Teacher Efficacy and Content Literacy Strategies: Implications
for Professional Development
Jacob Bogar and Hattie DeRaps
University of Maine at Farmington
Mt. Blue High School is located in the western part of Maine. It is a regional high school and serves about 850 students from nine of the towns that surround the town of Farmington. There are about seventy teachers who comprise the faculty of this school.
This past school year, Mt. Blue did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the second time in a row. There were a number of factors that played into this result. Though some of these factors may be out of the control of classroom teachers, school administration has identified a need for increased professional development where reading instruction is concerned. More specifically, the administration team has decided to focus our staff on a common core of literacy strategies centered around increasing our students’ success on non-fiction reading tasks because our students performed poorly on this particular section of the SAT’s and the NWEA’s. As a result of this focus, Mt. Blue High School has now embarked upon a three-year school wide literacy initiative.
For the first year of this initiative, content area teachers from the math, science, English, social studies, and special education departments were selected to receive intensive professional development. These representatives would attend full-day workshops, be observed by a literacy specialist, share their learning with their content area colleagues, and model universal strategies for the entire faculty. The expectation from our administrative team is that this model will continue on for an additional two years and that teachers who receive professional development in the first and second years of this process will mentor those who follow. We are currently in the first few months of this initiative, so it remains to be seen exactly how this initiative will affect our faculty and our students.
Even though the Mt. Blue High School staff is experienced and dedicated to its students, there are some teachers who may be unconvinced that this intensive focus on literacy will be a valuable use of time for professional development and for increasing our students’ performance in reference to meeting the expectations of AYP. The purpose of this literature review is to demonstrate that there is evidence that extensive professional development in literacy strategies at the high school level can help teachers to feel more efficacious on an individual and group level and that it can lead to increases in student achievement.
Synthesis of Literature on Teacher Efficacy
Though there are several existing definitions of the words “teacher efficacy” as it relates to teaching and professional development, the operational definition of teacher efficacy guiding this review is derived from Susan Chambers Cantrell’s work on this subject. Cantrell defines teacher efficacy as a type of self-efficacy in that teachers are strongly affected by their beliefs about their potential to impact student learning, and that those beliefs are directly related to their effort and persistence with students (2004). This definition shows that teachers have beliefs about their individual abilities when it comes to instruction and that their efforts in helping students to achieve may be enhanced or hindered because of their own feelings of elevated or deflated efficacy.
If an instructor has heightened feelings of self-efficacy, she or he will be more likely to try new teaching strategies and be more willing to improve upon existing practices. These are the teachers who have experienced success with prior tasks and expect to be successful in the future (Cantrell & Hughes, 2008). On the other hand, , groups with low levels of collective efficacy are less likely to put forth the effort to positively affect student achievement and they are more likely to give up on frustrating tasks (Cantrell & Callaway, 2008).
Because research suggests that student achievement in schools is strongly related to a perceived sense of collective efficacy, it is important to work to enhance the efficaciousness of the entire faculty rather than a small cohort of teachers (Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy, 2004). Simply put, this means that groups of people work better together when they feel that the group will be able to accomplish its goals. The beneficial results of this collective efficacy are twofold: individual teachers feel better about their potential to impact student achievement and student achievement improves.
Synthesis of Literature on Content Area Strategic Reading Strategy Implementation
Reading is a complex cognitive activity that is critical to student success in high school and to adequately function in society (Alfassi, 2004). The integration of literacy strategies in content areas outside of English has not been a focus at Mount Blue High School. One of the goals of the current multi-year literacy initiative is to imbed literacy strategies into all content areas. Outside of stand-alone academic literacy courses for freshman (Greenleaf & Mueller, 2003) and instruction to promote strategic reading in a language arts class (Alfassi, 2004), a review of the literature has found only one study examining literacy strategy implementation in secondary content areas. Multiple studies were found at the college level (Caverly, Nicholson, & Radcliffe, 2004) and the middle school level (Radcliffe, Caverly & Peterson, 2004) and (Radcliffe, Caverly, Hand & Franke, 2008). These college and middle school studies focused on the implementation of the of the PLAN study-reading strategy.
The PLAN study-reading strategy has four parts; predict, locate, add and note. In the first step, a student predicts the content and structure of the text by outlining or concept mapping and assesses the text for a particular task or purpose. Next, known and unknown material on the outline or map is located. Then, short phrases or words are added to explain unknown material and extend known concepts. Finally, new understanding is noted and used to complete the initial task or purpose.
