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Whole language in the classroom: Theory and practice

1 January 1992


Whole language is a set of beliefs concerning the way students learn language. There is, however, much controversy surrounding what whole language is and how it is used in the classroom. For this naturalistic study, the researcher observed two elementary school teachers, one second- and one fifth-grade, for the purpose of ascertaining what they knew about whole language, how they felt about whole language, and how they saw whole language implemented in their classrooms.

After observing each classroom for a total of Seven school days, the researcher determined that although whole language principles are accepted as valid classroom practices, there are impediments that dissuade teachers from adopting the belief system on which whole language is based. The issue of accountability was of major concern to the teachers and administrators observed for this study. In fact, accountability was underscored to such an extent that the questions guiding the paper transformed over time into an examination of how schools, teachers, and students are assessed. Concern over accountability caused the teachers to teach and assess students in methods that were incompatible with one another. The study concluded with the researcher emphasizing the need for more communication among students, parents, the general public, teachers; administrators, business leaders, law-makers, policy-makers, and researchers for the purpose of developing a more coherent educational policy.


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