and the process of establishing quality discussions and interactions about the text after independent reading was perceived to be the most challenging features of the guided reading approach by most teacher participants (Fountas & Pinnel, 2012; Fountas & Pinnel, 2017).

Such findings could have severe implications for educators and curriculum and instruction leaders considering that other studies report a relation between teachers’ knowledge of the guided reading approach and the degree to which guided reading impacts the students’ reading development. Past research has also reported that the lack of articulate and sufficient knowledge on the implementation of the guided reading approach often makes teachers to lack confidence and feel uncertain with respect to the implementation of the approach in their classrooms. Such low levels of confidence and insufficient knowledge adversely affect the effective implementation of the guided reading approach. For instance, the research by Ferguson and Wilson (2009) examining the guided reading approach in schools in Texas reported a distinct relation between teachers’ knowledge of the guided reading strategy, teachers’ confidence level, and the degree of impact that the approach had on the students’ reading development. Teachers who had prior training in the approach portrayed sound knowledge of the approach supported by an effective implementation of guided reading with much confidence (Ferguson & Wilson, 2009). These teacher participants were also found to be more willing to support the students’ reading development in comparison to teacher participants who had little knowledge and confidence in the guided reading approach (Ferguson & Wilson, 2009). The research findings also indicated that the benefits of the guided reading approach were only cited by the teacher participants who had sufficient knowledge in the approach and thus were able to implement it effectively (Ferguson & Wilson, 2009). Consequently, Ferguson & Wilson concluded that “if we want teachers to implement guided reading in ways conducive to the growth of student reading capabilities, they need a deeper understanding of what guided reading means as well as the procedural framework involved(p. 303). Teachers’, therefore, should be coached and mentored in the approach and offered administrative support until they are confident in its implementation (Ferguson & Wilson, 2009).

Kruizinga and Nathanson (2010) also made similar conclusions informed by a study that examined the implementation of the guided reading approach in three primary schools in Cape Town, South Africa by teachers of grade one and grade two classes. Kruizinga and Nathanson claimed found out that the participants were struggling with the implementation of the approach mainly due to the absence of detailed and explicit guideline in the country’s literacy policy on guided reading and its implementation, the absence of professional development initiatives to assist teachers in developing an understanding and knowledge of the guided reading approach, and insufficient quality guided reading resources including leveled texts (Kruizinga & Nathanson, 2010). Based on their research findings, the researchers suggested that the absence of practical and systemic support for the teachers such as via training, providing high-quality of guided reading resources, and professional development, made the effective implementation of the guide reading approach in South African classes very challenging.

Though the findings by Kruizinga and Nathanson (2010) ought to be deliberated tentatively due to the small-scale nature of their study, their conclusions are consistent with those of Fountas and Pinnell (2012) on the need for in-depth and expert knowledge and skills to facilitate the success of the approach. Hanke (2013) also shared similar conclusions by arguing that the little studies examining the implementation of guided reading since it was introduced in the United Kingdom education setting in 1999, proposes the existence of insufficient and clear guidelines that adversely affects the teachers’ understanding of the guided reading approach. Hanke (2013) suggested that the absence of sufficient and clear guidance results to the prevalence of challenges in the interpretation of the policies surrounding the guided reading approach and its implementation.

Another research by Wall (2014) emphasized the value of the guided reading approach but also argued that the approach could transform into a learning setting whereby teachers predominantly focus on independent reading, a situation that limits the learners from having sufficient time to read continuous text. This poses a potential risk as teachers could become complacent and fail to completely address the needs of their students in guided reading sessions as they tend to emphasize similar skills with different student groups (Wall, 2014). Such a classroom situation and practice could be caused by the absence of clarity and sufficient knowledge on the guided reading approach, highlighting the need for in-depth knowledge and training of teachers in the guided reading approach to facilitate its effective uptake and implementation. The next paragraphs will explain in details the structure of a guided reading lesson.

Structure of a Guided Reading Lesson

The following components are the structure of a guided reading lesson: selection of text, introduction to the text, reading the text, discussion of the text, teaching points, word work, and extending understanding (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996; Fountas & Pinnell, 2010; Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). These components work together to “form a unified whole and create a solid base from which to build comprehension” (Iaquinta, 2006, p. 417). The following figure 1 explains these structures.

Figure 1. Fountas and Pinnell Structure of Guided Reading Lesson. Fountas and Pinnell (2011).

Selection of a text or selection of leveled books. In preparation for a guided reading lesson, the teachers first identify the purpose and focus of the session dependent on the common needs of the target students (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). The next element revolves around the identification and selection of a leveled text, which should be matched to the student’s reading ability and, which comprises of slightly challenging text features with an aim of exposing the learners to texts and structure they would rather not choose if given the choice (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017; Hanke, 2014). Lipp and Helfrich (2016) stress that text comprising of slightly challenging features enables the students to read most of it independently while expecting to meet occasional challenges for which the teacher ought to offer the appropriate support. This also creates an opportunity for the students to apply their developed reading processing techniques to the new texts, read it independently and successfully, and overcome any challenges with the appropriate support from the teacher (Lipp & Helfrich, 2016). In addition to offering more challenging and sophisticated features, “the text selected should also be an unknown text to give the readers the opportunity to apply familiar reading processing strategies to unfamiliar texts” (Ciuffetelli, 2018, p.5)

Fountas and Pinnell (2012) stated that:

One of the most important changes related to guided reading is in the type of books used and the way they are used. Teachers have learned to collect short texts at the levels they need and to use the levels as a guide for putting the right book in the hands of students. The term level has become a household word; teachers use the gradient of texts to organize collections of books for instruction. (pp. 269-270)

According to Lyons and Thompson (2011), leveled book refers to “reading materials that are ordered from simpler to more complex tasks according to a specific set of criteria” (p. 159). Criteria used by Fountas and Pinnell (2001) include: book and print features (e.g., length, layout, graphic features), vocabulary, sentence complexity, content, text structure (e.g., fiction/nonfiction), language and literacy features (e.g., literary/figurative language, dialogue),

and themes and ideas. Figure 2 is the text gradient according to Fountas and Pinnell (2011):

Figure 2. Fountas and Pinnell Text Gradient Levels. Fountas and Pinnell (2012).

Introduction to the text. In this component, the teacher introduces the text by prompting a discussion on the new text emphasizing on the intended purpose and arousing the learner’s interest in the reading by trying to reflect on previously encountered concepts and knowledge gathered in previous readings and trying to connect them to the current text (Scull, 2010; Morgan et al., 2013). Such discussions enable the teacher to activate and build on previous knowledge and model effective prediction and link approaches that the learners can adopt and use independently (Scull, 2010; Lyons & Thompson, 2011). Fountas and Pinnell (2012) claim that teachers’ instructions that effectively introduce the students to potentially challenging features of a new text prior to the actual reading prompt meaning-making practices. These researchers also seem to agree with Stahl (2009) who reported that the introduction to the texts results to statistically significant impacts, particularly regarding comprehension and the acquisition of scientific content. The introductions should be brief and vary according to the readers’ strengths and needs as well as the characteristics of the text. Teachers might discuss the title of the book and provide an overall sense of what the book is about and how it “works” to provide enough support for the students to read the text successfully (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).

Reading the text. In regards to this component, the students are required to read the text independently within a designated period dependent on its length and complexity (Morgan et al., 2013). The teacher occasionally checks for understanding and requests the non-fluent readers to read quietly under the teacher’s observation and his/her short, focused, appropriately timed interventions (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012) enabling the readers to become problem solvers themselves. The teacher either partly or exclusively guides a student on reading dependent on the student’s needs, but the student can later opt to read independently at his/her own pace if he/she is able to overcome the expected challenges in the reading.

Discussion of the text. After the independent reading, the teacher engages the readers in a discussion pertained to the after reading strategies (Lyons & Thompson, 2011). The after reading discussion session is a significant part of guided reading whose aim is based on the readers’ competency or fluency in reading. Fountas and Pinnell (2012), concurred in their recommendation that after reading discussions helps in establishing opportunities for the readers to summarize content, synthesize, establish links and relate them to their lives and experiences, and help them in expanding their vocabulary in the aim of attaining continued growth in text processing strategies. This step is followed by a response to the text independently to assist the students further develop their comprehension from various perspectives before the teacher finally intervening and revisiting the previous purpose of the reading including how the new understandings could be related and applied to real-life contexts (Morgan et al., 2013).

Teaching points. Here, the teachers have the opportunity to interact with the students to do some teaching for strategic actions. The teaching points must be very specific and focus on some aspect of reading (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). According to Fountas and Pinnell (2017), “the teaching point can be directed toward any of the systems of strategic actions; selection of the point is based on your knowledge of the readers and what they need to learn how to do it” (p. 15). For example, teachers might engage students in “close reading” or call attention to an example of successful problem solving (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).

Word work. In this component, teachers have a chance to help the students develop a flexible range of strategies for solving words and to use them with ease to develop flexibility and fluency (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). For example, as Fountas and Pinnell (2017) suggested, teachers might ask the students who are just learning how words work to put words that are alike together.

Extending understanding. In this optional component of a guided reading lesson, students reflect on their thinking about the text in any of variety of ways to write about the reading. For example, students can do charts, summarizing, character sketches, lists of interesting words. By doing so, students can extend their understanding of the text (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017).

However, many teachers still experience considerable challenges in implementing guided reading (Firmender, Reis, & Sweeny, 2013; Ford & Opitz, 2008; Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017; Hanke, 2014; Robertson, 2013; Parr & McNaughton, 2014; Saunders-Smith, 2009; Wilson, McNeil, & Gillon, 2015). According to their study, the various concerns by teachers include being unsure of how to conduct guided reading sessions, having difficulties choosing the correct texts, having problems evaluating students’ participation in the guided reading groups, and most importantly, being unsure of how to form and constitute student groups. Thus, it is vital to assess how teachers perceive the formation and constitution of small groups in guided reading sessions.

Grouping in Guided Reading Sessions

According to Fountas & Pinnell (1996), grouping for guided reading sessions is a contentious practice that has remained one of the most thought-provoking features of guided reading processes. This is considering that in every classroom, teachers often encounter a wide range of levels that make it hard to teach general-class lessons or even heterogeneous groupings effectively and if not grouped appropriately, then this means higher likelihoods of getting adverse outcomes (McCallister, 2010; Maine & Hofmann, 2016; Oostdam, Blok, Boendermaker, 2015). For example, there is no guarantee that grouping the students based on their abilities will produce positive results for every student, as argued by Fountas and Pinnell (1996).

Fountas and Pinnell (1996) argued that ability grouping does not improve performance because most students allocated to a group do not advance to an advanced group, the high- and low-grouped learners get varied instruction, and the low-grouped learners’ self-assurance and esteem are adversely affected. Nonetheless, various studies show that grouping learners into smaller groups with heterogeneous grouping may encourage success on several occasions (Hallinan, 2003). However, Fountas and Pinnell (1996; 2017) proposed dynamic grouping, a compromise between heterogeneous and homogenous grouping. Such a grouping strategy was inspired by three key features of a typical classroom: children exhibit a broad range of past awareness, know-how, skills, and intellectual capacity; learners vary in their knowledge and skills; and students learn at different rates (Iaquinta, 2006).

