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Is Reading Comprehension Taken for Granted? An Analysis of Austrian Textbooks in Fourth and Sixth Grade

Technology, Knowledge and Learning pp 1-23; doi:10.1007/s10758-021-09490-w

Abstract: The range of teaching materials now available is becoming increasingly diverse. Despite this, however, the use and influence of textbooks in teaching still remains very high. When instructing reading comprehension, teachers often use textbooks as the basis for teaching in language lessons. Establishing a good match between textbooks and the skills to be acquired is therefore essential. In this paper, I investigate whether textbooks used in Austrian schools can adequately support the teaching of reading comprehension skills. Since reading comprehension is the basis for acquiring knowledge in all subjects, science textbooks are examined in addition to (German) language lesson textbooks. Thus, the content pages of four language textbooks and four science textbooks for fourth and sixth grade were analysed in terms of five different categories, i.e. general structural setup, learning goals, text types, text structures, and activities. The results reveal clear variations with respect to learning goals in language textbooks. For example, the extent to which reading comprehension is addressed ranges from 13.64 to 69.70%, depending on the book used. Although not addressed as a learning goal in the science textbooks, reading comprehension is often presupposed, especially in sixth grade. While the instruction of reading comprehension ought to entail coverage of reading strategies, this is often neglected, or only dealt with indirectly. Given the diversity of textbooks analysed, it seems all the more important to stress that teachers should: 1) clarify the goals and teaching strategies of a book before using it, 2) become aware of strategies that support the development of students' reading comprehension, and 3) use textbooks as a complementary (and not sole) tool to support reading comprehension in all subjects.
Keywords: Reading comprehension / science / teacher training / reading strategies / Textbook / German Language

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