Caverly et al. (2004) used textbook chapters from other courses in which students were enrolled as independent practice in a stand alone strategic reading course for weak developmental college readers. The use of authentic instructional materials, such as chapters of text and articles from concurrent and future courses, resulted in significant improvements on cognitive and metacognitive measures and the transfer of strategic reading skills to a future reading-intensive history course.
Radcliff et al. (2004) conducted a causal-comparative study of the effectiveness of using the PLAN study-reading strategy in two middle school science classes for three months. Although no significant difference in student gain on comprehension tests there were gains in student comprehension reflected by concept maps they created from their textbooks. Four years later,
Radcliff et al. (2008) conducted a quasi-experimental study to measure the effectiveness of the PLAN study-reading strategy for content area reading in a sixth grade science classroom. Fifty students, in two classes, taught by the same teacher participated in the study. One class was the control group and the other was the treatment group. Scores from the annual Gates-MacGinitie
Reading tests were examined to determine there was no significant difference in the two classes before the study began. Then, multiple pre- and post-science comprehension tests were administered to determine how the treatment group using the PLAN study-reading strategy compared to the control group. Although this was a study of only one sixth grade classroom outside of Austin, Texas, there was a statically significant improvement in the treatment group’s comprehension post-test scores. The teacher’s sense of efficacy also improved during the course of the study as evidenced by surveys and interviews. This, second, more rigorous study demonstrated that literacy strategies may benefit teacher efficacy and student achievement.
Greenleaf & Muller (2003) moved beyond the implementation of a particular strategy and studied the introduction of a new Academic Literacy course that taught eight specific literacy strategies. The study combined quantitative and qualitative measures in evaluating the ninth grade academic literacy course focused on improving student’s reading fluency, engagement and competency. Spring and fall Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) reading scores and reading proficiency scores from the Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) test were the quantitative measures. A number of qualitative measures included pre- and post-course reading surveys, student written reflections and course evaluations, focus group interviews, classroom observations, samples of student course work, and case studies of a 8 of the 30 students. The DRP tests showed a significant gain of four score points from fall to spring. The survey results showed students doubled the number of books that they read compared to the previous year and their heightened awareness of reading as a sense making activity.
Such a stand-alone course, early in a high school career, could be a very effective at improving student’s achievement in other content areas if all teachers at the school worked with their students to use the same strategies in all classes with their classes instructional materials as done by Caverly, Nicholson and Radcliffe (2004) at the college level. The multi-year school-wide literacy initiative may support the faculty’s growth in this direction. Additionally, it will also be important to ensure all students’ benefit from the extensive time and effort required (Radcliffe, Caverly, Hand & Franke, 2004) to implement strategic reading in content area courses. Building from middle school and college studies of content area strategic reading instruction and the stand-alone freshman literacy courses, there is an opportunity to contribute to the gap in the secondary level literature on the effectiveness of content area strategic reading instruction.
Evaluation of the Literature
Most of the studies surrounding the issues of self-efficacy, collective efficacy, and content-area strategies employ aspects of qualitative and quantitative data collection. Qualitative data collection methods include: surveys, interviews, observations, focus groups, sample student and teacher materials, videotape, pre and post surveys, journals, reflections, and course evaluations. One unusual method was an in-depth case study of a number of students from the sample population who were videotaped multiple times in the year. Quantitative data were collected through local, state, and national standardized test scores, specialized reading assessments, comprehension tests, an unusual method was described in one study where students used a reading checklist to assess their own reading/ study strategies. The breadth of methods employed offered several feasible avenues for our own research.
Researchers admit that there is a huge gap in studies concerning literacy and teacher efficacy around professional development in literacy where secondary teachers are concerned (Cantrell & Hughes, 2008). Most studies focus on elementary and middle schools and relatively few studies venture into high schools past the ninth grade year. There is, however, an abundance of literature related to literacy strategies and professional development at the elementary level.
Another connection that has not been clearly established in the literature is the link between increased professional development in literacy strategies for content area teachers and increased student achievement on the assessments used in our school district (i.e., the SAT’s and the NWEA test series). The apparent lack of research into the connection between these testing tools and content area literacy strategies will have to be investigated further.
