The Gradual Release of Responsibility in Literacy Research and Practice: Volume 10

Cover of The Gradual Release of Responsibility in Literacy Research and Practice

Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the conceptual and historical genesis of the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983) which has become one of the most commonly used instructional frameworks for research and professional development in the field of reading and literacy.

Design/Methodology/Approach – This chapter uses a narrative, historical approach to describe the emergence of the model in the work taking place in the late 1970s and early 1980s in reading research and educational theory, particularly at the Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana as carried out by David Pearson, Meg Gallagher, and their colleagues.

Findings – The GRR Model began, in part, in response to the startling findings of Dolores Durkin’s (1978/1979) study of reading comprehension instruction in classrooms which found that little instruction was occurring even while students were completing numerous assignments and question-response activities. Pearson and Gallagher were among those researchers who took seriously the task of developing an instructional model and approach for comprehension strategy instruction that included explicit instruction. They recognized a need for teachers to be responsible for leading and scaffolding instruction, even as they supported learners in moving toward independent application of strategies and independence in reading. Based in the current research in the reading field and the rediscovery of the work of Vygotsky (1978) and the descriptions of scaffolding as coined by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976), Pearson and Gallagher developed the model of gradual release. Over time, the model has been adapted by many literacy scholars, applied to curriculum planning, used with teachers for professional development, reprinted numerous times, and with the advent of the Internet, proliferated even further as teachers and educators share their own versions of the model. This chapter introduces readers to the original model and multiple additional representations/iterations of the model that emerged over the past few decades. This chapter also attends to important nuances in the model and to some misconceptions of the instructional model.

Research Limitations/Implications – Despite the popularity of the original GRR model developed by Pearson and Gallagher and the many adaptations of the model by many collaborators and colleagues in literacy – and even beyond – there have been very few publications that have explored the historical and conceptual origins of the model and its staying power.

Practical Implications – This chapter will speak to researchers, teachers, and other educators who use the GRR model to help guide thinking about instruction in reading, writing, and other content areas with children, youth, pre-service teachers, and in-service teachers. This chapter provides a thoughtful discussion of multiple representations of the gradual release process and the nuances of the model in ways that will help to dispel misuse of the model while recognizing its long-standing and sound foundation on established socio-cognitive principles and instructional theories such as those espoused by Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky, Anne Brown, and others.

Originality/Value of Paper – This chapter makes an original contribution to the field in explaining the historical development and theoretical origins of the GRR model by Pearson and Gallagher (1983) and in presenting multiple iterations of the model developed by Pearson and his colleagues in the field.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to understand how children expand independence within instructional interactions with their teachers. To do so, the authors re-examine how scaffolding is understood and applied.

Approach – First, the authors consult websites and literature used by teachers and academics to examine how the notion of scaffolding is employed and explained. The authors analyze the roles, the intentions, the means, and the timing of scaffolding as used in popular literature to explain and support instruction. The authors then entertain a conceptual shift: What would the scaffolding process look like if learning were conceived as agentive? With this in mind, the authors interrogate descriptions of the tenets and functions of scaffolding to consider the process in relief.

Findings – The authors track the consequences of the inversion of scaffolding onto the understandings of the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) model. Scaffolding is understood as sitting within a GRR model, wherein the learner gradually releases responsibility to a teacher at the point of need. Intersubjectivity remains a basis for the model. A Window for Examining Teaching–Learning Interactions is offered as a frame with which to analyze the theories of both the child and the teacher apparent within scaffolding interactions. An accurate teacher’s theory of the child’s current and changing theories is required for teaching to be honed to invite children to efficiently access personal and contextual resources and to seek assistance when needed within engaging tasks with scope.

Practical Implications – When children are positioned as initiators of their learning, they are able to use their vast repertoire of knowledge of the world, language/s and literacies, and familial, cultural, and community ways of knowing to create, interpret, and engage in tasks. In this agentive view, children are positioned as holding full responsibility at the onset of any task and gradually releasing their responsibility to access support, when needed. Within tasks that are sufficiently wide for engagement at varied entry points, learners are the catalyst of the functions that were formerly initiated by teachers. Teachers invite children to access personal and contextual resources and to seek assistance, as needed, through additional external, contextual resources. This inverted model of scaffolding, that is child-directed rather than teacher-initiated, requires teachers to go beyond theories of teaching and learning and develop a theory of an individual child.


