Educational Leadership‘s March 2012 article, “Making Textbook Reading Meaningful” poses the problem that learning from informational texts is so essential to success in middle school yet students find them boring and 80% are either too advanced or not advanced enough for a given text. Five practices were found and confirmed successful by researchers at the University of Maryland. The techniques used to increase student motivation to read textbooks seem reasonable, prepared and researched but the article ignores a major discussion. Although I was interested in the article and I think that it is a productive line of inquiry, my first thought based on the premise was on the role of textbooks in a technologically advanced society. While reading through the article I anticipated reading the author’s thoughts on this idea but I was disappointed and confused at its disregard.
I do not foresee any reader disagreeing with any of the five practices. It seems reasonable that 1) developing dedication, 2) building self efficacy, 3) showing students the text’s value, 4) using social motivation and 5) giving students choices would all increase student motivation to read texts. The article delves slightly deeper into each point with explanations of how to develop each practice with 2 or 3 methods per practice. For example, educators can develop dedication by teaching in-depth units of study and by using multiple complex texts with which they will naturally compare and contrast readings.
Although a discussion is included for each practice they seem basic. One also seems contradictory and others under-developed. Developing dedication is a practice to increase student motivation but are not the two the same idea? Furthermore, one of the major problems posed by the article is that many students are not advanced enough in reading comprehension to use complex texts yet using complex texts is a method to increase student motivation. Another practice, giving students choices in which texts to use, is a great idea to motivate students however the method reported is to allow students to “choose which portions to emphasize in a science chapter that includes more topics than the teacher can fully cover.” (p. 67) This does not seem like a choice.
A more thorough article would relate the ideas to relevant research other than the authors own. I would accept the extremely limited choice suggested if it was stated that that was the maximum that past research has found in the relationship between level of student choice and motivation because of cognitive development at that age. Relevant references for the section on “Show Students The Text’s Value” would reference papers that measures a middle school student’s ability to accurately value a given text. Do they have the ability to determine the best source for research or learning? This was not stated so I leave the section assuming the recommendation is to exaggerate a texts value which is counterproductive in developing student efficacy in reading texts.
I will not deny that my own experiences as a learner align with the article. I have observed that increased self efficacy yields an increase amount of struggle before quitting. If this is true then learners with a low self efficacy might quit before they have learned everything possible. When I value a text as low I am faster to dismiss the ideas. I am more motivated to finish a lab report if my lab partner depends on it than if my professor assigns a due date, which is an example of the power of social motivation. Last, when I choose which medium to use I am more engaged with that medium. With that said, the article has obvious gaps in discussions and connections to relevant studies. It would be acceptable if the authors had created methods which used textbooks to produce amazing advancements in learning but the climax of the article simply stated, “We have found that when teachers implement the practices fully for at least four weeks, students increase their motivation to read informational texts as well as their achievement.” (p. 68) From my experience, the people who don’t make their numbers known don’t have good numbers to report. This more than anything contributes to my negative recommendation of the article.
Guthrie, J. & Klauda, S. (2012, March). Making Textbook Reading Meaningful. Educational Leadership, 69(6), 64-68.