In a recent post, Ross Cooper reflected on his journey in regards to reading comprehension. He shared the phases that he has gone through and the texts that have supported these changes. At the end of the post, he posed the challenge to share your own journey. So here is my attempt to represent my somewhat fractured journey that I have followed:
Honours and Post-Structuralism: If my journey is to have a beginning, it is in my Honours year at University. I started out writing about the historical connections between Virginia Woolf and psychoanalysis, but ended up down a rabbit hole exploring what it means when we talk about psychoanalysis. Building on the ideas of Stanley Fish and J. Hillis Miller, I explored the influence of personal and collective context associated with interpretation. I am not sure how many ‘strategies’ I take from this time, but it did leave me with a deep appreciation for the subjective nature of reading and perspective.
CAFE Menu and Comprehension Strategies: I spent my formative years facilitating the teaching of novels, films and media texts by providing students with long lists of questions. I would work for hours scrolling over texts to come up with the best questions. This changed when Di Snowball was hired by the region to improve literacy results. A part of this change was the explicit teaching of comprehension strategies via the work of Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels, as well as the introduction of the CAFE Menu to support reading conferences.
Reading Textbooks: Along with the introduction of various strategies, one text that had a considerable impact was The Comprehension Toolkit. The particular book that stood out was the one on reading textbooks. What was significant about it was the change in how I saw textbooks. Rather than depending on predefined tasks and questions, I started using chapters as provocations for student-led questioning and inquiry. The book provided a range of simple strategies to support this process.
Digital Literacies: The integrated approach of incorporating instruction and use of comprehension strategies into every subject within a secondary setting helped develop the capacity in a more consistent manner. The problem that I found was that strategies and supports were primarily focused on the printed text. This bias become obvious when I started teaching ICT and Digital Publishing. Spaces such as the Ultranet, Edmodo, Google Apps (G Suite) and other social media forms provided different ways of working and demonstrating understanding. For example, one of my initial questions when starting out on Twitter was how this could be used to share key ideas and quotes. The reality is that digital learning technologies allows a level of social interaction and sharing that just is not possible in person. The text that brought this all this to the fore was Doug Belshaw’s The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, in which he identified eight elements which work together to inform our (digital) literacy practice.
Disciplined Collaboration: Another change which had a considerable impact on my teaching of comprehension was Disciplined Collaboration. The basic premise behind Disciplined Collaboration is a cycle involving the identification of a problem, initiating some form of intervention and then measure the impact of the various actions. For some this is no different to a PLC. However, Alma Harris states that where it is different is that it is disciplined. In regards to comprehension, this is a more responsive approach. It provides a means of developing of specific response to the problem at hand.
Visible Thinking: The latest step in my comprehension journey was reading Making Thinking Visible. Building on the learning started in regards to making sense of textbooks, this book simply focuses on making sense. Unlike the comprehension strategies, the thinking protocols provide the means for developing understanding. I think that it is only now that I have truly linked my theoretical thoughts captured within my Honours work, as well as my actual practice.
So there is my journey, what about you? What have been your influences in regards to your understanding of comprehension? As always, comments welcome.
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