Reading to learn in the content areas
Inyega, Hellen Nasimiyuh
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The purpose of this qualitative case study research was to investigate reading to learn with specific focus on Elimu teachers college in Kenya. The significance of this study lies in the fact that reading to learn is paramount to content knowledge acquisition in education and educational programs can be designed to equip students with reading to learn skills and strategies. The participants of the study were 100 students preparing to be teachers of mathematics and science and 16 lecturers, including six (from Biology, English and Communications Skills, Mathematics and Physics departments) who volunteered to be interviewed and observed in class teaching. Data collection methods included interviews, observations and survey questionnaires. Inductive data analysis methods (Glazer and Strauss, 1967) were used to analyze these data. Using a descriptive writing format, the following findings, written in thematic forms, emerged from the data. In general, findings indicate that comprehension and reading to learn at Elimu college was seen as a means to an end - academic achievement. Specifically, English and Communication Skills lecturers prepare pre-service teachers for comprehension and reading to learn in the content areas by focusing on five sub-processing skills of comprehension as well as sharpening students’ oral and written communication skills. Secondly, lecturers in the content areas of mathematics and science were not conscious of their efforts to include literacy instruction in their content area instruction. However, data from interviews and observations of teaching show that lecturers of mathematics and science did use some strategies to promote students’ general and text comprehension. Thirdly, almost three-fourths of students perceived themselves as able to read texts of all kinds and those from their content areas. This leaves about one-quarter who think they are not as able as they want or need to be. Fourthly, while students rated themselves highly, perspectives from some lecturers indicate that many students’ readership was poor due to several factors including poor study skills and lack of time to read outside curricula dictates and demands. Finally, all student participants agreed that it is important to teach their future students reading to learn in the content areas and suggested ways they would go about doing so. Findings from this study have implications for future efforts in mathematics and science teacher preparation; professional development of teacher educators; government policy and curriculum development; and for all stakeholders involved and/or interested in reading education in Kenya. Recommendations for further research provided suggest that this journey ends where all journeys end - at another beginning.