Purpose – The purpose of this study is to assist teachers in developing inquiry-based learning environments in secondary and post-secondary subject area classrooms that support their diverse students’ capacities for deep and intellectually engaged reading.

Design – Reading Apprenticeship professional learning has been developed to transform teachers’ understanding of their role in students’ literacy development and to build teachers’ capacity for re-enacting literacy instruction in the academic disciplines, engaging students in text-based inquiry, supporting their ongoing engagement, and gradually turning the work of learning over to students. The model reflects the understanding that for practice to become truly responsive to the needs and varied contexts of teachers’ work, teachers must become adaptive and generative in their use of specific practices. Reading Apprenticeship immerses teachers in experiential learning through patterns of practice that we expect them to recreate in their own classrooms. Teachers participate in inquiries designed to help them become reacquainted with their own disciplinary expertise in relation to literacy. Importantly, teachers collaboratively analyze students work through case studies of student literacy learning and videotaped classroom lessons designed to help teachers to reimagine what they and their own students can accomplish.

Findings – Reading Apprenticeship instructional tools and routines offer multiple opportunities for teachers to hear and respond to student thinking in relation to the text, thereby deepening the student reasoning processes and turning work over to students. The work of gradual release occurs in recursive cycles of reciprocal modeling that respond to students’ particular puzzlements and challenges with specific texts and engage students in shouldering more of the work of learning moment-to-moment, over time. Just as curricular ideas and topics build on one another over the course of a year of study, the challenges of text-based inquiry increase and build on previous accomplishments, constantly extending students’ reach. Engaging learners in taking up the work of text-based inquiry is a continuous cycle of support and graduated release and challenge calibrated to students’ needs and skill levels in the current learning moment.

Practical Implications – Current policies focused on accountability and efficiency in school reform conflict with evidence-based understandings of the learning process. The ongoing nature of learning and development through the gradual release of responsibility require that we not only tolerate, but unreservedly embrace and value learning progressions and their messiness for both students and their teachers. Embracing the ongoing learning journey calls for tolerance and generosity that we often withhold from teachers and students alike – to be in process, to be a learner, and to be en route to accomplishment. Learning entails risk and vulnerability. If we are truly invested in growth for both students and teachers, we must expect to invest continuously in and provide sustained support for their learning. The more opportunities to learn teachers are able to offer students, the more students can do. And the more students can do, the more teachers can give them.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explain the importance of thinking flexibly about the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) during the implementation of an explicit strategy instruction model, Critical Elements of Strategy Instruction (CESI). When the GRR model is typically used to inform teachers’ pedagogical practices, each phase of the scaffolding in the gradual release is usually represented as being a straight line of progression from modeling to guided practice, and then to independence. Scaffolding is often viewed as being a more static progression needed by all students. The authors explore the ebb and flow of scaffolding necessary in the GRR model when teaching the CESI framework to elementary aged students who demonstrated different degrees of competence in applying reading strategies.

Design/Methodology – The findings presented are the result of a two-year longitudinal professional development study with nine in-service elementary school teachers (one male and eight female), with masters’ degrees who ranged in experience from six to 18 years. The teachers used the Pedagogy of Video Reflection (Shanahan et al., 2013) to reflect on their implementation of the CESI, which draws upon the GRR model.

Findings – The authors use examples from their two-year explicit strategy instruction research to illustrate how their experienced in-service teachers learned to think more flexibly about scaffolding in the GRR model. Teachers explored their misconceptions about explicit strategy instruction and the gradual release. Two major shifts in their thinking were the GRR model was not the static model they interpreted it to be and they also realized that they had to use a gradual release when teaching readers the conditional knowledge so readers could use strategies independently.

Research Limitations/Implications – A two-dimensional representation of a complex concept, like the GRR can result in a less nuanced understanding of a complex concept, even when many of these issues are previously discussed in research and practitioner publications.

Practical Implications – Classroom teachers are provided with a more complex understanding of GRR model, where they need to interpret student responses to know when to and not release learners.

Originality/Value of Chapter – This chapter captures in-service teachers’ perspectives of the GRR model as being flexible instead of static and also reveals how student responses can be used to gauge how to make adaptations to ­scaffolding.