Accordingly, unlike heterogeneous or homogeneous grouping, dynamic groups offer the teachers a better way of grouping the students effectively, hence affording every learner in a group a better opportunity to acquire knowledge (McCallister, 2010). Thus, Fountas and Pinnell (1996) defined dynamic grouping to mean the process through which teachers combine flexible ability grouping with a broad array of heterogeneous grouping within a class setting. Through such a process, teachers get the chance to conduct guided reading sessions in a small group situation where the learners are reading at their level and can move within the groups as abilities change and grow (Iaquinta, 2006). Thus, dynamic grouping allows the learners to read at their respective levels while at the same time preventing the usual adverse impacts evident in typical ability groupings (Fountas & Pinnell, 2017). Every teacher should, therefore, strive to form such groups if guided reading instruction is intended to impact the learners in their reading positively.

Underpinning Theories

Like many other initiatives in various fields that have proven hard to implement practically but works well in theory, guided reading is theoretically intended to operate well (Young, 2018). Powell and Kalina (2009), stated that “an effective classroom, where teachers and students are communicating optimally, is dependent on using constructivist strategies, tools, and practices” (p. 241). Constructivism is categorized into a cognitive theory which is primarily attributable to Piaget (Piaget’s Theory) and social constructivism founded by a Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky (Vygotsky’s Theory) (Powell & Kalina, 2009). The guided reading strategy is aligned to Vygotsky’s (1978) perception of learning through the creation of an effective and meaningful social instruction setting (Young, 2018).

According to Powell and Kalina (2009), the ideas under Vygotsky’s social constructivism are often constructed socially when a student interacts with colleagues or with the teacher. Such interaction during the discussion periods and the small group sessions are a foundational element of the guided reading approach (Ford & Optiz, 2008; Fountas & Pinnell, 2012). When the students interact with clear ideas from the text, then the discussion, the learning process, and their comprehension abilities become more constructive. Vygotsky, through his learning concept known as the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), argued that with the backing of another person with better capabilities, the learner has an increased chance of doing better than they could individually (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001; Vygotsky, 1978). In fact, Vygotsky (1978) defined ZPD to mean “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (p. 86). Simply put, the ZPD is the difference between what a student can accomplish without help and what they can accomplish when adequately guided and encouraged by a more qualified person. Theoretically, it makes sense that a guided student will experience greater accomplishments than an unguided learner based on Vygotsky’s ZPD (Young, 2018).

One of the vital practices that characterize a well-structured guided reading is that a teacher typically opts for an instructional level text (Young, 2018). This, according to Fountas and Pinnell (2001) and Young (2018), means keeping the students in the ZPD since the primary objective of guided reading is to ensure that the learners can productively read and understand a challenging comprehension with the help of their teacher. For a teacher, therefore, teaching in the ZPD means recognizing the learners’ level of development and using the information to modify the instructions somewhat past the development level. Other than offering the necessary instructional activity to advance the development of certain concepts being studied, the teacher also mediates and “scaffolds” the performance of the learners until such a point that they can effectively function independently (Shabani, Khatib, & Ebadi, 2010). This is considering that according to Vygotsky, learning and development are not just a ‘you either know or you don’t’ situation, but an activity where the learner is learning within a ZPD and that once the learner gets appropriate instruction, they will be able to use the learned concept independently and without the need for assistance (Shabani et al., 2010). The guided reading group strategy itself provides the students with the chance to obtain instruction and learn through a scaffolded manner.

Teachers’ Perspective on the Use of Guided Reading

Many scholars and educators have placed the teacher at the center of all guided reading discourses reading (Fisher, 2008; Denton et al., 2014). However, studies exploring guided reading and its impact in the classroom report mixed reactions from those who have participated in guided reading. Through a qualitative study on guided reading using both students’ and teachers’ perspective, Hulan (2010) examined student-led and teacher-led guided reading contexts. Hulan found that student-led discussion groups were more effective when students with a superior understanding of the subject matter led discussions better than those with scant knowledge about the subject. On the other hand, teacher-led discussions revealed that all students irrespective of their cognitive and intelligence levels used diverse reader response strategies. This clearly shows that the teacher takes a central role in successful guided reading discussion groups. However, Hulan’s study did not take into account the influence of the structure, content of the text, and the nature of the intervention by the teacher.

Whitehead and de Jonge’s (2013-14) comparative study in the context of Grade 5 learners in New Zealand using the perspective of teachers outlined the benefits of guided reading to students. The findings of this study indicated the benefits of the strategy in fostering confidence, metacognitive growth, increased understanding, effectiveness, and awareness of various features in texts. However, the study had been small-scale in nature hence could not be generalized to larger populations. Scull (2010) sought teachers’ insights on the benefits of the guided reading approach and identified some as the activation of student’s prior knowledge, enables students to connect the current text with previous understandings, and the facilitation of clearer understanding through thoughtful interactions.

In Swain’s (2010) study, teachers also stressed that guided reading provides a supportive learning and teaching setting. Swain confirmed the potential significance that guided learning has when treated as an integral part of comprehensive reading interventions. The study also revealed that small group instructions assist the teachers of guided teaching in addressing various students’ needs. Swain raised concerns over the integral structures of power within the guided reading approach by believing that these structures instill distrust on the efficacy of the approach, particularly in promoting independent critical thinking. Fletcher, Greenwood, Grimley, Parkhill, and Davis’s (2012) study reinforced Swain’s (2010) belief through their research findings which teachers reported that, irrespective of the pedagogical differences in different grade levels and schools, teachers were found to dominate sideline discussions limiting interactions among learners in guided reading settings.

Through his interviews with teachers, Hanke’s (2014) study indicated that teachers often encountered frustration, especially with the requirement of grouping the learners according to similar needs. The student participants in Hanke’s study actually echoed this sentiment in their perceptions that were depicted in their drawings. Several studies have also examined guided reading within the context of early education and reported unending concerns pertaining to the interpretation of guided reading (Fisher, 2008; Hanke, 2014). Fisher’s (2008) research reported problems within the teacher’s interpretation of guided reading. Through the lens of teachers, Fisher’s research on three classes, indicated challenges in the interpretation of guided reading and the teacher’s reluctance to use guided reading due to lack of clarity on how to implement it in the classroom. Hanke (2014) reported that most teachers were unclear on what they were trying to achieve in the use of guided reading and how to achieve it. In addition to problems related to the quality of discussion within the classrooms as highlighted by Hanke (2014), Fisher (2008) identified the absence of assessment strategies to accompany the strategy and students’ lack of the opportunity to engage collaboratively in discussions as major challenges. Fisher also identified the insufficient understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of the approach among the teachers and the absence of opportunities for meaningful discussions in the sessions that she observed. Ferguson and Wilson’s (2009) research also found that insufficient time and pressures from curriculum expectations and demands greatly impacted the ability of the teachers’ participation the implementation of the approach in class. Some teachers also quoted insufficient resources, especially quality texts as the major contributing factor to the limited use of guided reading.

Some gaps do seem to exist and can actually be identified in past literature relating to the teachers’ perspectives on the use of guided reading. For instance, Denton et al. (2014) claimed that the majority of the previous reading interventions studied show that guided reading settings have precise guidelines. However, the prevalence of limited experimental studies on classroom interventions, which implement the guided reading strategy, is evident when one tries to conduct a search through various databases (Denton et al., 2014; Tobin & Calhoon, 2009).

The ultimate goal of guided reading is to enhance effective independent learning. According to Denton et al. (2014), guided reading is undoubtedly a widely adopted strategy, though its research base is limited. As highlighted in the previous sections of this literature review, research does show several effects of the approach on various tenets of reading, particularly on fluency and comprehension (Oostdam et al., 2015). Some of these empirical studies also have proved that guided reading has either similar impacts or inferior impacts when compared to other small group instruction interventions (Nayak & Sylva, 2013; Tobin & Calhoon, 2009; Walpole, McKenna, Amendum, Pasquarella, & Strong, 2017; Young, 2018). Regardless of the numerous empirical and descriptive studies that focus on guided reading (Fisher, 2008; Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Hanke, 2014; Morgan et al., 2013) and those that study the perspectives of teachers on guided reading (Ferguson & Wilson, 2009; Ford & Opitz, 2008), it is evident that there is a need for more empirical studies to explore the dynamics of guided reading, particularly exploring its impact on reading comprehension from the early grade teachers’ perspectives.

Summary and Integration

From the aforementioned discussions, the effectiveness of guided reading is highly dependent on reading comprehension. In the discussion, reading comprehension is defined as the process by which meaning is constructed from texts, whereby rather than constructing meaning from printed words found directly in paragraphs and essays, meaning is constructed from pieces of information gathered from and scattered across correlating whole sentences within the essay or text (Muliawati, 2017). Challenges in reading and comprehension can be successfully overcome by teaching readers afore-discussed comprehension strategies including the pre-reading, during reading, post-reading, and throughout/general reading strategies. The review of literature also indicates that most teachers are either unaware or not confident in teaching comprehension despite the fact that comprehension is the main reason behind reading aimed at assisting individuals to attain meaning from a particular text and react to the text critically. Children learn how to comprehend by simultaneously engaging in activities and processes that enable them extract and construct meanings by interacting and actively engaging with texts. There is, however, an overall understanding of the importance of implementing various reading strategies. In early grades, reading text more effectively is not the only important aspect of developing reading skills, but ensuring that students gain a good understanding or comprehension of what they are reading is equally important (Fisher, 2008). As discussed, scholars and academic researchers have tried to establish the role of guided reading as a tool for classroom instruction from the teachers’ perspective and outlined several benefits and challenges. However, there are few empirical studies that examine the effects of implementing guided reading on reading comprehension on early grade students using the viewpoint of classroom teachers.

Within reading comprehension spectrum, studies such as that by Nayak and Sylva (2013) have revealed that learners in the guided reading programs outperform their counterparts in other reading comprehension programs. While possible benefits brought forth by guided reading to the students and teachers have been highlighted, possible issues and challenges that could undermine the implementation and success of guided reading or its misinterpretation in the class by teachers have been highlighted. In addition, elements crucial for a guided reading session have been identified to assist teachers reaping the best outcomes from the implementation of the approach.

Guided reading teachers ought to facilitate quality and effective interactions within the class to create opportunities for the students to analyze texts, think critically, negotiate meanings, and solve identified problems by leveraging on their past knowledge to nurture profound comprehension and fluency levels. The success of guided reading has also been identified to be dependent on the availability of the needed resources, time, and knowledge of the selected text. In light of the above findings from past literature, this literature review argues strongly that there is a need to study teachers’ perspectives on the use of guided reading in early grades, particularly pertaining to its influence on reading comprehension. This will greatly assist in identifying plausible interventions that could be effective in promoting successful implementation of the guided reading approach. Chapter 3 outlines this study’s research methodology.

 

Chapter 3: Methodology

Introduction

This study was to explore teachers’ perspective of implementing guided reading in early grades on reading comprehension. Previous research has shown that teachers in primary school have continuing concerns about the interpretation and implementation of guided reading in early grades. In fact, some teachers were even uncertain about what they were attempting to achieve with guided reading, let alone how they should go about achieving it (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017; Hanke, 2014; Marchard-Martella, Martella, & Lambert, 2015; Shang, 2015). The research questions identified for the present study are: how do elementary school teachers describe their experiences with guided reading strategies? what are teachers’ perspectives of the impact of guided reading on reading comprehension in early grades? how do teachers describe advantages and disadvantages of utilizing guided reading in early grades? This chapter outlines the methodology that will be utilized in a qualitative study using a basic qualitative study (BQS) approach. 15 teachers from public schools were selected to explore their perspectives of implementing guided reading in early grades on reading comprehension. Semi-structured interviews and artifacts in the form of teachers’ lesson plan were considered as data sources in this study. The collected data was analyzed thematically using inductive analysis method.

