Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


The teaching of reading has been debated and sensationalised over the last three decades. With the Australian government influenced by US and UK reports of a perceived decline in literacy standards, it is timely to understand the complex task of classroom based literacy pedagogy for the 21st century. Of particular interest are the middle years as students experience a change in academic demands.

The purpose of this research was to understand middle-­‐primary school teachers’ conceptualisations of reading and subsequent pedagogical practices in their contemporary classrooms. These understandings were gathered with a view to the broadening and flexible understandings of reading in the multiliteracies era.

Teachers’ knowledge and beliefs are shaped by their training, experience, interests and professional development experience, and underpin pedagogical and resource decisions in their classrooms. The field of knowledge that informs teachers’ content knowledge has been developed and privileged by some theories of reading and conversations about research. Teachers, therefore, must make decisions about their reading pedagogy while implementing literacy policy. These two things might not be congruent with the teachers’ beliefs and understandings of reading, learning to read and reading pedagogy. This then may present continuities or constraints that teachers face in their decisions about their reading pedagogy.

Underpinned by sociocultural theories of literacy, this inquiry used a multiple case study methodology to explore four teachers’ conceptualisations of reading in their New South Wales middle-­‐primary years’ classrooms. Data collected for this study included observations, interviews and pedagogic artefacts. Vignettes have been used in three ways in this research to explicate the teachers’ understandings of the nature of reading. First, a vignette was used to begin a discussion about teacher beliefs and knowledge about reading and their pedagogical practice, prior to observations. Second, the researcher produced a vignette to provide an interpretive summary for the participants at a midway-­‐point interview. Third, the teachers produced a vignette to give voice to their story as teachers of reading. The research project developed multiple cases to consider the individual teachers and their teaching environments.

This study revealed the adjective nature of the teachers’ understandings of reading and the pedagogical decisions displayed in the observations. The teachers demonstrated a variety of understandings of and beliefs about the nature of reading. These understandings were either explicitly discussed or interpreted across the data. The teachers’ pedagogy ranged from literature-­‐based approaches with literature as a beginning point of reading lessons and reading couched in literate practice, to lessons where the practice of decontextualized component skills occurred. The findings indicate that continuity existed between the teachers’ stated or interpreted understandings of reading and their pedagogy for the teachers whose theoretical approaches were clearly understood and underpinned their pedagogical practices. Contradictions were found when the teachers’ pedagogical decisions were based on recent professional-­‐development knowledge rather than a formulated belief about reading and learning to read.

The study acknowledges that the conceptualisations of reading that teachers enact in their classrooms are the result of their theoretical understandings of reading and literacy combined with curriculum expectations, available resources, and available (and encouraged) professional development. It is this intricate combination of knowledge and opportunity that informs a teacher’s instructional practices and reveals constraints, contradictions and continuities in this multiliteracies era.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.