Reading the Research as a TWRCr


Since this is my first blog post, let me start by telling you that the acronym “TWRC” rhymes with “work” and stands for think, wonder, reflect, and connect. I call myself a TWRCr (rhymes with worker) because I not only think, wonder, reflect, and make connections, but I also make a conscious effort to refine my knowledge about teaching reading as I continuously learn more.


I think I have been a TWRCr for much of my life, but four events made me an even better one.  The first event happened in my first semester in a master’s program for reading/language arts.  As the semester was winding down, the professor asked us to pull out our textbook and turn to the thirty page reference section.  She then proceeded to go through the list of resources on these pages telling us to put a star next to what she considered to be “must read” resources.  She briefly told us why they were important and how they impacted the field of teaching reading.  She also told us stories of her personal encounters with the researchers.  I was most impressed and sought out the resources for myself.  To this day, I am so thankful she did this because it gave me a great overview of the history of teaching reading and helped me become familiar with the leading reading researchers and influential literature.


Meanwhile, in another class, a professor told us how we needed to read the research critically and consider bias from the researchers as some researchers are so wrapped up in their own beliefs that it is difficult for them to consider an alternative point of view.  I am sure she was referencing “The Reading Wars” (i.e. whole language vs. phonics–which I will likely discuss in another post).  From this point on, as I read articles or chapters, I began to familiarize myself with the beliefs of the reading researchers.  I even created a spreadsheet to help me keep track of their philosophies.  This spreadsheet also included photos of them, quotes from their research, and notes I had written down while listening to some of them speak in person.  (I still refer to this spreadsheet occasionally–especially when deciding which sessions to attend at the International Reading Association conventions).


Around this same point in time, a fellow classmate, Sara, posted this comment on Blackboard: “That includes what we know in this moment, what we’ve experienced, and what we have not yet been ready to consider.”  That was very powerful for me.  I know my limited experiences with teaching reading (most of it at that time was with first grade students only), my limited understanding of the reading terminology, and my limited background knowledge of the history of teaching reading at the beginning of the program led to many missed opportunities to learn from the research.


After these three important events in my life, I heard P. David Pearson talk about existing knowledge in our heads.  He mentioned that some of it is accurate and some of it is inaccurate.  Good readers think about what they already know as they read more.  When things don’t match, they refine their knowledge.  Sure this is common sense, but unless you consciously think about it, you cannot be a true TWRCr.


I think my main point of this post is that I quickly found researchers  whose work I greatly admired; however I remind myself to keep an open mind.  I do not want to blindly believe everything my favorite researchers say.  In addition, I know some big insights can be missed due to the order in which I have read the literature and the order of my first-hand experiences, so it is good to reread the literature from time to time–each new read usually gives me deeper insight.  I also know that misunderstandings can occur because  authors might share inaccurate information, authors might be biased, or the information might be outdated.  Putting this altogether, I know that if I want to make the most of what I read, I must TWRC and refine.  I cannot just believe the words on the page or the existing knowledge in my head.  Further, I also try not to dismiss thoughts and ideas I disagree with because I know my disagreement might come from the fact that I am missing a key piece to that understanding.


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  • debbiegorney

    Julie…I love you! Given the economic climate out there right now, it is so refreshing to see that you've put this together and that there are still people out there with this passion. You've perked me up and inspired me to pull myself out of the doldrums and “get back into this stuff.” You'll be hearing from me. Thank you!

  • http://www.twrctank.com/ Julie Niles Petersen

    Debbie…I love you, too! It is so great to see you here! It seems like just yesterday we were in the master’s program together. You are right about the economic climate–especially for education here in California. Yes, I still have the passion for teaching reading and I’m so glad this blog perked you up. I look forward to hearing more from you.

    P.S. I really missed you at the Reading Educators Guild breakfast.

  • http://www.twrctank.com/ Julie Niles Petersen

    Debbie…I love you, too! It is so great to see you here! It seems like just yesterday we were in the master's program together. You are right about the economic climate–especially for education here in California. Yes, I still have the passion for teaching reading and I'm so glad this blog perked you up. I look forward to hearing more from you.

    P.S. I really missed you at the Reading Educators Guild breakfast.

  • debbiegorney

    Yeah, I should have been at the REG breakfast. I thought about it and just decided against it because I've been so “irritated” with all that's happening in education right now, especially our drama district. I guess I just kind of checked out. That's why I was glad to see your blog…it's perked me up again. I need to be around positive people who remember the children are at the heart of what we do. So, yes, you'll be hearing from me. BTW…I really want to go to an IRA Conference at some point…I'll have to talk to you about that too.

  • http://www.twrctank.com/ Julie Niles Petersen

    I understand. I know your district is in a whole lot of hurt. :( I do hope it gets better soon. If you want to find a lot of positive people and very passionate educators, I suggest you get yourself a twitter account if you haven't already done so. I have found so many amazing people there. As to IRA… that would be such fun to go together. I am guessing it is too late for you to go this year, but I will be going. It will be held in Chicago on April 25 – April 28. I can't wait!

  • debbiegorney

    IRA this year comes up to soon to plan for it, especially with all that's going on at work right now. BUT….next year I'm in for sure! I've been wanting to go the last couple of years, but can't seem to find anyone else who's interested. I guess I've just been hanging out with the wrong crowd…lol Glad to be reconnected with you :)

  • http://www.twrctank.com/ Julie Niles Petersen

    The International Reading Association's convention will be held in Orlando, Florida next year. I do hope you make it–I think you will love it! I look forward to them every year. It is so great to get together with so many of the leading researchers researchers and educators from all over the globe who share a passion for literacy. Someday I want to make it to the World Congress of Reading. These conventions are held biannually. This year it's in New Zealand in July. Maybe you can make that one and let me know what you think. Here's a link: http://www.reading.org/General/Conferences/Worl

    P.S. I am SO very glad to be reconnected with you! Our time together in the master's program in reading seems like so very long ago.