Profiling classroom reading comprehension development practices from the PIRLS 2006 in South Africa
The South African 2006 and 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) findings continue to highlight major concerns about the quality of reading literacy teaching in primary schools. Of specific concern is the lack of representation of the sampled South African learners at the PIRLS international benchmarks, revealing a distinct lack of their development of thinking and reasoning abilities for reading comprehension. To shed light on potential reasons for learners’ reading comprehension difficulties, this article presents selected findings on teachers’ reading comprehension development practices emanating from the investigation of one KwaZulu-Natal and five Gauteng province case study schools from the national South African PIRLS 2006 Grade 4 sample. These cases represented a range of educational contexts across the South African PIRLS 2006 performance continuum and were sampled according to class average achievement aligned to the PIRLS international benchmarks and further South African benchmarks lower on the achievement scale. The findings juxtaposing teaching practices for reading comprehension development from case study schools with achievement profiles at the PIRLS international benchmarks against those of case study schools with less than optimal achievement at benchmarks lower on the achievement scale speak to key teaching and learning areas, which still need attention in terms of curriculum policy and teachers’ implementation thereof.
Keywords: classroom practices, literacy, PIRLS, qualitative case studies, reading comprehension