Purpose – This chapter discusses the application of the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) to school change and the learning of groups of leaders, teachers, and students. Specifically, the authors describe the Seven Levels to Success, a model for school change that supports teachers in building their school’s own staircase (coherent) curriculum in literacy. The authors discuss the effectiveness of this model for capacity building – giving schools a “deep bench” of leaders and teachers who can sustain improved student achievement over a period of years.

Design/Methodology/Approach – The theoretical underpinning of this research is provided by the Vygotsky Space, a construct that shows how learning may be understood in terms of the intersections of collective and individual actions, and public and private settings. This construct allows us to understand what drives a school’s advancement through the Seven Levels and how that advancement can be restarted after it has been slowed or interrupted. The authors report findings about school change from 20 years of work in 264 elementary and secondary schools, reflecting a wide range of students and communities across the United States.

Findings – While schools’ typical advancement in the Seven-Level model is neither steady nor linear, it adheres to an overall pattern: Leaders must take ownership first, followed by teachers and then students. To build their school’s staircase curriculum, teachers must see themselves as creators rather than consumers of curriculum. Teachers who see themselves as creators take ownership of their curriculum. Their deep understanding of the curriculum promotes continuous improvements and related success in improving their students’ literacy learning. Four case examples illustrate change in a variety of school settings, providing existence proofs of how the Seven-Level model functions to improve students’ literacy learning.

Research Limitations/Implications – The authors highlight the importance of the school as the unit of analysis in change efforts, and of understanding a school’s progress over time. The authors emphasize considering the role of multiple constituencies, beginning with school leaders and encompassing teachers, students, and families. One implication of this study is that more attention should be paid to the role of school leaders – administrators, curriculum coordinators, and teacher leaders – in setting the stage for sustainable improvement.

Practical Implications – The authors provide guidance to practitioners working on school change within the framework of the Seven Levels to Success and other social constructivist models. Specifically, the authors give examples of relevant actions external consultants and school leaders take at critical junctures in a school’s progress.

Originality/Value of Paper – This chapter breaks new ground in applying the GRR model and the Vygotsky Space to the area of school change in literacy. Summarizing 20 years of work with the Seven-Level model demonstrates potential of teacher-developed curricula for the sustainable improvement of students’ literacy learning.


Purpose – The purpose of this study is to articulate the relationship between school leadership and quality core instruction, as defined by a gradual release of responsibility (GRR) framework. The development of a common vocabulary for quality instruction is essential for leaders and teachers to communicate effectively.

Design/Methodology/Approach – This chapter uses vignettes developed from previous studies to illustrate the use of GRR in principal development, instructional leadership in schools, and in professional learning for teachers.

Findings – Instructional leadership in action is enhanced when adults experience GRR as learners themselves. The authors use illustrative examples to highlight how GRR is leveraged to enhance learning.

Research Limitations/Implications – The authors use vignettes to highlight effective practices and believe that they have utility for other programs aimed at preparing instructional leaders.

Practical Implications – GRR principles should be enacted within adult learning, particularly in leadership preparation programs, and in school-based collaborative inquiry processes such as learning walks and professional learning communities.

Originality/Value of Chapter – The authors utilize our experiences as researchers and school leaders to articulate the bridge between leadership development and leadership in practice using GRR as the constant.


Purpose – This chapter discusses youth participation in a Social Justice Literacy Workshop (SJLW). Participants were predominantly Black youth residing in an urban community with a rich history and important community resources such as libraries and churches. The SJLW used a variety of print texts, videos, artwork, documents, and other texts to explore the topic of police brutality and other justice-related topics.

Design/Methodology/Approach – This chapter uses the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) model as a lens to revisit the SJLW as designed and implemented by the first author Tiffany Nyachae. Nyachae designed and implemented the SJLW as space to inspire students to engage in critical thinking and analysis of authentic texts, and to use these textual interactions as an impetus for activism in their community. With the help of her co-authors, Nyachae reflects on the SJLW through a GRR lens to describe how students were scaffolded and supported as they moved toward activism.

