Integrated Literacy Instruction:
A Review of the Literature

CIERA Report #2-001

James R. Gavelek, Taffy E. Raphael, Sandra M. Biondo, and Danhua Wang
Oakland University

CIERA Inquiry 2: Home and School
What is integrated literacy instruction, and how can it facilitate children's literacy learning? How can teachers be supported in their attempts to integrate curriculum within and beyond the language arts?

Integrated instruction may be everyone's ideal, but it is the reality in few classrooms. In this review of existing literature, Gavelek and his colleagues examined research to determine why this ideal may be infrequently realized.

Soon into the review, Gavelek et al. concluded that the mismatch between ideal and practice may be at least partially explained by the ambiguity in definitions in the professional literature. Finding no theoretical framework on which to base the review, the first task of the reviewers was to develop one. Next, Gavelek et al. applied this framework to existing research on integrated instruction in elementary grades. They found few data-driven studies on integrated instruction of any sort, although essays advocating integrated language arts were many. Most projects interpreted integration as loose, thematic links. When studies considered interdisciplinary instruction, the boundaries between the subject areas were often rigid. Rarely would a literary stance or writing as a means for reflection be fostered across subject areas.

While integrated approaches can serve to restructure school curriculum within and beyond the language arts, Gavelek et al. conclude that a stronger theoretical and a research base is needed in establishing when or how to integrate the curriculum as well as for what purposes and for whom.

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Chapter forthcoming in Kamil, M., Mosenthal, P., Pearson, P. D., & Barr, R. (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. III). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.