Reading Intervention Models: Challenges of Classroom Support and Separated Instruction
The study on reading intervention models (Woodward & Talbert-Johnson, 2009), particularly focusing on classroom support and separated instruction, considered the advantages and disadvantages of the two reading interventions based on the perspective of reading specialists and teachers. The study was done in the context of the persisting reading problem for some groups of students and the need to respond to variances in the reading capabilities of students. Various reading interventions fall under classroom support and separated instruction or a combination of both types of intervention. Classroom support involves the reading specialist inside the classroom and the intervention done also inside the classroom setting. Separated instruction requires students to leave the classroom for a session with a reading specialist.
The investigation gathered data from a suburban district in a state in the Midwest with enrollees in the K-12 reaching 10,000 students. The schools in the district implemented reading intervention programs. The participants were reading specialists and teachers with sufficient experience to provide insight into the use of reading interventions in the classroom. Out of the 47 respondents, 12 were reading specialists and 35 were teachers. The respondents were asked to respond to a semi-structured questionnaire. (Woodward & Talbert-Johnson, 2009)
The results showed that majority of reading specialists and classroom teachers support combined or mixed reading interventions. There was agreement over the insufficiency of the 30-minute reading interventions commonly implemented in the schools and the benefits of collaborative reading intervention. The results also presented the advantages and disadvantages of classroom support and separated instruction. (Woodward & Talbert-Johnson, 2009)
The advantages of separated instruction, as agreed upon by teachers and reading specialists, include 1) lack of distraction, 2) quiet environment, 3) individualized intervention, and 4) more active participation by students. The thrust of separated instruction is focus on the needs of individual students and addressing these needs through the appropriate intervention in an environment that prevents distractions and ensures high degrees of student participation.
However, there are also disadvantages of separated instruction. Teachers and reading specialists agreed on the following downsides, which are 1) communication limitations or collaborative problems between teachers and reading specialists, 2) time limitations in delivering separate interventions, 3) scheduling problems for whole-group instruction and separate reading intervention, and 4) stigma, limited socialization, and other negative social effects on students receiving separate reading intervention. Additionally, classroom teachers also identified the problem of students not having sufficient time to meet assignments and other classroom work because of separate intervention; while reading specialists identified the problem on student transition from classroom instruction to separate reading intervention and vice versa as well as the provision of benefit to only a limited number of students.
The advantages of in-class intervention commonly identified by teachers and reading specialists are 1) uninterrupted socialization in the classroom when students remain in the classroom during the reading intervention, 2) better communication and collaborative instruction with teachers and reading specialists sharing information and working together inside the classroom, and 3) benefit is received by more students. Teachers also identified the benefits of mixing students with different ability groups such as advanced readers helping other students. Reading specialists focused on the advantage of their greater participation in the classroom to support the collection of information needed to understand needs and deliver better interventions.
Similar to separated instruction, there are also disadvantages of in-class intervention. These are 1) more distractions in the classroom, 2) problems with space in big classes, and 3) limited time to provide small-group and whole-class instruction. Teachers also focused on the issue of addressing level-based needs given limited time. Reading specialists identified the problem of possible differences between the teaching styles or methods of classroom teachers and reading specialists.
The study found no conclusive data on which is the better intervention. Both separated instruction and in-class intervention have advantages and disadvantages. The appropriate intervention depends on the student, teaching or instruction, and school context. Nevertheless, the study highlighted the importance of combining separated instruction and in-class intervention to address student needs better (Woodward & Talbert-Johnson, 2009).
There is merit to the advocacy of the study on combining separated instruction and in-class intervention. One reason is the achievement of flexibility in developing and delivering reading interventions to students. The types of interventions combined and the manner of combining interventions depends on the specific reading needs of students as determined by teachers and reading specialists. Flexibility ensures better responsiveness to student needs. Another reason is the discretion granted to teachers and reading specialists. The study mentioned the importance of standards or policies together with discretion in implementation (Woodward & Talbert-Johnson, 2009) because different classroom and student settings require different implementation requirements. Moreover, teachers and reading specialists who directly work with students have the best knowledge of the specific needs of students and how best to address these needs. Another reason is the greater room for collaborative instruction and intervention in a combined strategy. Teachers and reading specialists interact depending on the level of collaboration needed to ensure a unified approach to reading intervention and continuous delivery of effective reading intervention according to students’ needs.
Woodward, M. M., & Talbert-Johnson, C. (2009). Reading intervention models: Challenges of classroom support and separated instruction. The Reading Teacher, 63(3), 190-200.