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20 Feb 2014

Eye Movements and Reading: What Teachers Need to Know

S. Jay Samuels, Timothy Rasinski, & Elfrieda H. Hiebert

Book Chapter

Samuels, S.J., Rasinski, T.V., Hiebert, E.H., (2011). Eye Movements And Reading: What Teachers Need to Know. In A. Farstrup & S.J. Samuels (Eds.), What research has to say about reading
instruction (4th Ed.). Newark, DE: IRA.


From time to time, students in teacher training programs express curiosity about the course work they are required to take in preparation for being credentialed as teachers. Why, for example, some students would like to know, are they being asked to take courses in child development or the psychology of reading? Why not simply take methods courses that focus directly on erasing the achievement gap in reading? In truth, this is an important question that the students are asking because the answer to this question relates directly to how one prepares professionals in disciplines such as medicine, law, and education. Our best colleges of education are in the business of developing professionals. This being the case, what are the most important characteristics of a profession? The answer to this question is that to be considered a professional it is assumed that the practitioner possess a body of theoretical knowledge that can be used to assist in solving the problems encountered in pursuit of that profession. For example, if some students are unmotivated to learn in a classroom setting, is there a body of knowledge that the teacher can use to enhance student engagement with the learning process? Or, if despite the use of efficient reading methods, a student still has continued difficulty learning how to read, does the teacher have the theoretical knowledge necessary to diagnose the problem and resolve it? Highly educated teaching professionals understand the multifaceted nature of motivation and the complex nature of learning disability such that they can help students who are experiencing problems in learning. Of equal importance to theoretical knowledge, it is assumed the professionally trained teacher has mastered the applied skills required to help students achieve the instructional goals of the classroom. In today’s educational market place, the demands placed on the teachers have increased enormously and it is becoming increasingly common to expect that every teacher will be able to move students along a skill trajectory that leads to reading proficiency. To meet the increasing demands of the marketplace, teachers need to know more than what methods seem to work. They also need theoretical background knowledge that may prove to be useful as they work with students who are experiencing difficulty learning. For example, they should know how to motivate reluctant readers and they need to know about the work of the eye in reading In addition, if there is a problem that relates to the eyes or to faulty eye movements teachers should be aware of the symptoms so that the problem can be identified and corrected. In essence, course work that students take is designed to help them pursue their work with competency. Consequently this chapter will explain the role of eye movements in reading and it will also explain what teaches can do to help students who are experiencing difficulties with the eye movements that are essential to the reading process.