The major sections of Chapter 3 include a statement of problem, research questions, research methodology, research design, study population and sample selection, and source of data. In addition, trustworthiness of the study, data collection procedures, and ethical considerations are described.

 

Statement of the Problem

Guided reading is generally believed to be difficult to implement within English speaking elementary schools as Hanke (2014) noted that teachers in primary school have continuing concerns about its interpretation and implementation. In fact, some teachers were even uncertain about what they were attempting to achieve with guided reading, let alone how they should go about achieving it (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012; Fountas & Pinnell, 2017; Hanke, 2014; Marchard-Martella et al., 2015; Shang, 2015).

A review of recent literature shows a general shift within US schools with the aim of including guided reading as a crucial instructional approach for attaining quality literacy. While the practice has been used for several decades with success in primary school, several studies have explored guided reading within the early education context and discovered multiple concerns on the interpretation of the instructional approach (Fisher, 2008; Ford & Opitz, 2011; Hanke, 2014). Despite the extended research on guided reading as an instructional strategy, there is still a need for research that thoroughly investigates in-depth teachers’ perspectives on the implementation of guided reading, particularly pertaining to its influence on reading comprehension (Fisher, 2008; Ford & Opitz, 2011; Hanke, 2014). Based on the existing literature, few studies have examined the effects of implementing guided reading on reading comprehension using qualitative research designs, leaving this subject vulnerable to misinterpretation and partial implementation (Fountas & Pinnell, 2012).

In an attempt to address this gap, this study focused on the teachers’ perspectives on the implementation of guided reading in early grades and its effects on reading comprehension. Using a sample composed of 15 teachers selected from public schools located in the northwest suburb of Chicago, this study had two goals: 1) to explore how teachers describe their practices of guided reading in early grades when teaching reading comprehension, and 2) to determine the advantages and disadvantages of implementing guided reading in early grades.

Research Questions

This qualitative study will be guided by the following questions:

R1: How do elementary school teachers describe their experiences with guided reading strategies?

R2: What are teachers’ perspectives of the impact of guided reading on reading comprehension in early grades?

R3: How do teachers describe advantages and disadvantages of utilizing guided reading in early grades?

Research Methodology

Exploring teachers’ perspectives of using guided reading in early grades on reading comprehension was the purpose of this study. Thus, this study utilized a basic qualitative study (BQS) approach to collect the teachers’ perspectives and experiences of using guided reading in early grades. The reason for choosing (BQS) was because the researcher was interested more in the actual outer-world content of her questions (the actual opinions themselves, the participants’ reflections themselves) and less on the inner organization and structure of the participants’ experiencing processes (Percy, Kostere & Kostere, 2015). Such psychological things cannot be measured in the statistical sense, and require generic qualitative inquiry approach (Percy et al., 2015).

 

Research Design

A basic qualitative approach (BQS) was utilized in the study aimed at guiding the collection of teacher’s perspectives and experiences of using guided reading in early grades and analysis of the collected data. In accordance with Creswell (2013), the qualitative research approach entails a naturalistic approach whereby the researcher studies a specific phenomenon within her natural contexts while trying to make sense of the phenomenon being investigated and understanding the meanings that individuals attribute to such a phenomenon. Merriam (2009) also echoed this by claiming that “basic qualitative study is interested in how meaning is constructed, how people make sense of their lives and their worlds. The primary goal of a basic qualitative study is to uncover and interpret these meanings” (p. 24). This basic qualitative study permitted an in-depth exploration of how the participants interpreted their experiences and what meaning they attribute to their experiences (Merriam &Tisdell, 2016). The basic qualitative research approach stood out as the most ideal considering the study’s purpose and goals, and the four facilitative features of BQS.

The four characteristics of BQS identified by most researchers as key to understanding the nature of qualitative research include: “the focus is on process, understanding, and meaning; the researcher is the primary instrument of data collection and analysis; the process is inductive; and the product is richly descriptive” (Merriam &Tisdell, 2016, p.15). In this study, the researcher was the primary instrument for data collection and analysis, the researcher was interested in how participants interpret their experiences and what meaning they attribute to their experiences (Merriam &Tisdell, 2016). Qualitative research is dependent on the researcher to expand her understanding through verbal communication, process information immediately, check with respondent for accuracy of interpretation as well as explore unusual or unanticipated responses (Merriam &Tisdell, 2016).

In order to capture the attitudes, and beliefs on the implementation of guided reading, the researcher’s role included listening closely to the descriptions and experiences of early grade teachers on the implementation of guided reading. The researcher selected participants, identified questions for the semi-structured interviews, and checked with respondents for accuracy of interpretation. Additionally, since permitting an in-depth exploration of how the participants interpreted their experiences is the goal of basic qualitative research design, the researcher, “which is able to be immediately responsive and adaptive, would seem to be the ideal means of collecting and analyzing” (Merriam &Tisdell, 2016, p. 15).

Moreover, the study’s methodological framework was largely based on the social constructivism theory, particularly the ZPD as mentioned in chapter one and two. In accordance with Mensah (2015), the social constructivism lens assisted in offering a framework that would facilitate a shift from individual to collective construction of meaning. The implementation of this framework was to necessitate the interaction between the researcher and the participants while simultaneously fostering close relations between the researcher and the teacher participants which aimed in acquiring a deep understanding of their subjective experiences with guided reading in their classrooms. Considering that semi-structured interviews would be the primary sources of data collection for this study, the social constructivism approach guided the design of open ended and/or semi structured questions to ensure that the researcher’s unique attributes were capable of potentially influencing the collection of empirical data by fostering unique conversational spaces (Pezalla, Pettigrew, & Miller-Day, 2012). Data was also collected from secondary sources such as through document analysis.

Study Population and Sample Selection

15 teachers from public schools in northwest suburb of Chicago were selected and explored on their perspective of implementing guided reading in early grades on reading comprehension. A purposeful sampling approach as described by Merriam and Tisdell(2016) was utilized. According to Merriam and Tisdell (2016), purposive sampling is “based on the assumption that the investigator wants to discover, understand, and gain insight and therefore must select a sample from which the most can be learned” (p. 96). The purposive sampling was also “criterion-based selection” as described by Merriam (2009, p.77). According to Merriam (2009), in criterion-based selection researchers “create a list of the attributes essential and then proceed to find or locate a unit matching the list” (p. 77). The sampling criteria for this study was to have had two years or more experiences on using guided reading instruction and teachers who taught early grade (first through fourth grade) reading classes. Each of the participants should have had experience teaching using the guided reading approach for at least two years to avoid the perceptions inexperienced to overshadow the study. In addition, it ensured that teachers from 1st through 4th grade were chosen to facilitate the collection of different perspectives on the research phenomenon, which could not be possible if all participants were to be chosen from one grade level.

The School District was provided with a consent letter entailing their rights and details about the research (Appendix A). In addition, a consent letter seeking permission to conduct the research was sent to all early grade teachers in the district through email. The letter also included questions to identify which teachers met the two criteria of having two years or more experiences on using guided reading instruction and teachers who taught early grade (first through fourth grade) reading classes. In the case from the sample, there were more than 15 teachers who meet these criteria, the following two criteria were used to narrow down the sample size to 15 participants. First, teachers who had more than a total of three years teaching experience were selected. Second, teachers with more recent experience were selected. Before initiating the research, each of the 15 participants who met the criteria were contacted and met to make them aware of any benefits that could accrue from the study. Any questions and concerns that the potential participants had were also addressed before the participants sent their confirmations for consent. Meetings with the participants were arranged in advance to avoid conflicts in schedules.

Sources of Data

  1. Interviews

Interviews are the most common format of data collection in basic qualitative research (Merriam &Tisdell, 2016). Research interview is a “process in which a researchers and participant engage in a conversation focused on questions related to a research study” (Merriam &Tisdell, 2016, p. 108). For this study, a single face-to-face (or online), semi-structured interview was suitable because of the data on the teachers’ perspectives in using guided reading on reading comprehension needed an in-depth interview of the respondents. The researcher interviewed 15 teachers from public schools in the northwest suburb of Chicago and asked them 15 open-ended questions (Appendix B). The semi-structured interview had questions that began with a general view on a topic and then narrowed it down as the questions became specific. In the semi-structured interviews, the questions were pre-structured based on the pre-knowledge of the researcher, although there were opportunities for “tell me more” kinds of questions (Percy et al., 2015). As recommended by Merriam (2009) semi-structured interviews allow the researcher to “respond to the situation at hand, to the emerging worldview of respondent, and to new ideas on the topic” (p. 90).

  1. Documents

The second source of data used during this basic qualitative study was documents. According to Marriam and Tisdell (2016), “A qualitative study of classroom instruction would lead to documents in the form of instructors’ lesson plans…”. Teachers’ lesson plans will be considered as “a ready-made source of data easily accessible to the imaginative and resourceful investigator” (Merriam, 2009, p. 139). Such documents yielded descriptions of the implementation of guided reading in early grades. Teachers’ lesson plans helped the researcher to learn if there was a match between what teachers indicated in their interview versus what was found in archived lesson plan (Miranda, 2018).

Trustworthiness of the Study

One common way to enhance the trustworthiness of qualitative study is member checking (Merriam, 2009).According to Harper and Cole (2012), member checking is common process in qualitative research that enables researchers to improve the trustworthiness, validity, and accuracy of the recordings during the interviews. The process involving member checks is “to take your preliminary analysis back to some of the participants and ask whether your interpretation “rings true.”(Merriam &Tisdell, 2016, p. 246). Member check was used during the interview sessions and after completion of the data analysis process which aimed at verifying the themes and ideas identified. This enabled the participants to direct the researcher to accurate visions and interpretations of their experiences and their respective meanings. During the interview sessions, the researcher questioned the participants basing on the summarized information to determine its accuracy. Consequently, the research participants could refute or agree with the summary as a reflection of their perceptions and experiences (Harper & Cole, 2012). When accuracy of this information is confirmed, the study could be considered credible (Harper & Cole, 2012).

A second member check was conducted at the end of the data analysis whereby the findings and interpretations from the data analysis was shared with the participants to assess the authenticity of the analysis with respect to what the participant conveyed in the interviews (Creswell, 2013). This allowed the participants to critically assess and raise any concerns about the findings while enabling the researcher to improve the study’s validity by verifying the completeness and accuracy of the findings (Creswell, 2013). In addition, at the time of conducting the study, there existed no prior social or working relationship between the researcher and the participants, which assisted the participants to feel free and share their honest opinions and experiences without fearing that the researcher would judge them. This ensured the collection of more credible data.

Data Collection Procedures

Data collection procedures followed Merriam’s (2009) questions for data collection began with what, where, when, and whom to interview. Therefore, a purposeful sample was the first component of data collection. According to Merriam and Tisdell (2016), to begin purposive sampling, the researcher must first determine what selection criteria are essential in choosing the people to be studied. Therefore, the sampling criteria for the study was to be have two years’ experience on the use of guided reading instruction and teachers who have taught early grade reading classes for at least two years. The teachers who met the criteria made up the sample pool of the research study. The purposeful sample of 15 teachers from public schools in northwest suburb of Chicago was identified for the study. The time and location of interviews were arranged at the participants’ convenience.

Official permissions were obtained from the authorities of the grade schools for research purposes. The interviews were person-to-person encounter in which the researcher elicited information from the participants (Merriam, 2009). The researchers met the teachers who had accepted to be interviewed in each grade school voluntarily to collect information. In the semi-structured interviews, the questions were pre-structured based on the pre-knowledge of the researcher, although there were opportunities for “tell me more” kinds of questions (Percy et al., 2015). The interviews were recorded for ease of reference during data analysis and to enable the researcher to concentrate on the interview content and verbal prompts during the interview (Gill, Stewart, Treasure & Chadwick, 2008). Therefore, the interviews were conducted, audio recorded, and transcribed.

