Teacher understanding of student understanding: Revising the gap between teachers’ conceptions and students’ ways with literature

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Research in the Teaching of English




This article examines three English teachers’ conceptions of their students’ literary understandings. Two questions guide the study: 1) How do English teachers conceptualize the act of reading in relation to students’ literary understanding? 2) How might attention to artifacts of students’ literature reading support teacher understanding of student understanding? Teachers in this study held either a basic skills perspective or a meta-cognitive view of reading. Regardless of perspective, each conceptualized reading in generalized terms detached from the concerns of literature as a discipline. The teachers expressed difficulty connecting and negotiating concern for student reading with concern for student literary understanding. Complicating this issue, the teachers’ own ways of reading familiar pieces of literature were problematic resources for understanding students’ understandings. Experienced ways of reading literature played an important role in directing their attention away from learner competencies and toward content concerns.