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Ronald L. Cramer, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Education

Scholarly interests:

Research and scholarship are not synonymous though they overlap. My definition of research is contained within the boundaries of the word scholarship. I have several scholarly interests. They include:

Writing. I am interested in how one becomes a writer. I am interested in how young children learn to write; I am interested in how teachers teach writing; I am interested in how teachers come to regard themselves as writers. I am interested in how poetry is written, why children are sometimes excellent poets, why adults are often fearful of poetry. I have discovered that teachers are often surprised they can write poetry. I have learned they like knowing they can write poetry.

The Mismeasurement of Children: I distrust the use of standardized tests to measure children’s knowledge. I doubt standardized tests provide reliable or valid measures of children’s knowledge. I am certain that standardized tests cannot fairly measure teacher effectiveness. I believe the information derived from standardized tests is diagnostically useless to classroom teachers. I understand why administrators and legislators have an interest in standardized test results. But I believe their interest is misguided.

Informal Assessment And Instructional Observation: Competent teachers know more about their children than any test can tell them. Still, teachers must inform themselves about the uses and limitations of Informal Reading Inventories (IRIs) and Instructional Observation. Professor Yetta Goodman calls instructional observation Kidwatching. It involves intensive and continuous observation of how children respond and perform in and out of school environments. Informal Reading Inventories provide estimates of reading levels, strengths, and needs. Instructional observation confirms, disconfirms, and extends the information obtained through informal testing.

Effective teachers develop habits of watching children’s performance: listening to language, asking good questions, listening to conversations, and conducting open discussions. Observing children’s performance and behavior in classrooms, playgrounds, cafeterias, and hallways is a valid and reliable way to assess reading performance. You can observe children’s strengths and needs through checklists, anecdotal records, rubrics, and journal notes.

My Philosophy of Teaching: The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “A philosophy is not a theory, it is an activity.” I am interested in understanding my own philosophy of teaching. My words and deeds express my philosophy. My philosophy determines how I interact with my students. My philosophy directs the learning experiences I provide; it helps me understand and identify my student’s strengths and needs. I strive to treat my students the way I want them to treat the children they teach.

Past scholarly interests:

Across the years my interests have included: spelling, invented spelling, language experience approach to reading, the writing process, teaching reading comprehension, instruction and assessment of struggling readers, and Informal Reading Inventories.

Current and future scholarly plans and projects:

Writing A Book: I am working on a book about reading assessment and instruction. It is a joint project with my colleague, Professor Tanya Christ. Writing a book is a big project. It takes years even if you work at it steadily.

Writing Poetry: I am interested in writing and reading poetry. I teach writing courses. I encourage teachers who take my writing courses to write poems, essays, and stories. I have learned that teachers are more likely to introduce poetry to their children when they have written their own poems. Writers often have such doubts. So far my doubts have won the first 14 rounds. Maybe I’ll get knocked out in the 15th round. Maybe not.

Articles on The Writing Process & Evaluating Writing: I have drafts of two potential articles. I wrote and later abandoned these drafts. Abandoned drafts are like dead bodies. It is probably best to bury dead bodies. But the novelist Frank O’Connor thought otherwise. O’Connor called his early drafts rubbish. For O’Connor, rubbish drafts provided a workable starting place. O’Connor spun his rubbish drafts into gold. I appreciate O’Connor’s concept of rubbish drafts. I think of it as the Rumpelstiltskin syndrome. I’ve decided not to bury my rubbish drafts. I’m trying to spin them into gold. Or perhaps silver. Maybe I’ll settle for pig iron.

Assessing Comprehension Through Rereading: Informal Reading Inventories are used to assess reading comprehension. After a child has read a passage, it is taken away and comprehension questions are asked. Seldom are readers allowed to reread a passage as part of comprehension testing. Listening comprehension is assessed in a similar fashion.

Many educators regard this assessment procedure as valid. But does it measure the depth of children’s reading comprehension? My experience in reading clinics says no. It leads to mismeasuring comprehension for many readers, particularly struggling readers. There are three reasons why one exposure to a reading passage is likely to mismeasure children’s reading comprehension: (1) It puts a heavy burden on children’s short-term memory; (2) Testing carries an element of anxiety, which may interfere with normal functioning, (3) It does not conform to the reading strategies mature readers use to assure comprehension. Short-term memory and test anxiety are obvious issues in testing comprehension. Rereading addresses the issue of short-term memory. Rereading does not remove test anxiety, but it may reduce it. But does rereading conform to the behavior of mature readers? It does. Should it? Absolutely.

I have asked mature readers if they privilege themselves to reread when comprehension is their objective. Most say they do. Most mature readers reread as often as needed to accomplish their comprehension objective. For instance, suppose you are reading a newspaper, article, or novel. If your reading purpose is relatively light or indifferent you may have no reason to reread. But if deeper is required you will reread the passage. Good readers allow themselves as much rereading as they think necessary to assure comprehension. Why then should we expect children to gain comprehend a passage in a single reading. If we truly want to know the depth of children’s comprehension shouldn’t we invite rereading? It makes sense to test and teach comprehension in a manner similar to the way mature readers deploy their comprehension strategies when they read. 

Research interests:

  • Writing. Observing writers in action in the context of narrative, exposiotry, and poetry.
  • Informal Assessment And Instructional Observation: Investigating rereading as a measure of reading Comprehension.

Workshops, In-Service Institutes, and Community Events:

  • Teacher as Writer
  • Poetry In Action
  • Inquiry-Based Reading Assessment and Instruction
  • Comprehension: Rereading Or Relistening

Contact: or (248) 370-4157