The second form of data collection included artifacts in the form of teachers’ lesson plans used in guided reading. All of the participants provided a lesson plan to facilitate the document analysis process. Once the documents were located, authenticity and accuracy of documents were assessed. In evaluating the artifacts, it is important to ask about the artifacts’ history (when was it produced) and its use (by whom is it used, how is it used) (Merriam &Tisdell, 2016). Teacher’s lesson plans and activities used in the lesson were coded using key words that had been derived from the interviews and the study’s research questions.

Data Analysis Procedures

Data was analyzed as it was collected according to Merriam’s (2009) suggested analysis approach. Thematic analysis was adopted as the analysis procedure for this study because thematic analysis is “a generic approach to analyzing people’s reports that may form the basis for many different kinds of qualitative interpretation” (Percy et al., 2015, p. 80). The researcher was guided in the inductive analysis by the steps found in Percy et al. (2015) in which the research analyzes each data from each participant individually.

Interview Analysis

Themes were derived based on the categories created by converging the coding of the participants’ interview recordings’ transcriptions. Additionally, codes were assigned, obtained from the participant’s words, keywords, or repeated phrases within the participants responses in accordance with Merriam’s (2009) open coding technique. The transcriptions of the interviews’ audio recordings were highlighted and marked to sort repetitive and common codes across the responses given by the participants, which aimed at attaining commonalities and patterns. The identified codes were then assembled into groups and concept categories that entailed numerous codes, data, or quotes. Occasionally, some fit in several categories or groups.

After coding and categorizing, the next step entailed interpreting, whereby the achieved categories were analyzed to attain a meaning. In this step, “the repeating patterns and themes from all participants are synthesized together into a composite synthesis, with attempts to interpret the meaning and implications regarding the questions under investigation” (Percy et al., 2015, p. 80). Considering that the analysis was based on the responses from the interviews, most of the themes were obvious responses to the interview questions. Nevertheless, emerging themes and patterns were obtained from the categories that illuminated further on the dynamics in the experiences in the implementation of the guided reading approach in early grades and their meanings. Upon completion of the interview analysis, member check was conducted to ensure that the participants had the chance to review and comment on their interviews and the entire research’s findings. Consequently, adjustments were done to the interview findings to reflect comments and concerns raised by the participants.

Document Analysis

To complement and foster the accuracy of data collected through the interviews, a review of documents was conducted. At this stage, teachers’ lesson plans were the main documents analyzed to assess how teachers planed using guided reading instruction in their classrooms. The consent letter in (Appendix A) was used to seek permission from the teacher participants for the researcher to review their lesson plans which aimed at understanding how they implemented guided reading within their classrooms and any possible flaws in the implementation of the approach. Data was collected from the documents without directly involving the participants as suggested by (Hatch, 2002). Lesson plan was highlighted using color-coding to indicate different themes.

Ethical Considerations

Since the researcher is the primary instrument for data collection in qualitative research, the validity and reliability of a study depends upon the ethics of the researcher (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). As Merriam (2009) stated that Patton (2002) provided an “Ethical Issues Checklist” identifying the following ten items to be considered when engaging in qualitative research: “explaining purpose of the inquiry and methods to be used; promises and reciprocity; risk assessment; confidentiality; informed consent; data access and  ownership; interviewer mental health; advice; data collection boundaries; and ethical versus legal conduct” (p. 234).

Ethical considerations regarding the researcher’s relationship to the participants are becoming the major source of discussion and debate in basic qualitative research (Merriam, 2009). Some respondents may have felt that their privacy had been invaded or maybe embarrassed by certain questions. In this case, the researcher built confidence with the participants so they didn’t feel that they were telling things they had never intended to reveal. As Merriam (2009) mentioned “being respectful, nonjudgmental, and nonthreatening is a beginning” (p. 107). The researcher worked to make the respondent comfortable and forthcoming with what he or she had to offer. In addition, anonymity was an ethical concern that was taken into account while carrying out the qualitative research. Any individual participating in the study had a reasonable expectation that its identity was not to be revealed. The researcher utilized the terms Teacher 1, teacher 2, school 1, school 2, etc. to distinguish between the respondents and schools.

Another ethical consideration was the quality of the data obtained. In terms of taping recording the interviews, the researcher listened to the recording several times in order to avoid misinterpretations, misstatements, or fraudulent analysis. In addition, the researcher listened to the recording to improve the questioning technique for the follow up interview (Rodham et al., 2013). Informed consent was another ethical consideration. Official permissions (Appendix A) were obtained from the authorities of the grade schools for research purposes before interviewing the participants. The researchers met the teachers who had accepted to be interviewed in each grade school voluntarily and obtained special kind of information and advised them of their right to opt out of the study at any time.

Summary

This study utilized a basic qualitative research methodology to collect the teachers’ perspectives and experiences of using guided reading in early grades. The researcher was interested more in the actual outer-world content of her questions (the actual opinions themselves, the participants’ reflections themselves) and less on the inner organization and structure of the participants’ experiencing processes. Such psychological things cannot be measured in the statistical sense, and require generic qualitative inquiry approach (Percy et al., 2015). Thematic inductive analysis of semi-structured interviews and lesson plans was used (Marriam &Tisdell, 2016). A purposive sample of 15 teachers from public school in northwest suburb of Chicago was selected. Trustworthiness of the study was generated by collecting the data from a diversity of participant perspectives, and the use of member checks.

 

Chapter 4: Data Analysis and Findings

Introduction

The research questions for the current research were aimed at addressing a gap in the literature pertaining to teachers’ perspectives on the implementation of guided reading (GR) in early grades and its effects on reading comprehension. Guided reading is grounded on Vygotsky’s (1978) theory as it enables educators to teach and guide students within their ZPD and in accordance with the identified students’ learning needs. Within this zone, the teachers strive to build learning experiences for their students through a careful selection and introduction to texts while offering support and interacting with them throughout the reading instruction process and offering clear guidance after the reading session (Fountas & Pinnel, 2001). The teachers in this way guide the learners in reflecting and comprehending the text and utilizing it as an approach to know more about reading (Fountas & Pinnel, 2001).

The purpose of the study was, therefore to explore how teachers describe their practices of guided reading within early grades when nurturing reading comprehension, and to determine the benefits and challenges or demerits associated with the implementation of guided reading within early grades. To achieve this purpose, the researcher conducted 15 interviews with teacher participants who used guided reading strategies. Additionally, the researcher collected and analyzed guided reading lesson plans submitted by the same participants to determine how the strategy was selected and implemented and whether the lesson plans supported and reflected the participants’ views and responses.

The following research questions for the current study offered a way for examining early grade teachers’ perspectives on the implementation of guided reading and its impact on reading comprehension within the early grade students:

R1: How do elementary school teachers describe their experiences with guided reading strategies?

R2: What are teachers’ perspectives of the impact of guided reading on reading comprehension in early grades?

R3: How do teachers describe the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing guided reading in early grades?

Chapter 4 presents the results of the current basic qualitative study within which the demographics of the participants are described followed by a discussion of the research findings with excerpts from the interview transcriptions to support the identified themes.

Demographics of the Participants

All the 15 teachers who participated in the study were women and taught in different schools within northwest suburb of Chicago. The teacher participants’ teaching experience ranged from seven years to 35 years of general teaching practice and between 2 year and 22 years’ experience of teaching using guided reading in early grades as depicted in Table 1. One of the participants was a literacy coach at her school, another one was an instructional assistant teaching in early grade, another worked as an ELL resource teacher as well as an early grade teacher, and two of them were multi-grade teachers who also taught early grades, while the remaining ten participants were early grade teachers. Only two of the teacher participants had learned the applications of guided reading in the classroom through self-study while 11 of the participants had received professional development from their district education boards. One of the participants had also received professional development and training in-house through her school’s initiative. Two of those who had received professional development from their district boards also reported having additionally learned through self-study. Teacher 12 claimed to have received training through workshops led by renowned scholars of guided reading including Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas.

 

Name Employment Type Years of General Teaching Experience Years of Experience Teaching using Guided Reading Type of Training on the Application of Guided Reading
Teacher 1 Instructional Assistant 10 2 Year 6 months Self-study & apprenticeship
Teacher 2 Multi-grade teacher 7 6 Professional development –District initiative
Teacher 3 ELL Resource Teacher 9 9 Training/Professional development from District
Teacher 4 Early grade Teacher 12 12 Professional development- In house
Teacher 5 Early grade teacher 7 7 Professional development and self-study
Teacher 6 Multi-grade teacher 8 8 Professional Development –District
Teacher 7 Early grade Teacher 33 18 Professional development
Teacher 8 Early grade teacher 17 16 Training/Professional development
Teacher 9 Literacy Coach/ Literacy Specialist 22 22 Professional Development -District
Teacher 10 Early Grade Teacher 10 4 Self-study
Teacher 11 Second-grade Teacher 13 5 Professional Development
Teacher 12 Early Grade Teacher 23 20+ years Training and Workshops such one by scholars of Guided reading, that is, Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas
Teacher 13 Early Grade teacher 7 7 Professional Development
Teacher 14 Early grade Teacher 35 18 Professional development- district and Self-study
Teacher 15 Early grade teacher 10 4 Professional development

Table 1: Participants’ Demographics

The 15 participants were selected on the basis of a criterion sampling rationality as they already demonstrated their willingness to participate in the current study and had met the stipulated inclusion criteria which were as follows:

  1. The participants were early grade teachers (first through fourth grade) reading classes to facilitate the collection of different perspectives on the research phenomenon that could not be possible if all participants are chosen from one grade level.
  2. The teacher participants had varying experience teaching using the guided reading approach with each having at least two years’ experience.

Data Analysis Procedures

The data analysis for the current study was conducted in three successive coding stages. The first step entailed writing and preparing the transcripts of each of the recorded interview sessions. This was followed by reviewing all the transcripts thoroughly while considering the study’s research questions. Next, the sections of data that seemed to address the research questions were considered for the level 1 coding step and copied elsewhere. This stage entailed an inductive analysis. After level 1 coding was complete, the researcher sent invitations to each of the teacher participants for member checks. Each of the invitation comprised of the table used for coding the respective participant’s interview record and instructions on how to conduct member checking. Member checking was conducted at this stage of the coding to facilitate and guarantee the accuracy of the codes before proceeding with further data analysis. 13 of the participants sent back their completed member checks all agreeing with the coding process with no modifications, suggestions, or corrections, and 2 teachers sent back their completed member checks with additional modifications.

The research questions were then used to deduce main ideas from level 1 coding to generate level 2 codes. Any data segment or sections that were not relevant to the research questions when subjected to further scrutiny and reflection were abandoned at the level 1 stage and did not go past that. A comparison was then conducted on these new ideas that were relevant to the research questions to identify any differences and similarities. The similar concepts and ideas were grouped within the same pattern. Upon the emergence or realization of a sub-concept that pertained to a particular pattern, a sub-pattern was developed though not every pattern comprised of sub-patterns. Any concept pertaining to a pattern’s topic but provided opposing views was placed as a sub-pattern within the specific pattern in question. At the level 3 coding step, the deduced sub-patterns and patterns were categorized into major and much broader themes that would address the research questions. The coding procedure was conducted using the MS Word software where tables assisted in organizing the information.

