Reflecting on Comprehension: Historical Revolutions and the Lag of Classroom Practice
by Chase Young
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Before I began reading McLaughlin’s contribution, Reading Comprehension: An Evolution of Theory, Research, and Practice (Fresch, 2008), I knew I wanted to avoid critically analyzing the theories and research, and focus more why how each influenced practice. In light of this, I altered my reading perception of the literature before engaging. It was not long into the discourse, where I refined my purpose for reading when McLaughlin (Fresch, 2008) noted the lag between research and practice in regards to teaching reading comprehension. I wanted to determine at least one factor that may be responsible for the hindrance of practice from research.
 
The reading’s climactic revolution materialized while reading through the research and implications of the 21st century. To illustrate my climactic transaction, a little background knowledge will be presented. In the 1950’s a reaction to new comprehension research demanded a change in how we assess student reading behaviors.  A move from standardized tests into observation of reading’s complex comprehension strategies implied teachers needed to look at the process in order to determine the road to understanding the meaning of a text. I was able to identify with this, and simply agreed with its implication. Reading was to be viewed as a perceptual process. And was it? Of course, band-wagoners jumped on the conclusion (Fresch, 2008).  
 
So far, so good—we were making headway into understanding how a reader understands. Once again, I could agree with all of this, yet the question of the lag still lingered in a state of consideration. Noted later, referring to implications in the 50’s and 60’s, the newfound knowledge would take some time to filter into the classroom (Fresch, 2008). Why? Who was responsible for shouting the paradigm from the mountain tops? Did they? Why didn’t we listen? Still many of the questions that floated through my STM, and it was no small task to keep them there as I found myself easily drawn into the research and breakthroughs. Of course, much of it was already in line with my thinking, and my goal was to create new meaning as I read through the text from a different perspective. 
 
The Cognitive Revolution Decade (1970’s) prepared my mind to reach the goal of understanding the persistent resistance of practice to research. It was a relief to know that psychologists entered the newly dubbed transdisciplinary field of reading. Schema theory followed, and comprehension seemed to be taking on an added characteristic with a scientific connotation. Considering the nature of the brain, it had to be a step in the right direction. Then again, foundations for these “breakthroughs” had been built decades earlier (Fresch, 2008).
 
Later in the decade, the relationship between “prior knowledge and comprehension, metacognition, classroom discourse, and explicit teaching (Fresch, 2008, p. 90)” was conveyed where I paid particular attention to “explicit teaching.” There you have it—a need for teachers to be included in this comprehension revolution. Granted, many teachers were fully aware of the new ground-breaking information, so where was the discrepancy? 
 
The 1980’s reaffirmed many of my beliefs regarding comprehension, but failed to answer my question of which the answer I was craftily inferring towards. I was rather confident there was no link between the research and specific teaching of reading comprehension strategies in the classroom (Fresch, 2008). At this point, I had a flashback. I remember sitting in one of my first observations during my undergrad, and wondering why in the world the teacher was forcing students to draw text to self connections while she read. I disregarded it as “fluff and puff.” However, later in my schooling I was given the theoretical perspective on its place in reading instruction. Luckily for me, I had already seen it implemented. So once again, we gain theory through schooling, so why aren’t more teachers implementing the strategies? I knew the answer to my original question of research’s slow entrance to the classroom. It may not be the research’s fault. 
 
The long awaited transactive climax occurred in the final few pages of the reading. Research is accessible by all—even members of society that have no impact on teaching—but, teachers included. The cumbersome pothole in the information highway is the modeling of specific comprehension teaching methods to teachers that can be implemented in the classroom. This is done through professional development. As a teacher, I know there is no shortage of professional development available (or mandated). However, the quality of which is still in question. 

References

Fresch, M.J. (Ed.). (2008). An Essential History of Current Reading Practices. Newark: International Reading Association, Inc. 

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