How Three Middle School Reading Teachers Engender Interest in Reading

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Teachers are generally aware of the link between reading skills and academic achievement. They also recognize the connection between motivation and the learning of reading skills. What escapes many teachers, however, is knowing how to generate motivation for reading. The purpose of this qualitative multi-case study was to produce rich descriptions of expert reading instruction at the secondary level that could serve as models for literacy teachers wishing to improve their motivational skills.

The researcher's focus was on the motivational construct of interest as she sought to answer three questions: (a) How do three expert middle school reading teachers generate and sustain interest in reading? (b) What are these teachers' beliefs about the role of interest in motivating students to read? (c) What perceptions do these teachers have about the instructional discourses and practices that foster students' interest in reading?

The bounded system for this study was a set of three middle school teachers who taught the same subject to approximately the same age students, and who had acquired sufficient expertise to have earned the reputation of "expert teachers" from the principals and supervisors who recommended them as participants.

The researcher was an observer in the teachers' classrooms for two months at the end of the school year and two days the following September.  All literacy instruction was video taped and teacher interviews were audio taped.  Other data sources included field notes, research journal, instructional materials, and classroom displays.

The theme, interest as a worthy goal in itself, emerged from data analysis.  It describes the teachers' belief that interest is a conduit to life-long learning and it explains their persistent focus on developing personal interest rather than situational interest.  Data analysis also revealed the construct, "front-loading," which describes the participants' belief that in order to engender personal interest, teachers must first do the following: (a) establish a safe classroom environment; (b) build connections from the curriculum to students' lives; and (c) provide instructional scaffolding.

Future research should assess teachers' knowledge and cultural awareness about their students and how this affects their ability to engender student interest.