Findings – Students brought their own understandings of police brutality and awareness of activism to the SJLW. These prior understandings were shaped both by their own lived experiences but also by their awareness of and interaction with social media. During the SJLW, youth read and discussed the novels All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (2015) and Hush by Jacqueline Woodson (2002). The youth engaged in activities and discussions about how prevalent issues in each novel connected to larger social and political concerns. Students discussed the current events, engaged in reflective writing, read short pieces, and analyzed documents and videos. The SJLW was successful in such a way that all students felt comfortable voicing their opinions, even when opinions differed from their peers. Students demonstrated critical thinking about issues related to justice. All students completed an action plan to address injustice in their community. While applying the GRR to this context and reflecting, first author Nyachae began to consider the other scaffolds for youth that could have been included, particularly one youth, JaQuan, who was skeptical about what his community had done to support him. Nyachae revisits the SJLW to consider how the GRR helped to reveal the need for additional scaffolding that JaQuan or other youth may have needed from leaders in the SJLW. A literature review also revealed that very few literacy practices have brought together the GRR and social justice teaching or learning.

Research Limitations/Implications – This chapter demonstrates that the GRR framework can be effectively applied to a justice-centered teaching and learning context as a reflective tool. Since very little research exists on using the GRR framework with justice-centered teaching, there is a need for additional research in this area as the GRR model offers many affordances for researchers and teachers. There is also a need for literacy researchers to consider elements of justice even when applying the GRR framework to any classroom or out-of-school context with children and youth.

Practical Implications – The GRR can be a useful tool for reflecting the practices of literacy and justice-centered teaching. Just as the GRR can be a useful framework to help teachers think about teaching reading comprehension, it can be an effective tool to help teachers think about supporting students to grow from awareness to activism in justice-centered teaching and learning.

Originality/Value of Paper – This chapter is one of only a handful of published works that brings together a social justice perspective with the GRR.


Purpose – This chapter presents an analysis of a researcher-led follow-up activity during an early childhood reading lesson that was aligned with a gradual release of responsibility (GRR) model. Particularly, the authors seek to understand how students used their language(s) in this lesson, how they described particular linguistic decisions, and how language could be further conceptualized in such events.

Design/Methodology/Approach – The authors develop a telling case (Mitchell, 1984) from the guided instruction portion of a lesson to make salient theoretical connections between metacognitive strategies taught in early literacy and metalinguistic knowledge theorized from the field of linguistic anthropology. The lesson was video recorded for interactional analysis. The video recording was also used to stimulate recall and allow students to reflect on their own language use.

Findings –Through the telling case, the authors use language socialization as a lens to understand the way students represent story retell with physical objects. Though some students do not use the school-based conventionalized form of retelling, they do engage in retelling by using a variety of other forms. The authors highlight through the case that the metacognitive strategy of story retell is distinct from the abstract linear, left-to-right representation of sequencing of events.

Research Limitations/Implications – This study suggests that further attention is needed to theorize the relationship between reading strategies and forms of representation in multilingual preschool contexts. In particular, the very notions of literacy and language need to be nuanced through conversations among multiple disciplines.

Practical Implications – Practitioners are encouraged to attend to the differences between metacognitive strategies that are useful for reading comprehension and the expected styles of representation. Teachers can consider leveraging the communicative repertoires of emergent bilingual students as they accomplish early literacy activities, thereby, potentially offering further scaffolds for learning reading strategies.

Originality/Value of Paper – This chapter brings nuance to the GRR model by demonstrating that there is a difference between the GRR of metacognitive strategies in reading instruction and the way they are represented through diverse semiotic repertoires.


Purpose – The purpose of this study is to share empirical research with educators and researchers to show how the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) model can support bilingual teachers’ implementation of dialogic reading comprehension instruction in student-led small groups and linguistically responsive literacy instruction with emergent bilingual students (Spanish–English) in grades one through four.

Design/Methodology/Approach – The authors provide brief literature reviews on the literacy instruction that bilingual students in low-resourced schools typically receive, on dialogic reading comprehension instruction, and on linguistically responsive literacy instruction. Then, the authors show how teacher educators utilized the GRR framework and process to support bilingual teachers’ movement from whole-class, teacher-directed instruction to dialogic reading comprehension instruction in student-led small groups. Next, the authors illustrate how a third-grade dual-language teacher employed the GRR to teach her students how to use Spanish–English cognates. Lastly, the authors share three vignettes from a first-grade bilingual teacher’s use of the GRR to facilitate her students’ comprehension of teacher read-alouds of narrative and informational texts and English writing.

