Successful implementation of differentiated reading conferences: Case studies of Schoolwide Enrichment Model-Reading classrooms

Date of Completion

January 2008


Education, Elementary|Education, Reading




This qualitative comparative case study investigated teachers' use of differentiation strategies during individual reading conferences as part of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model-Reading (SEM-R) framework developed at The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. This study was an outgrowth of a larger study on the SEM-R. Using a multi-site comparative case study analysis, the teachers selected for this study from urban, rural, and suburban schools with diverse student populations were able to provide successful differentiated reading instruction during reading conferences for students of all achievement levels. ^ The teachers selected for this study exhibited more skill in differentiation than other teachers who participated in the larger SEM-R study. Data were gathered from multiple sources including classroom observations using the SEM-R Observation Scale, transcripts of reading conferences, interviews with teachers, and SEM-R Teacher and Student Logs, providing supporting documentation and triangulation of data. ^ The teachers in this study were able to differentiate reading instruction using varied strategies, such as tiered reading materials, different organizational and procedural supports for individual students, strategy use and instruction during conferences, and their expectations of students of different ability levels. During reading conferences all teachers asked questions or provided prompts that required students to use a variety of reading strategies, but there was relatively little attention to higher-level thinking strategies. Differences were found in expectations for students' performance based on their reading ability. High readers were engaged in more conversation, while the dynamic with poor readers focused more on word-level strategies. ^ The degree of professional control and judgment exercised by these teachers during their planning and implementation of differentiated reading instruction distinguished them from their peers in the other SEM-R study classrooms. These teachers intentionally created a welcoming, collaborative tone during reading conferences and developed a conference procedure that aligned with their personal working style and was responsive to students' reading needs. Reading conferences provided an opportunity for teachers to develop rapport with individual students and deliver meaningful instruction and guidance for their reading development. ^