The background information and the results of the studies found in this literature review indicate that our school administrators have chosen a professional development program this is correct in its timeliness, length, grouping of teachers, selection of participants, and in the hiring of a literacy consultant. It is exciting to think that we have an initiative in our school that offers such promising results for the professional development of teachers and the increased academic success of students. It will be fascinating to follow this three-year process to see the effects of this program on our school.
Like several of the studies we reviewed, our own research will need to include a variety of methods of collecting data of the course of this professional development initiative. Luckily, we have the ability to retrieve qualitative data through surveys, interviews, and observations of teachers who are participating in this process as well as quantitative data in the form of standardized NWEA, PSAT, and SAT test scores. In addition to having access to yearly PSAT and SAT results, we can administer NWEA tests up to four times per year per student and find out their results almost instantly.
Another plus to this study is that our administration has made a huge commitment to this process. Therefore, we expect that they will support our interest in gathering data and that they will be invested in learning the results of this study. It seems as though all of the elements for a research project are in place: funding, administrative support, interested faculty, responsive students, and tons of avenues for data collection. It will be interesting to see where and how the results of our study affirm or conflict with those we found in the literature review.
A deficit in high school students’ ability to read non-fiction text was identified by the MSAD 9 district and secondary school administration based on standardized test performance. This deficit has contributed to Mt. Blue High school not meeting the AYP standard for reading during the past two years.
The purpose of this research project is to longitudinally examine the efficacy of a secondary school literacy initiative from a teacher and student perspective.
The research will answer two questions. First, how will the school-wide literacy initiative impact individual and collective teacher efficacy where content literacy strategies are concerned? This can be measured by pre and post surveys and through teacher interviews. Secondly, what is the impact of the literacy initiative on students’ reading performance? Student performance will be measured cognitively through the use of the NWEA and SAT reading scores, metacognitively through the use of a reading checklist, and affectively through student surveys.
The research population is approximately 850 students and 70 teachers in a rural, western Maine regional secondary school in the MSAD 9 school district. The school district student population is 97% White, 1% Asian/Pacific Islander and less than one percent of the students are Black, Hispanic and Native American. Nearly one half of the student population, 45%, is eligible for free and reduced lunch. Three of the 2,503 students are English language learners (ELL) and 15% have Individual Education Plans (IEPs) (NCES, 2005). The racial diversity in the SAD 9 district is small and less diverse than the State of Maine (95% White, 2% Black, <1% n="70)" n="10" n="425)" n="212)" n="635)" n="100)" style="font-weight: bold;">References
Alfassi, M. (2004). Reading to learn: Effects of combined strategy instruction on high school students. Journal of Educational Research, 97(4).
Problem: Mainstream high school students have serious deficits in higher order cognitive skills necessary for comprehension, yet few studies focus on secondary students and almost no studies relate to high school learners identified as proficient.
Purpose: There were two documented studies. The purpose of these studies is to determine the effectiveness of a combined strategy instruction of reciprocal teaching and direct explanation into the school curricula to promote strategic reading while fostering student’s ability to perform reading comprehension tasks that require high level of knowledge construction. In the first study the efficacy and feasibility of a combined strategy instruction embedded within the regular curriculum and delivered by teachers was examined. In the second study differential effects of the combined strategy instruction on the ability of students to answer different types of questions (implicit and explicit) was examined.
Study 1) What was the educational benefits of incorporating combined strategy instruction (reciprocal teaching and direct explanation) designed to promote strategic reading comprehension into an existing high school language arts class?
Study 2) Did a school-wide combined strategy instruction have a differential effect on the ability of students to answer higher level knowledge integration questions versus lower level knowledge restatement questions?
Barkley, J.M. (2008, Winter). Reading education: Is self-efficacy important? Reading Improvement, 43(4), 194-210.
This quantitative and qualitative study used two surveys (for teachers and students) measured both efficacy beliefs and outcome expectancies as they pertain to strategies and practices that are research-proven to enable reading comprehension (prior knowledge, cooperative learning, self-monitoring, and graphic organizers). Each survey contained 40 questions, each question on teacher survey was reworded to work for student survey. The researchers in this study also looked at correspondence between surveys and SAT-10 scores.
Participants in this study were from a suburban E. Alabama middle school where 65% of students receive free and reduced lunch. There are 42 regular education teachers employed at the school and there are 400 students grades 6-8 who attend this school.