Findings – When the teacher educators employed the GRR model in combination with socio-constructivist professional staff development, the teachers revealed their concerns about small-group instruction. The teacher educators adjusted their instruction and support to address the teachers’ concerns, helping them to implement small-group instruction. The third-grade bilingual teacher employed the GRR to teach her students how to use a translanguaging strategy, cognates, when writing, spelling, and reading. The first-grade bilingual teacher’s use of the GRR during teacher read-alouds in Spanish and English provided space for her and her students’ translanguaging, and facilitated the students’ comprehension of narrative and informational texts and completion of an English writing assignment.

Research Limitations/Implications – The findings were brief vignettes of effective instruction in bilingual settings that employed the GRR model. Although the authors discussed the limitations of scripted instruction, they did not test it. Additional research needs to investigate how other teacher educators and teachers use the GRR model to develop and implement instructional innovations that tap into the unique language practices of bilingual students.

Practical Implications – The empirical examples should help other teacher educators and bilingual teachers to implement the GRR model to support the improved literacy instruction of bilingual students in grades one through four. The chapter defines linguistically responsive instruction, and shows how translanguaging can be used by bilingual teachers and students to improve the students’ literacy performance.

Originality/Value of Chapter – This chapter provides significant research-based examples of the use of the GRR model with bilingual teachers and students at the elementary level. It shows how employment of the model can provide bilingual teachers and students with the support needed to implement instructional literacy innovations and linguistically responsive instruction.


Purpose– The purpose of this chapter is to present an overview of the ways in which the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) model has been enacted in the research and educational practices related to deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) children. While the term GRR is not used in the studies reviewed in this chapter, the interventions described in each study demonstrate core principles of GRR.

Methodology– The chapter provides a brief review of reading comprehension and writing intervention studies with DHH children, adolescents, and young adults. In searching for studies related to the GRR model, key words and phrases included ‘mediated/guided instruction.’

Findings– A critical review of the studies indicates an overall need for improved clarity of the ways in which educators decide when and how to release responsibility to students. In addition, the degree to which students are reported to internalize and independently apply newly learned literacy skills varies significantly. The variation prompts further examination of factors other than the instructional approach, such as intrinsic student characteristics, that might contribute to successful acquisition of skills.

Research limitations– The studies in this review represent educational practice across age/grade levels and educational settings and thus present evidence in support of the potential for implementation of a GRR model in the instructional practices of DHH students. However, because the number of studies is quite limited, we cannot generalize the findings to the diverse population of DHH students and the variety of educational settings within which DHH students are enrolled.

Practical implications– Releasing the responsibility of learning to DHH students, particularly students with a history of significant language delays and limitations, is a challenging task but certainly a possible outcome. Current educational practices are reported to all too often perpetuate a prolonged reliance of the student on the teacher. Educators are encouraged to reflect on different ways in which DHH students can be encouraged and supported in becoming more agentive in their own learning and development. A careful examination of interventions that have successfully supported students in adopting and applying effective learning strategies is needed to improve current practices.

Value– An initial search for literature related to the GRR model, that specifically addresses the needs of deaf students, produced few results. By making connections between existing reading and writing interventions and the GRR model, this chapter provides a means by which educators of deaf children can begin to frame evidence-based literacy interventions within the GRR model. Such a change may prompt deeper discussions of the need to move beyond explicit and guided instruction present in many interventions to instructional pedagogy that supports DHH students in moving toward independence.


Purpose – This study explored agentive and sustainable teacher development as part of literacy coaching that employed a reflective framework and video with an apprenticeship stance. This chapter examines principles of apprenticeship and the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) model to analyze the transition of responsibility for reflection from coach to teacher.

