CA Case Study

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Case Description[edit | edit source]

Title: Reciprocal Teaching of Reading

Objectives: Students are expected to develop the strategic skills of:

  • Formulating questions based on the text
  • Summarizing the text
  • Making predictions about what will come next
  • Clarifying difficulties with the text

Conditions: The method has been used with groups of two to seven students, as well as individual students.


1. Both the teacher and students read a paragraph silently.
2. Whoever is playing the role of teacher formulates a question based on the paragraph, constructs a summary, and makes a prediction or clarification, if any come to mind. Initially, the teacher models this process and then turns the role of teacher over to the students.
3. When students first undertake the process, the teacher coaches them extensively on how to construct good questions and summaries, offering prompts and critiquing their efforts. In this way, the teacher provides scaffolding for the students, enabling them to take on whatever portion of the task they are able to.
4. As the students become more proficient, the teacher fades, assuming the role of monitor and providing occasional hints or feedback.

Analysis[edit | edit source]

1. The method engages students in asset of activities that help them form a new conceptual model of the task of reading.

In traditional schooling, students learn to identify reading with the subskills of recognizing and pronouncing words and with the activities of scanning text and saying it aloud. Under the new conception, students recognize that reading requires constructive activities, such as formulating questions and making summaries and predictions, as well as evaluative ones, such as analyzing and clarifying the pints of difficulty.

2. The teacher models expert strategies in a shared problem context of knowing that they will soon undertake the same task.

After they have tried to do it themselves, and perhaps had difficulties, they listen with new knowledge about the task. That is, they can compare their own questions or summaries generated by the group. They can reflect on any differences, trying to understand what led to those differences.

3. The technique of providing scaffolding is a significant characteristic of reciprocal teaching.

Most importantly, it decomposes the task as necessary for the students to carry it out, thereby helping them to see how, in detail, to go about it. For example, in formulating questions, the teacher might want to see if the student can generate a question on his or her own; if not, she might suggest starting with a "Why" question about the agent in the story. If that fails, she might generate one herself and ask the student to reformulate it in his or her own words. In this way, it gets students started in the new skills, giving them a "feel" for the skills and helping them develop confidence that they can do them. With successful scaffolding techniques, students get as much support as they need to catty out the task, but no more. Hints and modeling are then gradually faded out, with students taking on more and more of the task as they become more skillful. These techniques of scaffolding and fading slowly build students' confidence that they can master the skills required.

4. The final critical aspect of reciprocal teaching is having students assume the dual roles of producer and critic.

They not only must produce good questions and summaries, but they also learn to evaluate the summaries or questions of others. By becoming critics as well as producers, students are forced to articulate their knowledge about what makes a good question, prediction, or summary. This knowledge then becomes more readily available for application to their own summaries and questions, thus improving a crucial aspect of their metacognitive skills. Moreover, once articulated, this knowledge can no longer simply reside in tacit form. It becomes more available for performing a variety of tasks; that is, it is freed from its contextual binding and can be used in many different contexts.

Go back to Brief Introduction to Cognitive Apprenticeship