Research Findings

After reviewing the research results from the data analysis, the researcher developed a coding scheme to guide in summarizing the study’s findings. Consequently, the most refined and highest level of the data analysis and results was the themes. Each of the themes had supporting patterns while the patterns had underlying themes. Three major themes were identified namely: (1) experiences with the guided reading approach, (2) Teachers are familiar with the benefits of using guided reading on reading comprehension, and (3) Beliefs about guided reading. The current study’s coding scheme is available in the Appendix section as Appendix C.

This section will detail the study’s findings based on the identified themes and organized by the research questions. Excerpts from selected participants will be availed to support and offer evidence for the findings. The excerpts will be aimed at enhancing the study’s trustworthiness aligned to the recommendation by Maxwell (1992). The provided excerpts do not denote the exhaustive body of proof or support that could be provided for a particular finding, rather, the used excerpts are chosen as a representation of the supporting proof from the interviews.

R1:  How do elementary school teachers describe their experiences with guided reading strategies?

THEME 1: Experiences with the Guided Reading Approach

The first research question (R1) was addressed by the responses to the interview questions 1, 2, 4, 12, 13, 14, and 15. The first theme was about the teachers’ experiences with the guided reading approach in early grade classrooms. The theme had three underlying sub-patterns that resulted from the interviews including (1) the significance and reason for using guided reading, (2) the teacher’s opinion on the use of guided reading, and (3) when the teachers utilize the guided reading approach. The responses given by each participant was crucial as it assisted the researcher in acquiring a deeper understanding their experiences with the guided reading strategy. These experiences revolved around their understanding of the GR’s instructional methods whereas this study’s theoretical framework was effective in situating the participants’ experiences in the constructivist approach for instruction, guidance, and learning. The specific responses given to support the current theme is described and discussed in this section.

The significance and reason for using guided reading. All teachers, particularly in early grades (first through fifth grade) are required by the school district to utilize guided reading within their classrooms each learning day. Findings from the study showed that while most of the participants were implementing the GR approach based on the curriculum and guided by the curriculum’s themes, it was necessitated by their institutions’ master schedule as a compulsory instructional practice or at the district level. Teacher 2 backs this fact by claiming that, “We have guided reading as a district initiative… so we have to add it to our curriculum and it is built into our schedules.”

Teacher 10 also claims that the curriculum used in her school is structured in a way that it has themed units with each unit having a different level to oversee the successful implementation of the guided reading approach within the classroom across the grade levels.  However, despite being a requirement, all the teacher participants cited having other reasons for utilizing guided reading such as to drive student’s academic achievement. The claims of Teacher 1 attest to this as she said, “I use guided reading to make sure students comprehend what they are reading and also get a deeper level of understanding besides just knowing the words but to understand the story and the text features.”

Teacher 2 also stated that:

We use guided reading so that we can address the needs of each individual student to make them reach their highest potential as a reader and our ultimate goal is for them to be reading at grade level every year.

The participants tended to have certain beliefs of the ability to influence the performance of their students, make their own decisions, manage their classes, and engage their students through the guided reading approach. This was also supported by Teacher 10, who claimed:  

In early grades a lot of guided reading is ensuring that they are getting text at their level, obviously as kids are learning to read there are already on a bit of little different levels and so giving them a text that is at a good instructional level and being able to recommend at a good independent level for them as well in early grades, we are really looking like are they reading it appropriately in terms of their fluency, and does the way they are reading the text fit the type of the text.

Though the district schools require the implementation of guided reading within classrooms for early graders, the teacher participants should also acknowledge the significance of the approach. Upon understanding guided reading and how it functions, teachers are capable of implementing the approach effectively. Consequently, students will achieve and perform better in reading and ultimately comprehension.

Teacher’s opinions on the use of guided reading. For effective guided reading implementation, teachers should always be capable of being confident in their knowledge of guided reading, its features, and ways of implementing it. According to the results for the current study, though the participants had varying experiences and understanding of the approach, they all had positive expressions about guided reading. This response pertained to the opinions that the participants had about GR. Teacher 13 specifically indicated that “every classroom would benefit from guided reading” while Teacher 4 also said it is a “great idea because you are able to get to know the students a little better as readers.” Teacher 3 also claimed that “I think guided reading is very important for comprehension.” The same was also stated by Teacher 2. Teacher 2 said:

I think guided reading is my time that I get to see… even I was telling my kids this week that every single of them can read and so when I get to guided reading or sitting and reading with them one on one that’s the time that I know that they understand what they have read and that is the reason why kids tend to grow as readers. Umm… if they can read from a page… that’s amazing, but if they don’t understand what they read, then that is what holds them back from moving up to the next reading level or group.

Other participants such as Teacher 14 cited literacy development as one of the importance of guided reading. She claimed:

I think guided reading in early grades is crucial for literacy development. The teacher is able to focus on each student’s needs. He/she can suggest close reading (rereading the text) and annotate for a deeper understanding of the text. The students identify the main idea and supporting details. They realize that rereading is important to focus on the text features and to determine the text structure. The students learn how to make inferences based on their schema and text evidence. Their reading comprehension is enhanced when they use context clues to determine meaning of unfamiliar/content vocabulary.

The aforementioned claims were supported and restated by the other participants in one way or the other when responding to interview question 8 that required them to respond on their opinion of the implementation of GR. For example, Teacher 6 reverberated these opinions on GR by viewing it as great idea capable of assisting teachers to assess the comprehension levels of their students when reading a text. She claimed, “I think it is a great idea because you can verbally ask the child if they understand it as opposed to a written response for finding out if they comprehended the text in a different way.”

Teacher 9 also viewed GR as a solution to certain behavioral problems in class. She stated that:

I think it’s sometimes the independent work especially for kindergarten that sometimes can become monotonous and a little boring and the kids get some behavior problem. But its valuable use for them understanding and comprehending other text. Because the kids need to go past that basic who was the story was about, what happened at the beginning and the end, they need to start to understand the characters, reasoning and affection stories.

Effective guided reading, literacy differentiation, and the resultant reading comprehension among the early graders often depend on the ability of the teachers to analyze different cognitive techniques, diagnose the variances among the students, comprehend the texts, design and assign strategic groups, and manage the behavior of students (Fountas & Pinnell, 2011). Often, teachers may lack an understanding of GR which could result in negative attitudes against the approach in addition to their inability to elaborate on the significance of GR to students’ learning and academic achievement. However, participants in the current study, appear to be well acquainted with the approach which is reflected by their opinions of how GR could be used to support students’ reading comprehension, cognitive processes, and literacy development.

When the teachers implement the GR approach. The schedules of most schools across the school districts comprise of guided reading time sessions that have been built in for the grade levels, particularly early grades. According to the data from the interviews, some of the participants claimed that they implemented their own versions of the guided reading approach each day to meet the students’ needs. For example, Teacher 2 said, “so guided reading in my classroom I do (implement) in my new system (own version).”

She further continued to say that she was not certain whether her teacher partner for the same class was using a similar approach. She claimed:

I have said guided reading I think when you start of as a teacher it is a lot of trial and error figuring out what works out best for you… to something like how I run guided reading in my classroom to what I am doing with my new system… my teaching partner she may be doing something completely different, but it is really like are you handling similar needs for students in your classroom every single year? So our ultimate goal is to meet all those students’ needs.

On the other hand, most of the participants indicated that they conducted guided reading sessions within their classrooms each day. Teacher 6 said:

Well… I use it for about an hour each day and additional half an hour with a different teacher. So maybe one and a half hour each day this will work so that we can work with almost every student each day.

This point was also highlighted by other teachers including Teacher 2 who also claimed:

They get individual time with me every single day to read one on one with me and uh… it allows them also when they are not reading with me they are doing independent work that is at their level so that they can see they can be successful.

However, the issue of time constraints dominated as a common occurrence and issue in the responses made by the participants especially when trying to conduct the one to one meeting with individual students. Teacher 10 supports this finding in her claim that:

We try meeting with three groups a day for 15 minutes, that’s 45 minutes. So we have four groups… four to five groups depending on levels, so that means that there is potentially a group that isn’t met with the whole day, which means that they have 45 minutes of independent work which is a long time for little kids.

This claim was supported by other teachers including Teacher 9, and teacher 11, who all cited issues of the time limit when they are using the guided reading approach. For example, teacher 9 said, “also I want more time because I want to meet with every kid. As a classroom teacher I have so many subjects to analyze which tend to backlog because I have too many to analyze.” Teacher 11 also said:

Time goes by so fast! Sometimes I had to get up to help the other kids. There were so many things that I wanted to teach, and I only had 15 minutes for each group. Sometimes I didn’t get to see the 2-3 groups that I had planned to work with.

 

 

The above claims and sample excerpts reflect on the teacher’s description of their experiences of when they use guided reading in their classrooms.

R2: What are teachers’ perspectives on the impact of guided reading on reading comprehension in early grades?

THEME 2: Teachers are familiar with the benefits of using guided reading on reading comprehension

The second research question (R2) was addressed by responses to the interview questions 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Upon completing the data analysis, the researcher found out that the teachers indicated through their responses that they were conversant with the benefits of utilizing guided reading on early graders’ reading comprehension. They also indicated that they fully understood the purpose of guided reading within early grade contexts. As stated by Teacher 9 through GR, “The students learn how to make inferences based on their schema and text evidence. Their reading comprehension is enhanced when they use context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar/content vocabulary.”

Teacher 6 also claimed that implementing GR assists teachers in identifying if the students comprehended texts and when asked to comment on the significance of GR on reading comprehension, she said:

Reading comprehension is important because it is the foundation of… all subjects and it helps them… it helps the students become career ready. They have to be reading for life and learning that at an early age will be very helpful to help them to have a foundation of their learning.  Guided reading creates this foundation for the students.

Teacher 4 also claimed that GR assists in “understanding if they (the students) are not understanding or their level of comprehension” during a guided reading session. In that manner, the teacher can be in a position to identify materials or strategies to elevate their reading comprehension levels. Similar claims were spread across most of the responses made by the participants in the interviews. Teacher 5 on the other hand, viewed reading comprehension as a standard that the GR approach intends to achieve. The attainment of this standard is measured through state-wide assessments and it is the role of the teachers to ensure that the early graders are able to read to these standards and attain them. Teacher 5 did this in the claim that:

As I said, we’re teaching specifically to certain standards. And we’re expecting them to take assessments based on these standards and take state-wide assessments based on these standards. This is really a great time guided reading, to sit and meet with them to make sure they’re progressing towards those standards.

Teacher 13 similar to other teachers also claimed that GR builds reading comprehension in addition to building fluency and background knowledge. Teacher 7 also claimed that guided reading is crucial for enabling a student or individual be a ‘good consumer of information’ irrespective of the age and such consumption cannot be achieved if one is not able to comprehend the text and the content. She said:

Well because you need to understand… you need to be good consumers of information and so if don’t have a good comprehension you can’t be a good, you know, consumer of information. So your reading faints and if you don’t understand what you are doing it’s not gonna like sound you gonna make some assumptions that are accurate.

Teacher 2 also claimed that GR id very important as it adds the independent component lacking in most traditional teaching methods. She also cited reading comprehension is an essential part of an individual’s life whereby. She said:

If a person cannot comprehend text in some way, it will be very difficult for them to lead a successful life. That is not to say all reading looks the same. Different students with different reading abilities will find meaning in some way if they are able to comprehend the text and that is the aim of guided reading.

These educators vividly voiced the significance of using guided reading to foster reading comprehension among the early graders.

R3: How do teachers describe the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing guided reading in early grades?

