When, in the 1960s, P. David Pearson — professor at Graduate School of Education, University of California–Berkeley — entered into his studies on reading and how children understand what they read, his interests were basically counterculture, he says. At the time, the focus was on phonics and how children broke down words in order to learn how to read, rather than on how much of the content they were comprehending. It turns out he was ahead of the curve. In the 1970s and '80s, the field caught up with Pearson as it shifted to exploring how children were understanding what they read. In a career spanning over 50 years, Pearson has witnessed the field's evolution, and seen how approaches to teaching and learning reading fit in with shifts in policy, including No Child Left Behind and Common Core Standards.
On Thursday, October 8, Pearson will visit the Ed School to deliver the 11th annual Jeanne S. Chall lecture, named for the former HGSE professor whose work on reading research has been greatly influential on the field. His talk, Theory and Practice in Reading Comprehension: Reflections on a Half Century of Work, will revisit his long career, take a look at the future of the field, and ask the question, "Was all the work worth it?"
In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Pearson gives a preview of his upcoming lecture and examines the theories and practices behind reading comprehension.
The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iTunes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.