Design/methodology/approach – An earlier seven-month multiple case study of literacy coaching with four secondary level teachers revealed seven joint actions (i.e., revoice, build, ask questions to develop understanding, ask dissonant questions, suggest, disagree, reconceptualize) and four categories of joint action (i.e., directive/consonant, directive/dissonant, responsive/consonant, and responsive/dissonant) within a model of joint action for literacy coaching (Reichenberg, 2018). This analysis mapped those joint actions onto the GRR model (McVee, Shanahan, Hayden, Boyd, & Pearson, 2018; Pearson & Gallagher, 1983). This chapter explicates reasoning for variability in responsibility and the potential relationship between variability and the development of teachers’ thinking and action through in-depth analysis of a single coaching session. Examples from other teachers’ coaching sessions are included.

Findings – Synthesis of the two models shows that joint actions initiated by the coach that were directive/dissonant fell on the left side of the GRR model with primary coach responsibility. Actions initiated by the coach that were classified as directive/consonant came next on the journey toward the middle, followed by responsive/dissonant actions. Responsive/consonant actions encompassed the middle region of shared responsibility. The same actions initiated by the teacher mirrored this progression. Principles of apprenticeship in this gradual release of responsibility highlight the bi-directionality of expertise in situated action informed by historical and dynamic context (Mercer, 2008). Evidence of teachers’ growing agency and sustainability were present in joint actions they initiated within the context of literacy coaching.

Research limitations/implications – Analysis of the actions of a literacy coach and teacher as directive, responsive, consonant, and dissonant add complexity to the discussion about how to transfer responsibility for reflection from coaches to teachers. Awareness of how joint actions map onto the GRR model can inform coaches’ and teachers’ decisions as they thoughtfully move toward greater teacher agency within coaching interaction.

Practical implications – The reflective framework employed in this study is applicable to a variety of settings such as instructional coaching across the disciplines, coaching by in-service literacy specialists, and the preparation of pre-service literacy coaches. The model of joint action for analyzing coaching interaction could be used by in-service literacy coaches, pre-service literacy coaches, and teachers who are being coached.

Originality/value – This chapter analyzes the transition of responsibility for reflection from coach to teacher. Principles of both the GRR model and apprenticeship theory provide a theoretical explanation for how these teachers achieved greater agency and sustainable development of a reflective stance.


Purpose – This chapter explores the work of one expert seventh-grade science teacher, Ann, as she used the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) to develop students’ knowledge and use of science language and conceptual knowledge. Ann’s use of scaffolds such as thoughtful definition, classroom discussion, and writing frameworks is explored, as well as her methods of incorporating language into science inquiry, and the evidence she gathered as proof of learning. Her instructional decision-making and specific instructional actions are analyzed to describe the ways she gradually guided students from heavily scaffolded learning opportunities, through guided practice with extensive modeling, and ultimately to independent and accurate use of science language and conceptual knowledge in spoken and written discourse.

Design/methodology/approach – In a researcher/teacher partnership modeled on the practice embedded educational research (PEER) framework (Snow, 2015) the author worked with Ann over four school years, collecting data that included interviews, Ann’s teaching journal, student artifacts, and vocabulary pre/post-assessments. The initial task of the partnership was review of science standards and curricular documents and analysis of disciplinary language in seventh-grade science in order to construct a classroom science vocabulary assessment that incorporated a scaffolded format to build incremental knowledge of science words. Results of 126 students’ pre/post scores on the vocabulary assessment were analyzed using quantitative methods, and interviews and the teaching journal were analyzed using qualitative techniques. Student artifacts support and triangulate the quantitative and qualitative analyses.

Findings – Analysis of students’ pre/post-scores on the vocabulary assessment supported the incremental nature of vocabulary learning and the value of a scaffolded assessment. Improvement in ability to choose a one-word definition and choose a sentence-length definition had significant and positive effect on students’ ability to write a sentence using a focus science word correctly to demonstrate science conceptual knowledge. Female students performed just as well as male students: a finding that differs from other vocabulary intervention research. Additionally, Ann’s use of scaffolded, collaborative methods during classroom discussion and writing led to improved student knowledge of science language and the concepts it labels, as evident in students’ responses during discussion and their writing in science inquiry reports and science journals.

Research limitations – These data were collected from students in one science teacher’s classroom, limiting generalization. However, the expertise of this teacher renders her judgments useful to other teachers and teacher trainers, despite the limited context of this research.

