The relationship between traditional and whole language approaches to language arts instruction

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Bright, Robin M.
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, AB : University of Lethbridge, 1988
Initially the purpose of this ethnographic study was to discover insights into effective teaching in an actual classroom. However, as the study developed, it became apparent that two very different and distinct approaches, to language arts instruction were operating. These two approaches came to be known and understood as traditional and whole language concepts of effective thinking. This lead to the question, to what extent are these two approaches compatible in one classroom during language arts? Each position was researched and explored to provide extensive background and clear definitions for the study. Throughout this process the data collection began. Descriptive data of one grade four classroom during language arts instruction emerged. The research did not focus on one of the two pre-determined teaching behaviors but described the classroom as a social situation during language arts. The lengthy and in-depth description contained information about me, the teacher, the school, the students, the classroom, the parents, the program and it's resources. The main data collection occurred through participant observation which means I studied a situation in which I was already and ordinary participant. Data were collected according to a systematic scheme which served to document the classroom and were compared with ethnographic notes of two other independent field researchers, who were non-participate observers. The ethnographic record consisted of field notes, tape recordings, pictures, student work and student and teacher journals. These data were collected from the beginning of January until the middle of April, 1987. Each observation lasted for 30-45 minutes twice weekly, yielding about 25 hours of classroom data over a four month period. The data provided a lengthy description of a grade four classroom during language arts instruction and in so doing, discovered characteristics of both traditional and whole language approaches. Specifically, a traditional approach exercised greatest influence in the areas of: 1) spelling 2) classroom management, and 3) evaluation. A whole language approach primarily influenced the following areas: 1) concept of learning 2) pedagogy, and 3) curriculum. These conclusions suggest that what goes on in a classroom may be a highly complex process that is not necessarily influenced by only one theoretical approach but by a combination of several. This may suggest a change in the treatment of these approaches as unconnected strategies of effective teaching.
x, 137 leaves ; 28 cm
Language Arts , Dissertations, Academic