Centrifugal and centripetal forces in the discourse of early years reading instruction
Hunt, Christopher George
This thesis reports on a research project investigating how a sample of eight teachers of P2 children in Scotland encouraged dialogic interaction in their reading groups while following prescriptive policy. The research is based on a detailed analysis of the discourse of reading sessions conducted by the eight teachers, and is informed by previous research on oral language development, the role of dialogue in children’s learning, and the relationships between reading development and classroom discussion. The project uses mixed methods, applied to a framework derived from exchange structure research. Patterns of interaction have been examined quantitatively and qualitatively, with a particular focus on learners’ initiations, the making of text-life links by learners and teachers, and the extent to which these are integrated into the reading experience by the teachers’ use of contingent responses. The discourse analysis section of the findings is preceded by a preliminary examination of the teachers’ beliefs about classroom talk, and is followed by discussion of their views on the usefulness and adaptability of the research process itself as a means for enabling them to make their reading sessions more interactive. The project finds that the interactivity of the reading sessions is shaped by the teachers’ moment-by-moment decision-making about the control of centrifugal and centripetal forces in discourse; in particular, how far to allow children’s personal responses to the text to deflect group attention from the central goals of skill development and text coverage laid down by reading policy. The teachers reported their own experiences of teaching reading as being characterised by a tension between encouraging children’s personal engagement with, and responses to, reading material, and fulfilling the demands of a prescriptive curriculum within severe time constraints.
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