Leading from the Classroom: The Effect of Collaboration on Improving Content Area Literacy Instruction

Kari L Wilson


When teachers at a large, comprehensive high school discovered discrepancies between students’ reading test scores and their ability to use informational texts in the classroom, they embarked on a year-long collaborative action research project to learn how to use content specific literacy strategies in their classrooms. This study examined how collaboration impacted teachers’ attitudes, knowledge, and practices in terms of content area literacy. Seven teachers from diverse disciplines met monthly to learn new strategies and share their successes and frustrations as they experimented with how to help their students comprehend content-area texts. Data sources included meeting notes, artifacts such as lessons and student work, and teacher questionnaires and surveys.  Findings of this study suggest that all seven teachers demonstrated greater understanding of the need to tailor literacy instruction to specific disciplines and had experimented with multiple strategies. The collaborative, interdisciplinary nature of the team’s work supported teacher learning and willingness to take risks, while the greatest obstacles appeared to be time and the pressures of covering required curricula. By the end of the study, teachers still viewed literacy instruction as an “add-on” rather than as a fully integrated part of their curriculum.

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