Found that efficacy beliefs are best measured in degrees from high to low. Also found that it is possible to create an environment in which individuals’ efficacy beliefs may be changed from low to high and their outcome expectancies may be changed in the same way. Significant correlations were found between student efficacy beliefs and reading comprehension achievement.
Cantrell, S.C. & Callaway, P. (2008). High and low implementers of content literacy instruction: Portraits of teacher efficacy. Teaching & Teacher Education, 24(7), 1739-50.
This qualitative and quantitative study used interviews as a primary tool in their research. They interviewed 16 teachers twice (teachers from classrooms grades 6-9). Teachers involved were judged (by inter-rater observers) to be either high implementers, moderate implementers, or low implementers of literacy strategies in the classroom.
Both groups (high and low implementers) agreed that student motivation and attitudes were critical influences on student learning. Nearly all respondents reported new learning as a result of the literacy coaching they received and generally conveyed positive perceptions about the project. For content teachers to successfully integrate literacy into the content areas, issues of teacher efficacy need to be addressed (this can be developed through extended professional development). Thy found that even low implementers grew over the course of the extended professional development.
Cantrell, S.C. & Hughes, H.K. (2008). Teacher efficacy and content literacy implementation:An exploration of the effects of extended professional development with coaching. Journal of Educational Research, 40, 95-127.
Used both quantitative and qualitative methods to measure personal efficacy, general teaching efficacy, and collective efficacy after extensive professional development in literacy implementation strategies.
Participants included 22 6th-9th grade teachers from 8 schools across small southeastern state who participated in a literacy professional development program; teachers had a median 5 years of teaching experience.
Found that teachers who demonstrated higher efficacy prior to participating in professional development were more likely to implement content literacy practices and that while teacher efficacy may increase student achievement, improved student achievement is likely to increase teachers’ efficacy. Also found that engaging teams of teachers in collaborative work over the course of the school year strengthened teachers’ sense that their faculties could influence students’ literacy achievement. Additionally, this study showed that as personal efficacy rates rose from spring to fall, so did collective efficacy rates. Teachers increased literacy strategies significantly from fall to spring.
Primary barriers to teachers’ feelings of efficacy were time to develop skills, time to implement strategies, and time to collaborate with colleagues.
Limitations: Small group of sample size. Frequency and duration of observations could’ve been upped. There was some bias because not all teachers were able to attend final meeting where interviews were held as it was after the school year had ended.
Caverly, D. C., Nicholson, S. A., & Radcliffe, R. (2004). The effectiveness of strategic reading instruction for college developmental readers. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 35(1), 25-49.
Problem: Students ability to engage in strategic reading is essential to their success in college, but there are negative correlations between reading remediation for developmental college readers and college graduation.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to systematically study the effectiveness of strategic reading taught to weaker developmental readers in a stand alone course as measured by cognitive, metacognitive and affective instruments and examine the transfer of the strategic reading strategies in future reading-intensive courses.
Questions: 1) Does strategic reading instruction in a stand alone course contribute to reading performance among developmental college readers as measured by their (a) comprehension on a college reading task, (b) performance on a standardized reading test, (c) report of metacognitive awareness of strategies they choose to employ, (d) report of self-efficacy in reading, and (e) report of beliefs in strategic reading during the semester following instruction?
2) When compared to a control group, does this strategic reading performance for developmental college readers transfer beyond one semester as measured by their (a) performance on a standardized reading test and (b) grades in a reading-intensive college course?
Frey, N. (2006). Frey, N. (2006). “We can’t afford to rest on our laurels”: Creating a district-wide content literacy instructional plan. NASSP Bulletin, 90(1), 37-48.
In this study, a leadership team was formed to include 15 teachers from various content backgrounds. The team was charged with identifying content literacy instructional strategies that would be implemented district-wide. They settled on: Note taking, read alouds, questioning, vocabulary, and graphic organizers. After the strategies were identified, a multi-year implementation program was designed.
During year 1: 63 teachers, 5 days full professional development, participating teaches shared at department meetings to content peers. At end of second year, 25% of district teachers would have had professional development. The original group was invited to paid after school sessions (2 hours ea.) to meet with year 2 cohort. During the final year, just below 70% of teachers participating, district started to evaluate the plan formally- Gives time for teachers and students to become more comfortable with the process
The researchers of this study found that SSR increased, students are read more (anecdotal) and that all five schools met reading targets during the 3 years. Schools met AYP for last two years of study. Found that consistency among teachers mattered because students learn systems.