THEME 3: Beliefs about guided reading

The third research question (R3) was mainly addressed by the responses to interview questions ranging from question 6 to interview question 14. There is a need to understand the beliefs of the participants regarding the guided reading approach. In doing so, this section will be generally looking into the challenges and benefits of implementing guided reading from the early grade teachers’ perspectives. It is also important to understand the effect that these beliefs could have on the success and effectiveness of the GR approach.

According to the data analysis, 3 sub-patterns emerged namely (1) Time constraint (2) Effort planning and acquiring materials, and (3) student achievement and social growth.

The participants shared experiences that demonstrated their beliefs about GR while the current study’s theoretical framework serves as the lens to comprehend the teachers’ beliefs based on Vygotsky’s constructive theory to teaching and learning.

Time constraint. Developing good and effective lesson plans is a critical move for any learning or teaching process. A dedicated teacher in guided reading ought to be able to commit him/herself to spend sufficient time in the teaching endeavors. According to the responses made by the participants, most of them believed that the guided reading approach requires a considerable duration and at times more time than that provided in the lesson plan or master schedule. Teacher 6, 11, 9, 13, and teacher 5 are claimed that time was a major constraint for their effective implementation of the GR approach in their classrooms.

Teacher 6 claimed that:

The challenge with guided reading is finding time…in your schedule. It would be very beneficial to have guided reading with every single student… every single day for… you know… actually all the time… but it is hard to find the time for that.

Teacher 11 also supported this by claiming:

Time is my main challenge. Time goes by so fast! Sometimes I had to get up to help the other kids. There were so many things that I wanted to teach, and I only had 15 minutes for each group. Sometimes I didn’t get to see the 2-3 groups that I had planned to work with.

Teacher 9 also claimed:

The challenges… for me, if kids were not making progress that I wanted. But also I want more time because I want to meet with every kid. As a classroom teacher, I have so many subjects to analyze which tend to backlog because I have too many to analyze.

Teacher 13 also stated that, “Time, there is never enough time”. In addition, teacher 5 said, “it needs time, it’s difficult in the early grades to get them to sit, to get them to want to read. And thankfully, in the early grades, they’re pleasers, they want to please you, therefore, they want to you know, they want to try.”

            All the teacher participants tended to believe that guided though GR was valuable, especially because it enabled the students to put more effort in learning to read, the major challenge was that some of the participants felt they at one point or another were failing to implement GR effectively to address the students’ needs because there is no enough time. This highlights the need for professional development to guide teachers on how they can address the issue of time more effectively within the timelines of their lessons.

Effort planning and acquiring materials. Planning is a crucial element of GR’s implementation. Each teacher’s lesson plan should include the (prior, during, and after/follow up activities) accompanied by other elements such as the standards, teaching strategies, resources, and content. However, some of the participants in the study claimed that it took her much effort acquiring materials for guided reading. Teacher 14 for example claimed, “Selecting books for different groups and various levels. Especially if a teacher supports more than one grade level.”

Teacher 12 also commented on having trouble with the guided reading materials and resources. She said, “Materials and resources are the biggest challenges. I’d love to attend trainings and participate in discussion forums, but most of that work has to be done on my own time at my own expense.”

Teacher 11 also had trouble with selecting materials, planning for the implementation, in addition to the time constraint. She said:

I believe some mistakes as a teacher I can fall into can be choosing books that are too challenging for their students, thinking that we have to get through an entire text in order to have a good comprehension discussion, trying to cram too much into my pre-reading book introduction, and not being able to fit everything in due to limited time.

Generally, the teacher participants seemed to agree that preparing for and launching the GR approach in a class was challenging and that identifying materials and resources was also time-consuming and took a lot of effort. Planning for the activities and assessments was also challenging to the extent that some participants such as Teacher 10 could seek assistance from the literacy coach who would step in and help in conducting the assessments when she had no time. Teacher 10 said:

I will assess kind of as I go and like I said we have a Literacy Coach in the building so sometimes I may not have time to do an assessment but I may reach out to the literacy Coach and say like, I think this kid might have improved but am not sure how much, so can you go ahead and…  because the way that the assessments work is that you umm…you assess the level and it is based on the fluency and comprehension at their level and then you keep going higher until getting to instructional levels

Student achievement and Social growth.  According to the data, all the participants indicated that guided reading assisted the students by nurturing their comprehension skills, literacy skills, fluency, and reading accuracy. This allows the students to be successful both academically and socially. Teacher 14, for instance, claimed that guided reading assists students by promoting, “Growth in literacy-speaking, listening, reading, and writing-fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and boost in confidence.”

Teacher 9 also supported this sub-pattern through her claim that:

I think that I mentioned we do the map test. And in first grade and I didn’t see a lot of my kids making the progress that I thought reflected on the map test. And then looking back at what I saw in guided reading I could always scold on my administration and say “Does it show on the score? but does not show here they are reading on the grade level. They were using the strategy and look at the beginning of the year they could answer any of the questions and now they are attacking questions that they never did before and take it as evidence of success.

Teacher 5 also attested to this through the claims that:

I’ve found once I started doing guided reading with them, but also once I’ve kept better records on them… I have had stronger readers, their comprehension has been stronger. And at in our district, we have goals at the end of every early grade, well, any grade up of the reading level they should be at. And the past four years, I’ve had every kid leaving at grade level or above. And so that’s fantastic. And that shows that this guided reading time is really important. And it shows that they really like it, because they’re putting forth the effort, you know, in to produce such great work, too. And the teachers in the upper grades are always really happy because they’re usually reading at grade level by then.

Teacher 11 among other participants to supported these claims. Participant 11 added that:

Also, students become more fluent readers when they have opportunities to read aloud. If you have students in small groups, and each of them is reading on his/her own, you have much more opportunity to build fluency than when you’re teaching a whole class of readers. Students build fluency at the beginning of the lesson (when rereading familiar texts) and when they’re reading and rereading the new text.

She also mentioned, “I noticed that by using it, my students developed mastery of speaking, reading and writing.” On the other hand, some participants mentioned that guided reading also had a significant impact on the students’ social life. The teachers claimed that GR prompted the students to seek help from peers while in their reading groups. To this end, Teacher 10 mentioned that:

So I think like I was saying before, they… for one thing I think this social mutual benefit is there is a little bit like we try disguise one of the low groups and one of the high groups and that sort of thing and of course the kids are smart, so they figure out.

Teacher 11 also supported that GR had a positive influence on the students’ social life, especially in group work by claiming that:

Students like having me to themselves, even if that means sharing me with 4-5 other kids. Many of them are much more willing to contribute to a discussion when they’re with a small group of their peers than with the entire class.

Teacher 13 also supported that by saying, “Most students like it because it is when the teacher can give meaningful feedback. Some students like to share out in a small group instead of a large group.”

These findings directly relate to the objectives of learning in a constructive approach. This is due to the fact that the constructive perspective to learning first required deducing meaning, which requires the reader to interpret and simultaneously comprehend the text. Secondly, constructive learning entails the inferred meaning’s subjective nature. Therefore, as supported through the above evidence, the students’ construction of meaning, learning, and comprehension ought not to be detached from the social setting from which it happened. This is because both the constructive and social nature of studying are elements of guided reading.

Document Analysis: Lesson plan analysis

The lesson plans were subjected to a data analysis procedure identical to that suggested by Creswell (2007). For this process, protocol forms were, therefore, used to record various elements from the research questions that were reflected in the lesson plans. A sample of this process was attached to Appendix D. All the lesson plans reflected and focused on the features and implementation of the guided reading approach within early grade classrooms. The aim of the document analysis was to assist in studying the participants further, understand how they perceived various elements of GR, how they planned for grouping, their planning skills, and their documentation of the GR process they implement in class.

The lesson plans differed in their structure though they all had a common purpose of enabling the successful implementation of the GR approach within early grade classrooms. 15 participants sent their guided reading lesson plans to the researcher. The lessons were a mixture of weekly (six of them) and daily lesson plans (nine of them). These lesson plans also documented how and when the respective teacher participants implemented the guided reading approach within their classrooms.

Results of the lesson plan analysis

THEME 1. When the teachers implement the GR approach (sub-pattern). The responses given by the teachers during the interviews suggested several weaknesses among some of them with respect to the use and implementation of GR. The analysis of the lesson plans also indicated such weaknesses within some of the submitted lesson plans. For instance, Fountas and Pinnell (2011) had provided a guided reading lesson plan structure guide, one that necessitated (1) selection of the text, (2) introducing the text, (3) discussing the text, (4) word work, and an (5) optional effort to extend the students’ understanding.  However, none of the analyzed lesson plans comprised of all these elements. They were often found lacking one or another of these 5 major elements.

However, this lack of consistency with the suggested lesson plan structure coincides with the teacher’s claims in the interviews that they implement their own version of the guided reading approach but with a common purpose stipulated by the curriculum. The lesson plan plans by Teachers’ 4, 2, and 9 show the most flexibility and diversion in terms of these teachers’ implementing their own version of guided reading within their classrooms. Some of the lesson plans were missing daily word works such as those of Teachers’ 4, 10, 9, and 13.

Some of the lesson plans also looked similar to checklists that the teachers could utilize while checking if there was any incomplete task. Such lesson plans include those by Teacher 13 and 2. These lesson plans when considering theme 1 do not support the claim that these teachers do implement guided reading each day in their classrooms. The lesson plans are also an indicator of why most of the participants were citing success and benefits for their students. Some of the teacher participants had indicated that the curriculum and district require them to utilize GR in their daily teaching practice. The details of the components put in the lesson plans by Teacher 6, 5, and 10 indicate possible requirement from such a body. Generally, according to the lesson plans, some of the participants could be failing to effectively implement guided reading though poor lesson planning.

Several participants’ lesson plans supported the claims they made about Theme 2: Teachers are familiar with the benefits of using guided reading on reading comprehension. Several of the participants’ lesson plans included strategies and activities including, word identification, phonological awareness, oral language, writing activities, vocabulary, phonemics, and sight word reviews. All of these activities, strategies, and skills will help the respective teachers in addressing the needs of the students within their reading levels. One such example is the lesson plan by Teachers 7 and 2.

Moreover, nearly all the participants’ lesson plans supported theme 3: Teachers’ beliefs about guided reading, especially concerning their challenges with time management. This is because most of the lesson plans tend not to be properly planned and written. According to the data, most of the participants during the interviews had indicated constraints in the time of implementing guided reading in their classes as the main challenge of GR use. Additionally, none of the lesson plans accounted for the time to be spent on either of the activities within them or any time to allow for collaboration with peer teachers. Also, the use of different formats for both the daily and weekly lesson plans supported the participant’s belief that guided reading planning was time and effort consuming. Student achievement and efficacy was also supported by some participants having lesson plans with essential outcome sections such as that by Teacher 5 and the ‘things you can do’ section on Teacher 7’s lesson plan to inspire achievement on the part of the students. Also, while some lesson plans such as that by Teacher 6, 7, 10, 6, and 4 supported the sub-pattern: students’ social growth, the lesson plan by Teacher 9 did not have any activity that would indicate that the teacher supported that guided reading fostered the student’s social growth. Lesson plans by Teacher 6, 7, 10, and 4 among others did have group activities that when put into consideration are capable of facilitating the students’ social growth. Generally, the lesson plan analysis highlights that planning guided reading lessons is a major challenge in most of the participants. This could be associated with their response about failing to meet the expectations within the scheduled time for their lessons.

