Project grants 2023: Strength-Based Support in Reading Literacy Instruction for Students ́ Success

Diana von Börtzell-Szuch from the University of Stockholm, Sweden was in 2023 awarded a grant for the project: Strength-Based Support in Reading Literacy Instruction for Students ́ Success.



Students with advanced skills are seldom identified in elementary school, but left with little or no support to learn and develop accordingly to their potential (Coleman & Hughes, 2009). In Sweden, students with advanced skills have not often attracted attention, in either research, compulsory school, upper secondary school or in teacher education (Westling Allodi, 2014). Instead, educational research in Sweden has mainly paid attention to special needs in relation to struggling students (Magnússon & Sims, 2021; Persson, 2014; The Swedish Schools Inspectorate, 2018). In inclusive classrooms, gifted students may be ignored believed not to need instruction or support, leaving them without teacher support or that they will be used as teacher assistants (Tirri & Laine, 2017). High potential students also need instruction to learn and develop in their full potential (Pettersson, 2011). Educational programs should be designed in order to meet the learning needs of all children (UNESCO, 2015), which is correspondingly articulated in the Swedish law, as well as in the Swedish curriculum for the compulsory school(SFS 2010:800, 2010; The Swedish National Agency for Education, 2022). Magnússon and Sims (2021) shed light on the dilemma and tension between the inclusion ideal in policy documents and the educational needs of gifted students; in policy documents, focus is often on struggling students and students with social problems, why there is a risk that gifted students are left without teacher support and may not learn and develop at school. This is mirrored in research, where students with advanced literacy skills often are neglected in favor of those who have advanced mathematical skills (e.g. Walker et al., 2021), why there is limited knowledge on advanced readers and a reading literacy instruction that promote development of such skills (Reis & Fogarty, 2022). Therefore, we do not know much about how to best address these students ́ educational needs. Prior research (e.g., Laine & Tirri, 2016; Prieto-Ayuso et al., 2022), states that the key to an equal opportunity for students with high potential to learn and develop advanced skills in school lies within more research about these students ́ educational needs and that the knowledge also is implemented in teacher education.

The present doctoral research project, which is a part of the doctoral program Educational provisions for gifted or highly able students in inclusive educational systems: Gifted education doctoral programme for teacher educators (VR 2021-00535), and approved by the Ethics Review Authority (file no. 2023-02914-01), will focus on how teachers can nurture all students ́ strengths within reading literacy achievement, with a particular focus on how to recognize and support students with high potential to learn and develop advanced reading literacy skills.

Diana von Börtzell-Szuch is a PhD Student at the Department of Special Education at Stockholm University, where she attends the doctoral programme GiftED, which focuses on highly able students in inclusive educational systems. Also, at Stockholm University, she is a teacher within the Special Education Teachers programme in courses that focus on reading and writing development and reading and writing difficulties. She has a Postgraduate Diploma in Special Needs Training that focuses on reading, writing, and language development, as well as a Bachelor of Education for Primary School. Before attending the doctoral programme, Diana von Börtzell-Szuch worked as a teacher at the Department of Teaching and Learning at Stockholm University. She has also taught as a primary school teacher and as a reading specialist/special education teacher. Moreover, she is also one of the editors of the book Läs- och skrivundervisning utifrån elevers varierade behov. Her research interests are advanced literacy skills and how literacy instruction can meet the educational needs of students with such skills in an inclusive educational system.