Limitations: Population is not similar to MSAD #9: 10% of district receives free and reduced lunch, diverse population, increasing enrollment, suburban, California.
Goddard, R.D., Hoy, W.K., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2004). Collective efficacy beliefs: Theoretical developments, empirical evidence, and future directions. Educational Researcher, 33(3), 3-13.
This article was not a research study but a literature review. It was helpful in defining several key terms. Though it was not empirical research in this regard, the authors of the study are ones that have published research on this topic. They will be good to keep in mind as future sources of information.
Greenleaf, C. L. & Mueller, F. L. (2003). Impact of the pilot academic literacy course on ninth grade students' reading development: academic year 1996-1997. A report to the Stuart Foundations.
Problem: Students must continue to develop as readers to meet demands of higher-level literacy at college and professional levels.
Purpose: To examine the impact of a yearlong Academic literacy course on student engagement, competency and fluency as readers.
Question: What is the impact of a stand-alone academic literacy course on student learning as measured by two standardized tests (DRP and CTBS) and multiple qualitative measures?
NCES, (2005). National center for educational statistics. Retrieved July 22, 2008, from MSAD 9 Common core data Web site: http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/districtsearch/district_detail.asp?Search=2&DistrictID=2311880&ID2=2311880&details=1
Demographics of the SAD 9 district.
Radcliffe, R., Caverly, D., Hand, J., & Franke, D. (2008). Improving reading in a middle school science classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 51(5), 398-408.
Problem:Despite evidence of the effectiveness of strategic reading strategies, a number of studies have reported that few teachers use them in the classroom.
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of introducing the PLAN study-reading strategy into a middle school science classroom.
1) How does one middle school science teacher change her instruction over a
school semester as she is mentored in teaching with the PLAN strategy?
2) Is PLAN effective in helping middle school students learn science?
3) How do students perceive their use of the strategy?
4) How do the teacher’s perceptions about her confidence and competence in her ability to teach a reading strategy in science class change as PLAN is implemented?
Radcliffe, R., Caverly, D., Peterson, C., & Emmons, M. (2004). Improving textbook reading in a middle school science classroom. Reading Improvement, 41(3).
Problem: Ineffective approaches for teaching with print may prevent textbook reading from being a useful learning resource in middle school.
Purpose: The purpose of this research was to examine the effects of introducing the PLAN study-reading strategy into two middle school science classrooms.
Questions: 1) How would a middle school science teacher change his instruction over a school year as he was mentored in teaching with the PLAN strategy?
2) Were the teacher's students able to learn using the PLAN strategy?
3) How did students perceive the PLAN strategy?
Thibodeau, G.M. (2008). A content literacy collaborative study group: High school teachers take charge of their professional learning. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(1), 54-64.
The participants in this qualitative, longitudinal study included 8 high school teachers from Connecticut. Their experience ranged from 4-35 years. Various contents areas were represented. The goal of this project was for the teachers to work collaboratively for a year in the belief that the experience would improve their own efficacy and their students’ achievement. The group investigated materials and methods for the integration of literacy instruction and content instruction.
Method: Beliefs survey about the value of content literacy instruction, developed list strategies that teachers already use in classrooms, and each teacher was interviewed privately to clarify surveys. Surveys and interviews were repeated after instruction (yearlong).
Students also responded to surveys in September and April. Ninety-eight students responded, grades 9 through 12. Surveys covered knowledge of and independent use of content literacy strategies. Teachers also used two common professional development texts to inform teaching and discussion. Teachers kept journals. Teachers kept record of the strategies they implemented in the classroom and kept samples from students.
The results of this study were that instructional changes led to less teacher-directed learning and more student-entered practices in many of the classrooms. Student scores on open-ended questions increased an average of 16.2%. Students were effectively using a variety of independent strategies including: summarizing, drawing conclusions, classifying and organizing, and supporting inferences.
The ongoing collaboration allowed for the repetition of key concepts, timely feedback for concerns and experiences, and the opportunity to integrate new learning and practices in small increments. Team learning was transferred to others in the school, a first step in influencing the culture of the school and in raising the capacity of the entire organization to improve. The participants of the study felt that the interdisciplinary nature of the group contributed to its effectiveness.
Limitations: Small group, the group volunteered to be part of the process.