Summary

This chapter provides an overview of the data analysis conducted for the current study. The interview analysis began by coding data within the interview record transcripts in the level 1 coding step. Member checking was conducted at the end of the level 1 coding whereby the participants agreed with the codes. Level 2 entailed organizing and sorting identical data segments into emergent patterns while Level 3 entailed merging and refining the patterns into general and major themes.

The research findings were categorized into three major themes where each theme addressed a particular research question. Research question 1 was addressed by Theme 1: experiences with the guided reading approach. Theme I had several sub-patterns including: (1)Teachers’ opinions on the use GR, (2) the significance and reason for using guided reading, and (3) when the teachers utilize the guided reading approach. Research question 2 was addressed by Theme 2: Teachers are familiar with the benefits of using guided reading on reading comprehension, while Research question 3 was addressed by Theme 3: Beliefs about guided reading. Similar to Theme 1, Theme 3 also had three sub-patterns which included 1) Time constraint (2) Effort planning and acquiring materials, and (3) student achievement and social growth.

Chapter 5 will discuss the current study’s results in the context of and consideration of existent literature. The chapter will also interpret the results and their implications, especially on the early graders’ learning. The chapter will also discuss the study’s limitations and strengths and suggest recommendations for further studies.

 

Chapter 5: Discussions and Conclusions

Introduction

The purpose of the current qualitative research was to explore how teachers described and perceived their experiences of using guided reading in early grades to nurture reading comprehension. The study was also intended to establish the benefits and any underlying challenges that early grade teachers encounter when using GR in their classrooms. Interviews were used as the main primary sources of data while lesson plans submitted by the participants served as sources of secondary data. A purposeful criterion-based sample that included 15 early grade teacher participants from different schools was used for data collection.

Analysis of the data collected revealed three major themes that include (1) experiences with the guided reading approach; (2) teachers are familiar with the benefits of using guided reading on reading comprehension; and (3) beliefs about guided reading. This chapter will interpret these findings while considering how the data addresses the study’s research questions, which were as follows:

RQ1: How do elementary school teachers describe their experiences with guided reading strategies?

RQ2: What are teachers’ perspectives on the impact of guided reading on reading comprehension in early grades?

RQ3: How do teachers describe the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing guided reading in early grades?

The chapter incorporates information from the previous chapters while emphasizing on a discussion of the current study findings. The chapter will entail an interpretation of this study’s results and a discussion of the same in comparison to existing literature. Thus, the discussion takes a broader approach in the attempt to fit the findings into existing bodies of knowledge.  The implications for guided reading practice are also discussed in this chapter alongside the study’s limitations and recommendations for future research.

Discussion and Interpretation

The findings for the current study will be interpreted with respect to the research questions, theoretical framework, and literature review. The guiding structure and framework of an effective Guided Reading lesson adopted for this study were suggested by Fountas and Pinnell (2011, 2017). The research questions examined how early grade teachers perceived the implementation and use of guided reading in their classrooms, the impacts of GR in relation to reading comprehension, and the benefits and challenges associated with the implementation of GR in early grades. Generally, the findings revealed that the participants in the study mainly had favorable perceptions about guided reading, whereby the teachers viewed GR as a beneficial approach, especially in supporting the students reading fluency, accuracy, and comprehension. This is in agreement with Fountas and Pinnell (2012) who claimed that the ultimate goal of guided reading is assisting students to nurture their reading power, which includes “building a network of strategic actions for processing texts” (p. 272). However, the teachers also reported several challenges they encounter when implementing GR.

Research question one (R1) focused on the experiences of the teachers with guided reading. It was thus addressed by the theme I: Experiences with the GR approach. One major finding under this theme was that despite implementing guided reading as a district-wide initiative or requirement, most of the participants used guided reading for its effectiveness in driving students’ academic achievement, especially reading fluency and comprehension. The teachers claimed that through guided reading, they are able to individualize teaching practice to address the individual needs of each child and ensure that the students are acquiring the required skills and knowledge at their level. These findings are in agreement with those of Nayak and Sylva (2013) who reported that guided reading enabled the students who were taught using GR to outperform their counterparts who were not taught using GR in terms of reading accuracy and comprehension. These findings also coincide with the findings of Oostdam et al. (2015) who reported that teachers implemented the GR approach due to its effectiveness in influencing various tenets of reading inclusive of comprehension and fluency. Teachers in Swain’s (2010) study had also revealed that they used guided reading for it creates supportive learning and teaching setting that facilitates the teachers to effectively address the individual needs of each student.

The current study’s findings also reveal that all the teacher participants had positive opinions about the GR approach. The participants repeatedly referred GR as a great idea that not only assists in assessing the reading levels of the students but also assists them in addressing the needs of each student. Such positive opinions from the teachers suggest that the teachers had adequate skills in implementing GR effectively for them to have such positive views about GR. This is in accordance with Davis (2013) who maintained that effective GR, literacy differentiation and the ensuing reading comprehension among the students is dependent on the teachers’ knowledge of the approach and their ability to diagnose the needs of each student to assist them in effectively implementing GR. As previously mentioned, teachers who lack an understanding and knowledge of GR could encounter challenges in its implementation or implement it ineffectively and consequently fail to see the full benefits of the approach in addressing the intended students’ needs. Such teachers could have negative attitudes against GR as they would not be in a position to elaborate on the benefits of GR in facilitating students’ academic achievement. This finding also coincides with the findings of Ferguson and Wilson (2009), who claimed that the teachers’ knowledge in the implementation of guided reading and its tenets largely impacts the degree of influence that GR has on the students’ reading development and the confidence of the teacher in using the approach. Benefits of GR and the achievement of desired outcomes are only reported by teachers who are capable of implementing the approach effectively guided by their deep expertise of the approach (Ferguson & Wilson, 2009; Ford & Optiz, 2008). The current findings, therefore, suggest that the participants are well acquainted with GR and have sufficient knowledge to guide its effective implementation, an assertion that is reflected by the participants’ general positive opinions about GR from their experiences.

The findings also reveal how and when the teachers implemented the GR approach in early grade classrooms. Some of the teachers claimed they implement their own versions of GR to meet the students’ needs. They claimed that when implementing guided reading in the early grades, they integrate their own past experiences and training to shape their version of the GR approach that could help them in achieving the desired objectives within their classrooms. In doing so, they try to replicate what had previously worked and the GR approaches that had previously resulted in the positive experience while avoiding the non-engaging and dull lecture experiences previously undergone. The participants indicated that irrespective of the level of personalization adopted by teachers to create their own version of the approach, the ultimate goal was to address the identified students’ needs each year. These findings suggest that teaching with GR could be a learning experience itself as the teachers are able to rely on their past experiences and examine the variety of options that are available for the implementation of GR. The ability of these teachers to exploit the flexibility of the GR, in the development of an approach that works for them, increases the effectiveness of the approach. These findings concur with those of Belland et al. (2015) and Robertson (2013) who had concluded that GR was more effective where the teachers were able to reflect on their past and present experiences and adjust their instruction to address the individual reading needs of the students.

Research question two (R2) focused on the teachers’ perspectives on the impact of guided reading on reading comprehension in early grades. The research question was addressed by theme 2: Teachers are familiar with the benefits of using guided reading on reading comprehension. The participants’ responses to questions of how they perceived GR affected reading comprehension indicated that the teachers were conversant with the benefits of implementing GR on the early graders reading comprehension. The participants vividly voiced how using GR assists them in enhancing the early graders’ reading comprehension. This suggests that the teachers understood the value of using the GR instructional approach in promoting reading comprehension among early graders. This finding refutes the findings by Marchard-Martella et al. (2015) and Shang (2015) who reported that though GR is advocated as a crucial instructional approach for promoting reading comprehension skills in learners, teachers are uncertain of what they are trying to achieve with GR and how to attain it.

The findings, however, concur with those of Ferguson and Wilson (2009), which indicated that the teachers using GR in their classrooms were aware of its enhancing ability on reading comprehension. They reported that their students had achieved greater reading compression and fluency since they started using GR (Ferguson & Wison, 2009). In addition, participants in the current research also noted that students exposed to GR on a daily basis were able to draw from GR during their independent reading to improve their reading fluency and comprehension levels. Similar findings were also reported by Ferguson and Wilson (2009) and a comparative study by Whitehead and de Jonge (2014). The participants also seemed to agree that the after reading discussions including questions to access the students’ comprehension assisted the teachers to establish opportunities in which the students could summarize the content, synthesize, and identify relations of the text’s content to their personal experiences, and continually grow in text-processing strategies. In accordance to Fountas and Pinnell (2012), this is an important aspect of GR as such opportunities prompted the students to, either in groups or independently, respond to the text and these activities help the students in developing their reading comprehension skills further.

Ideas within Vygotsky’s social constructivism theory, which serves as the current study’s theoretical framework, tend to be constructed socially through student-student such as in GR groups or student-teacher interactions (Powell & Kalina, 2009). Such interactions during GR groups sessions and discussion periods are a foundational aspect of GR that assist the students in nurturing reading comprehension and analysis skills. The current research findings concur with these findings as the teachers’ responses also suggested that as the students interacted with peers or with the teachers, their reading comprehension abilities were enhanced constructively. This is because as claimed by Fountas and Pinnell (2012; 2017), the discussions, interaction, reading comprehension, and learning process, is more constructive and enhanced when the students are able to interact with clear ideas deduced from the selected text. The findings also suggest that the teachers were aware of the importance of reading comprehension in an individual’s life and career path. They claimed reading comprehension was the foundation for all subjects and enabled the students to be career-ready because irrespective of an individual’s reading level, they should be able to infer a particular meaning from the reading to make meaningful decisions and communication. This finding also concurs with that of Muliawati (2017) and Kuşdemir and Bulut (2018) who claimed that reading comprehension is essential in learning processes, knowing language as a communication medium, and constructing meaning from texts.

Research question three (R3) focused on how the teachers’ description of the advantages and disadvantages of using guided reading within early grades. The research question was addressed by theme 3: Beliefs about GR. However, as opposed to describing the disadvantages, the participants described the challenges they encountered when implementing guided reading in their classrooms in addition to the benefits. The challenges and benefits were embedded in the beliefs that the teachers had about the use of guided reading in early grades.

One of the major challenges highlighted by the majority of the participants was time constraints. The participants claimed that implementing GR was time-consuming and often more time would be needed to achieve a lesson’s objectives. For the majority, meeting each individual student was limited by time and teachers had to be innovative to ensure that they meet with each student individually at least once every week as the others did their independent or group readings. These findings concur with those of Fountas and Pinnel (2012; 2017) who claimed that most teachers perceived some elements of the GR approach and lessons to be more challenging and more time consuming, thus more time could be needed for teachers to effectively implement the GR approach. Fountas and Pinnell (2017) also claimed that GR also utilizes personalized instructions in addition to reading-related skills, which often call for spending extended time with and individual student to ensure effective reading comprehension. This is evidenced in the current study through the participants’ claims that they required more time to meet the GR lessons’ objectives but were also limited by the fact that early graders easily lose concentration and become wary in extended lessons. This finding also coincides with that of Ferguson and Wilson (2009) who found out that insufficient time and pressures to attain the curriculum’s, the lesson plan’s, and the master schedule’s objectives greatly impact the teacher’s ability to implement GR effectively. These findings were also similar to those obtained from the lesson plans’ analysis. The analysis indicated that most of the teachers had opted for repeated classroom activities throughout the entire week with very little variations or none whatsoever suggesting that they were being cautious in that any objective that was not achieved in one day could be achieved the following day rather than extending the lesson’s duration. In addition, failure of most of the teachers to indicate time to be spent for each activity in their lesson plans suggested that it could be one of the reasons they were complaining of time constraints in the attempt to address the needs of the students using GR. Failure to allocate time for the activities could lead to overspending time on some activities compared to others which would ultimately affect the effective implementation of the GR approach and the attainment of the intended outcomes.

