Patterns of beginning reading instruction: Applying Cambourne's dimensions of effective teaching

Patricia E Murphy, Tennessee State University


Most research in classroom reading instruction examines the work of exemplary teachers. The purpose of this study was to examine the teaching of reading in typical first grade classrooms in average elementary schools to determine the extent to which such teaching might reflect attributes of exemplary instruction as described by Cambourne (1999). Two elementary schools were selected with two first grade classrooms in each school providing the sites for the study. A naturalistic paradigm was utilized in which qualitative data were collected through observations, interviews, and classroom materials and artifacts. The focus of the study was on instruction rather than student behavior or achievement. The teachers were observed during the teaching of reading (roughly 60 minutes per day) for ten days each. Field notes were taken, transcribed, and categorized according to the categories using a form of domain analysis in which instruction was labeled by the components specified by the National Reading Panel. The other data collected were organized, categorized, and connected to the field notes. These data were then recategorized according to the Four Dimensions of Teaching as described by Cambourne. The findings indicated that these teachers employed a balanced program with explicit and systematic instruction as commonly defined and suggested by the National Reading Panel. However, when examining the data from Cambourne's framework for exemplary teaching, it was found that more than half of the lessons observed were neither explicit nor systematic. It was also determined that the majority of lessons were both decontextualized and mindless. Two models of instruction were ultimately derived from the data as well as implications for further research.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Patricia E Murphy, "Patterns of beginning reading instruction: Applying Cambourne's dimensions of effective teaching" (2006). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3212760.