Sunday, January 3, 2010

BEST Practices: Rethinking Reading Motivation

Motivating students to read is ALWAYS a tough challenge, and Dr. Ray Reutzel addressed this challenge at the UCIRA November conference. To review what we know about the research, click HERE to study his summary of research findings concerning motivation in general.

Recently, I also introduced you to Dr. Ray Reutzel's research concerning the effectiveness - or lack thereof - of Sustained Silent Reading as it is REGULARLY practiced in most classrooms: students choose books; students read books or pretend to do so; teachers read books for 15 to 30 minutes. Dr. Reutzel's research resulted in recommending that teachers "scaffold" sustained silent reading in order to monitor students' progress.

Today, I want to introduce you to another of Dr. Reutzel's studies that examines specific motivational "paths" teachers use to motivate students to read. Among the most popular are tracking the number of minutes, pages, books, AR points, etc. After completing the prescribed requirements, students are usually rewarded with prizes ranging from pizza to an assembly where the principal has is head shaved.

Again, Dr. Reutzel conducted the research in elementary classrooms, but the results and recommendations are of interest to secondary teachers as many offer various extrinsic rewards to students who reach reading goals. In the past, research in this area focused upon the rewards rather than upon the paths leading to those rewards, Dr. Reutzel decided to examine the 4: number of BOOKS or PAGES, or MINUTES or GENRES read.

As you examine the details of his study, note the effect size of the results, the limitations of the study, AND the benefits of the different paths. The following is a list of questions about both sets of slides. Can you predict the answers to these questions?
  • What can teachers do to help motivate the UNmotivated?
  • What, if any, are the most motivating rewards for reaching reading goals?
  • Which path had the largest effect size in improving Gates-MacGinitie Reading scores? Pages? Minutes? Books? Genres?
  • Which path had the largest effect size in improving attitudes towards recreational reading? Pages? Minutes? Books? Genres?
  • Which path had the largest effect size in improving attitudes towards academic reading? Pages? Minutes? Books? Genres?
  • What path offers the broadest benefits for supporting readers?
  • What do you think were the limitations of this study?
(Click HERE to review the "Differing the Paths" study.)

Accumulation of Accelerated Reader points was not researched, but there are some studies that look at this program. Finding research that is not an INhouse study is important in determining the effectiveness of AR. Concerns that any incentive program contributes to the "Matthew Effect" - good readers get better and poor readers get worse - is a the strongest complaint.

Before I sign off, I have to tell you about South Jordan Middle School's WILDLY SUCCESSFUL incentive program implemented during first semester. Each student who reached their Accelerated Reader goals, earned a RUBBER DUCKY and had their picture taken with their little buddies. Kids LOVED the program! BUT rubber duckies cost money, and so the program is not being continued.

While incentive programs may motivate students to read more over the short term, the lasting effects are minimal. My final question to you is this: How can we promote reading, instill a respect, if not a love, for reading WITHOUT counting pages, points, books, or minutes and WITHOUT dangling donuts, pizzas, or candy bars in front of our young readers and non-readers?

Till tomorrow,

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