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Redesigning Guided Reading Instruction: Achieving Equity through Heterogeneity

Tiffany T Young, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Elementary school students are often placed into groups with peers of similar reading ability in a practice called within-class ability grouping for guided reading instruction. Through this practice, students are differentially exposed to reading skills, strategies, and texts that are presumed to match their current level of ability. This widespread practice is particularly problematic given that (1) current notions of matching early readers to texts for reading instruction are based on traditional instructional practice rather than empirical evidence, (2) poor, minority students are overrepresented in the lowest ranked groups, (3) students in higher ranked groups make greater academic gains than those in lower ranked groups, and (4) teacher perceptions of students’ abilities are often inaccurate. Conversely, several studies have shown that when students are presented with texts of increased difficulty and given appropriate instructional support, they are able to make accelerated reading progress. The purpose of this design-based research study was to develop innovative classroom practices and theoretical insights on the use of heterogeneous grouping for guided reading instruction to increase the reading achievement of all students. Qualitative data, in the form of fieldnotes, semi-structured interviews, and documents, were collected. Data analysis included structural and process coding to result in the explication of five design principles to assist in the application of this design in other contexts. In addition, student progress was monitored using comprehensive reading assessments. On average, students made the equivalent of one year’s worth of literacy growth in two and a half months of design implementation. This dissertation is concluded with specific attention to the technical, normative, and political aspects inherent in the dissemination and sustainability of the proposed design.

Subject Area

Early childhood education|Reading instruction|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Young, Tiffany T, "Redesigning Guided Reading Instruction: Achieving Equity through Heterogeneity" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI13861841.