The participants’ responses also indicated challenges in planning for guided reading lessons. Similar to this finding from the interviews, findings from the analysis of the lesson plans indicated weaknesses in the preparation for guided reading lessons which could negatively influence their effective implementation. This finding contradicts the indications from the teachers, regarding their expertise in the implementation of guided reading which requires demonstration and use of great planning skills. Planning is a crucial element of GR’s execution process. As previously indicated, the lesson plans should entail GR elements as suggested by Fountas and Pinnel (2012) including the selection of the text; introduction of the text phase; discussion of the text phase; word work phase; and an optional effort to extend the students’ understanding alongside other elements such as the statutory standards. Where a guided reading lesson plan is ineffective, the teacher is not capable of addressing the instructional needs of the students (Fountas & Pinnel, 2012). At this point, there is a need to acknowledge that the level of expertise with GR, whereby 10 of the participants had over 10 years’ experience and the remaining five having over six years’ experience using GR was relatively high. However, the lack of state standards in addition to other missing elements of GR lesson structure within most of the lesson plans suggests that a major challenge that the participants encountered was failing to understand how to write and plan for guided reading lessons. This issue is attributable to some of the participants’ responses that indicated a need for more coaching on the use of GR. This finding also coincides with those of Fountas and Pinnel (2012; 2017) who claimed that effective implementation of GR necessitates comprehensive knowledge of the strategy, choice of ideal assessments, and the elements of GR, which requires time, professional development, and/or support and training from a coach.

The theme also indicated challenges in acquiring relevant materials for effective implementation of the GR approach. The participants claimed that identifying resources for the GR lessons was time-consuming and required a lot of effort. This finding seems to echo that of Fountas and Pinnell (2012) who claimed that a significant challenge associated with GR is the selection of the type of book to be used and identifying how it will be used. As previously mentioned, effective implementation of the GR approach necessitates in-depth knowledge of its tenets, the procedures, and the choice of quality and appropriate tests, which is often, requires a lot of effort and time including support form a coach (Fountas & Pinnel, 2017). When examining the perceptions of teachers on the tenets of GR, Fountas and Pinnell (2017) had also reported that teachers believed selecting the ideal text for GR was a significant challenge similar to the findings of this study.

On the other hand, the participants also had positive beliefs about the use of GR. They repeatedly mentioned the benefits of using guided reading, particularly its ability to drive the early graders’ academic achievement. According to the data, all the participants claimed that GR assisted the early graders by nurturing their comprehension skills, fluency, reading accuracy, and literacy skills, which were crucial for their academic achievement. This finding coincides with those reported by several past studies including Burns, (2001); Burke and Hartzold, (2007); Burkins and Croft, (2010); Fountas and Pinnell, (2017); Kremer, (2013); Massey, (2013); Saunder-Smith, (2009); Schulman, (2006); Scull (2010); Shang, 2015; and Swain (2010) who all reported that GR had positive on students’ academic achievement by providing an array of such benefits cited by participants of this study.

The participants also claimed that guided promoted the social growth of the early graders. This finding was backed by the presence of numerous and varying grouping activities within the analyzed lesson plans suggesting that the teachers were aware of social learning as a crucial element of GR and its positive effects on the students’ long-term social growth. Reflecting on the previously mentioned finding that reading comprehension, an outcome of GR, is vital for knowing language as a communication tool (Muliawati, 2017; Kusdemir & Bulut, 2018), the current study’s participants’ report that GR promotes social growth is true as their language, vocabulary, how they interpret text, and how they construct meaning influenced by reading comprehension. These in turn, greatly determines the students’ ability to socialize. Moreover, the participants suggested that the group sessions in guided reading lessons facilitate the growth of socialization skills as the students attempt to assist each other in improving their reading skills. This finding relates to the objectives of Vygotsky’s social constructivism theory which states those students’ meaning construction processes, learning, and comprehension should not be detached from social settings that they occur (Vygotsky, 1978). Considering that the social and constructive natures to learning are tenets of guided reading, the students also get to nurture their social skills from during groupings. However, Fountas and Pinnell (1996) claimed that some group types used in GR could adversely affect the students’ self-assurance and esteem that would definitely negatively influence their social growth. For instance, Fountas and Pinnell (1996) found out that ability based groups (that is grouping the students based on their abilities) were not a guarantee that all students will have positive results. This is because both high and low grouped students are given separate instructions. Consequently, lowly-grouped learners’ self-assurance and esteem could be adversely influenced (Fountas & Pinnell, 2016). To overcome this, teachers could adopt the dynamic grouping technique suggested by Fountas and Pinnell (1996; 2017). The dynamic grouping is a hybrid of both homogenous and heterogeneous groupings inspired by the following major features of a common classroom: early graders exhibit varying past awareness, skills, know-how, IQ, comprehension ability, and different learning rates (Fountas and Pinnell, 2017; Iaquinta, 2006).

Implications for Practice

The study contributes great knowledge to educational research by enlightening on teachers’ perception of using guided reading in early grades and its impact on reading comprehension among early graders. The current findings also expand knowledge on the significance of the relationship between the guided reading approach and reading comprehension for early grade students. The study also contributes to the expansion of the guided reading profession by reporting about how teachers use the elements of guided reading to adjust or improve their instructional practice to address the needs of each child. The findings of the current study also present teachers’ beliefs, which describes the benefits of GR as a pedagogical approach to prompt reading achievement and the challenges that the teachers of GR encounter when using GR. Moreover, the study gives insight into the skills that teachers would require professional development to assist them in effectively implementing guided reading.

The challenges revealed in this study included time constraints, ineffective planning for GR lessons, and challenges in selecting the appropriate texts for GR. As suggested by Ferguson and Wilson (2009) and Fountas and Pinnel (2012), teachers require a profound understanding of GR as well as understanding the underlying procedural framework for them to implement the approach effectively in a manner capable of attaining the desirable outcomes. Therefore, teachers should be trained and mentored in the approach more often especially on how to until they are confident using it and are capable of implementing it successfully. Ford and Optiz (2008) also reported that the success of GR, especially in attaining the desired outcomes, is heavily reliant on the teacher’s knowledge of the required elements for successful implementation. This also highlights the need for professional development and mentoring to nurture deep knowledge and skills in the use of GR. The research has also identified challenges related to the selection of appropriately levelled texts for GR. These challenges were also reflected by findings from the lesson plan analysis. To overcome these challenges, the study suggests more professional development initiatives either at the district level or in-house. Therefore, effective and adequate mentoring and professional development initiatives in the identified procedural and implementation-specific and/or targeted skills as opposed to a wide-ranging approach of training on GR’s general elements, could assist in improving the skills of GR teachers and the resultant effective implementation and uptake of GR in classrooms as suggested by (Nurie, 2017). Such initiatives could target skills such as those concentrating on time management, text selection, and planning and writing lesson plans since those were the major skills that the current study indicates the teachers require more guidance and training. Therefore, teachers should always be well-informed and knowledgeable of their own teaching using GR (Scull, 2010). Being conversant with what GR entails alone is not enough, implementing GR effectively and consistently within the early grades is also crucial. Also, besides professional development and mentoring, reinforcement through classroom observations and continuous learning opportunities are also needed.

Utilizing the support of a peer mentor could also play a significant role in addressing the skill-level and knowledge needs for these teachers. Mentoring programs should be established within the schools whereby master and many experienced individuals and teachers could be paired with the less experienced teachers, an intervention that could assist the mentee in overcoming previous challenges. The two could, for instance, work together throughout a school year with both of them visiting each other’s classrooms where the mentor could, for instance, observe the implementation of GR and provide suggestions on how to improve the GR session and the mentee could visit the mentee’s classroom to observe how GR is successfully implemented.

Several limitations were also experienced during the study. One of the limitations was that the collected data was based on teacher’s responses rather than on actual classroom visits. Therefore, the participants might have provided answers that in fact differed from their classroom practice. On the other hand, collecting documents (which for this case were lesson plans) as a data collection may not necessarily be a reliable account of what actually may have occurred in the classroom (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). In addition, a purposeful sample of 15 teachers from public school in the Northwest suburb of Chicago was used for the study. Therefore, the results of this study are limited to the public schools in Northwest suburb of Chicago where the study was conducted. If another researcher would conduct the same study in a different location within or outside Northwest suburb of Chicago, the findings may differ considering that the sample size is also small for the results to be generalizable to the larger Chicago early grade teacher population. Additionally, the research could only be done during the schooling session rather than during the school holidays, thus the researcher had to wait until classes were resumed to secure interviews with the participants. There were also challenges scheduling interviews with the teachers as most of them claimed to be busy with their school schedules. Collecting the lesson plans from the teachers was also a challenge for the study as the researcher had to remind them to send their lesson plans several times. This was even made more difficult by the fact that their professional emails used at their schools did not support sending emails outside the school district. Therefore, the researcher occasionally had to travel to the respective schools and pick the lesson plans from the teachers.

The research also provides insight on how to effectively implement the GR approach including the elements, underlying theories, and lesson structure. This information is helpful for teachers looking forward to integrating GR in their teaching classrooms. Acquiring such information was one of the motivations that had led the researcher to choose the current research topic. The revelations and findings obtained through the current study, has greatly advanced the researchers’ knowledge of the GR who looks forward to implementing the strategy in her teaching practice back in Saudi Arabia.

Recommendations for future research

In this study, the perspectives of early grade teachers on the use of guided reading in early grades and its effect on reading comprehension for the early graders were examined. This led to the discovery of beliefs, impacts on reading comprehension, opinions, and how various teachers implemented guided reading within early grades. While the study has great implications for early grade teachers who aim at nurturing reading comprehension in their classrooms, further investigation is needed on the long-term effects of guided reading across all grade levels including investigating whether teachers of higher levels have similar perceptions of GR.

The current study also recommends professional development, training, and mentoring as the crucial interventions that school districts and institutions should consider to overcome the challenges that limited the early grade teachers from effectively implementing GR. However, future studies should explore alternative strategies for GR and resources such as library resources and their effectiveness in facilitating effective GR implementation.

Another recommendation would be replicating the study in another region and with different schools such as high performing schools or within highly performing district schools. This is because there exists a possibility that participants in different regions could have different views of GR. In addition, conducting the study with participants from school districts that have more efficient professional development could result in identifying different beliefs from those discovered in the current study. Finally, several topics would be worth exploring as they would provide insightful information on the use of guided reading such as the relationship between teachers’ experience with GR and their ability to effectively implement GR; an experimental study that investigates the students’ outcomes when learning using GR; the effectiveness of choosing the ideal group type for the students during GR grouping activities; and a longitudinal study that could investigate how the accessibility to resources impacts the use of GR.

Conclusion

This study purposed to explore how teachers described and perceived their experiences of using guided reading in early grades to nurture reading comprehension. The study was also aimed at identifying the benefits and any underlying challenges that early grade teachers encounter when using GR in their classrooms. The research enriches the existing body of knowledge on how GR influences reading comprehension among early graders and how the teachers perceive the use of GR in their classes.

In general, the study’s findings bring attention to GR and potentially provides insight into how teachers using GR, educators, schools, and school districts could improve how guided reading is implemented to enhance reading comprehension skills among early graders besides enhancing other reading skills and academic achievements. The school districts and the school management should add more effort to ensure that their teachers are effectively implementing GR strategies capable of achieving the desired findings.

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