Understanding teachers’ experiences in transitioning from a reading test preparation approach to a whole novel approach : a narrative case study.
Reading instruction in Texas has shifted due to pressure from high-stakes assessments that put a curricular focus on test preparation. Teachers create mini lessons in reading with passages and questions to prepare students to correctly answer The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) questions. Sacks (2013) shares, “…the mental frameworks of the testing culture become damaging when we build our practices on them” (p. 15). Test-centric literacy unintentionally teaches students the point of reading is to answer multiple-choice questions when the actual purpose of reading is “real comprehension…thinking, learning, and expanding a reader’s knowledge and horizons” (Hutchins & Zimmerman, 2003, p. 7). Test preparation focused instruction mistakenly shifts the focus to solely the best one of four answer choices. This narrative case study followed middle school reading teachers’ experiences moving from solely teaching test review passages that mimicked STAAR multiple-choice questions to implementing the Whole Novel Approach (WNA). This new instructional approach was student-centered and fostered an understanding of literature through novel studies that enhanced critical thinking (Sacks, 2013). Students engaged in literary discussions with their peers, and teachers facilitated learning instead of directing the learning. By studying this change to the WNA, I answered the primary and secondary research questions: How did reading teachers describe their experiences in a district-initiated transition from test-centric literacy instruction to the WNA? After three years of participating in the WNA, what were the most significant changes the reading teachers encountered throughout the process? The goal was to see this transition through the teachers’ eyes to understand how teachers moved through this change. I used the Emerging Change Model (ECM) as a lens to improve curricular reform. This study highlights several important considerations administrators can make to improve the process of curricular change for teachers that facilitates lasting improvements. Two key findings were to introduce the curricular change the previous year so teachers had time to practice the approach and to utilize the time for teachers to take part in reflective dialogue with administrators so the team could create solutions before the full implementation.