Middle-school content -area teachers' beliefs about literacy and their classroom practices

Margaret Kennedy Maziarz, Fordham University


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore and describe the literacy beliefs and classroom practices of two middle-school content-area teachers. Examining those beliefs and literacy practices provided new insights into what literacy instruction looks like in natural settings, and what values and beliefs prevail during classroom instruction. This study was guided by three research questions: (1) What literacy beliefs are valued by a middle-school science teacher and a middle-school social studies teacher? (2) What literacy activities are evident in these content-area middle-school teachers' classrooms? and (3) What is the relationship between these teachers' beliefs about literacy instruction and their classroom practice? The participants in this study were a sixth grade social studies teacher and a seventh grade science teacher. The primary sources of data collection were teacher interviews, responses to literacy beliefs profiles, and transcripts during classroom visitations. The science teacher's responses showed a conflicting relationship between her theoretical orientation and classroom practice. Her responses to the literacy beliefs profile were reflective of an eclectic belief system regarding literacy. Her lessons focused on providing learning activities in a very rote and segmented manner. In contrast to the science teacher, the social studies teacher's responses to the literacy beliefs profile showed a consistent relationship between his theoretical orientation and classroom practice. His responses were reflective of a consistent belief system regarding literacy in which his instructional practice was student centered and showed a clear dominance of a whole language orientation to literacy. Analysis of data indicated that middle school teachers would benefit from having a clear and consistent philosophy about literacy and instruction to create educational settings that are predictable and supportive of student learning. Middle-school teachers' beliefs indicating a unified perspective are hypothesized to be more supportive of student learning of disciplinary concepts than those offering a more eclectic perspective. Results of this study suggest that establishing teachers' strength of agreement with one theoretical orientation to literacy may be an effective window on their classroom practices.

Subject Area

Language arts|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Maziarz, Margaret Kennedy, "Middle-school content -area teachers' beliefs about literacy and their classroom practices" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3255004.