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Ligonier teacher's research published

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Nicole Chynoweth | Ligonier Echo

Dee Ambrose-Stahl's passion for reading runs deep.

“I've always been interested in reading and motivating kids to read more,” said Ambrose-Stahl, an English teacher at Ligonier Valley High School.

This month, Ambrose-Stahl's research on reading motivation will be published in one of the American Psychological Perspectives' affiliated journals, International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation. She worked with Dr. Wilfridah Mucherah, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., to research what motivates adolescents to read.

Their work resulted in “Relation of Reading Motivation to Reading Achievement in 7th Grade Students from Kenya and the United States.”

“It's a look at: Are there cultural differences amongst adolescent readers?” Ambrose-Stahl said.

Ambrose-Stahl, 47, of Cook Township, was pursuing a master's degree in reading from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania two years ago when she came across Mucherah's research exploring the topic.

Stahl contacted Mucherah to thank her for her research and to discuss replicating it.

Mucherah said she was “pleasantly surprised” to hear from a “practicing teacher.”

To begin their work, Ambrose-Stahl, who was then teaching at the middle school, administered a Motivation for Reading questionnaire to her seventh-grade students.

Students responded to statements about reading, using a Likert scale to determine how each statement applied to them. Participants evaluate an experience on a continuum, such as ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”

Mucherah, who previously taught in Kenya and now teaches research workshops there in the summer, used the same questionnaire with a group of seventh-grade students in Kenya.

“Our conclusion is more research needs to be done,” Ambrose-Stahl said.

Mucherah said the research showed that “reading motivation should be taken in context.”

One of the most significant revelations, Ambrose-Stahl said, was that most of the participating Ligonier students did not see reading as a social activity.

The finding conflicts with previously published research on adolescents, she said.

“In other words, when the MRQ asked (students) to evaluate how often they share things that they've read, they didn't,” Ambrose-Stahl said.

“My conclusion from that then is we need to back up, demonstrate and model for the students at a younger age that reading is an enjoyable activity (and) it can be a social activity, and maybe work toward eliminating the negativity they feel towards it,” she said.

To address that conclusion in her classroom, Ambrose-Stahl started holding “readers' sharing circles.” She and students would sit on the floor and talk informally about what they were reading.

“Their reaction to it was amazing,” she said. “I had students checking out books because they heard (other students) talking about it.”

Ambrose-Stahl and Mucherah are working on another research project to examine “classroom climate,” the activities that go on in a classroom and how they impact student success, Ambrose-Stahl said.

“Dr. Mucherah and I just share this passion of wanting to know only for the purpose of what can we do better,” she said. “As teachers, we can always do better.”

Mucherah said Stahl has a “great passion” for what she does as a teacher and is a “great collaborator.”

“I saw a teacher who wants to really get better at what she is doing,” she said of working with Ambrose-Stahl.

Ambrose-Stahl said conducting research related to her field is important not only because it improves her teaching but because “kids are changing every single day.”

“One class is not going to be like the next, and it's my job as a teacher to do this research and to read the research to guide my instruction,” Ambrose-Stahl said. “Teaching is not something you can do flying by the seat of your pants. You've got to self-evaluate and work to get better.”

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