Practical implications – Science knowledge is enhanced when language and science inquiry coexist, but the language of science often presents a barrier to learning science, and there are significant student achievement gaps in science learning across race, ethnicity, and gender. Researchers have described ways to make explicit connections between science language, concepts, and knowledge, transcending the gaps and leveling the playing field for all students. Analysis of Ann’s teaching practice, drawn from four years of teacher and student data, provides specific and practical ways of doing this in a real science classroom. Scaffolding, modeling, and co-construction of learning are key.

Originality/value of paper – This chapter details the methods one expert teacher used to make her own learning the object of inquiry, simultaneously developing the insights and the strategies she needed to mentor students. It describes how Ann infused the GRR into planning and instruction to create learning experiences that insured student success, even if only at incremental levels. Ann’s methods can thus become a model for other teachers who wish to enhance their students’ learning of science language and concepts through infusion of literacy activity.


Purpose – The gradual release of responsibility (GRR) framework has long been used as a model to provide explicit and scaffolded literacy instruction (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983), but has seen far less application within the teaching of writing. As such, a framework for further incorporating the GRR model into comprehensive writing instruction is presented.

Design – This chapter describes a recursive writing process that includes four iterative and connected steps: we study, we write, we share, and we react and revise. From direct modeling needed to build efficacy (Bloomberg & Pitchford, 2017), prompting in the “we do it together phase” (Fisher & Frey, 2016), and peer collaboration offering students the opportunity to move from the solve it together to the self-regulated stage of learning, the GRR model of writing supports students as they move recursively between the phases of learning.

Findings – The recursive nature of the GRR model of writing offers scaffolded support calibrated to each student’s phase of learning. The gradual release model of recursive writing provides an opportunity for students and teachers to engage in a feedback cycle and permit teachers to pass the pen to students at an ideal time, often encompassing many opportunities to write, react, and revise with their peers serving as an authentic audience.

Practical implications – Writing proficiency is linked to relationship building and social networks (Swan & Shih, 2005) as well as academic and career success (Cormier, Bulut, McGrew, & Frison, 2016). The GRR model of writing offers a new model of a flexible, social, and recursive writing process needed in professional development and teacher education programs.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explore an application of the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) to the reading comprehension of students in kindergarten to grade five.

Findings – In this chapter, the author provides a brief review of think-alouds as a way for proficient readers to model the comprehension strategies that they apply to a text. The author introduces a three-step process in which students gradually take ownership for such strategies through think-alouds, think-alongs, and think alones. The author demonstrates that when students in kindergarten through grade five have strong models of comprehension through think-alouds, they are able to apply these strategies to their own independent reading. Though a case study of one English language arts teacher, the author shows how the teacher released responsibility to students through think-alouds.

Research limitations/implications – The examples within this chapter are from a second-grade classroom in an urban charter school.

Practical implications – This three-step process is applicable to all content areas as well as text genre and reading levels. This approach is a valuable model for teachers to understand how to gradually release comprehension strategies to students across grade levels.

Originality/value of paper – This chapter provides research-based examples of using the GRR model to build students’ ability to inference. Additionally, the chapter provides “I” language and sentence starters to help students internalize comprehension strategies and apply them to independent reading.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) model as an instructional framework for enacting culturally relevant literacy pedagogy in K-8 classrooms.

Approach – First, the authors frame a discussion on culturally relevant pedagogy via three central tenets and its significance for promoting equity and access in literacy education. Next, culturally relevant pedagogy is linked with the GRR model. Finally, authentic literacy practices that help bridge culturally relevant learning throughout the segments of the GRR model are delineated.

Findings – The authors believe that GRR models infused with culturally relevant pedagogical practices make literacy learning more equitable and accessible to students of Color. Toward that end, the authors provide multiple research-based instructional strategies that illustrate how the GRR model can incorporate culturally relevant pedagogical practices. These practical examples serve as models for the ways in which teachers can connect with students’ cultural backgrounds and understandings while expanding their literacy learning.

Practical implications – By demonstrating how K-8 teachers scaffold and promote literacy learning in ways that leverage diverse students’ cultural experiences, the authors aim to help teachers sustain students’ cultural identities and nurture their socio-critical consciousness.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to consider the historical context of the gradual release model as it emerged following the early twentieth century emphasis on behaviorism as psychologists (and reading researchers) increasingly focused on cognition in the reading process. This “cognitive turn” in educational psychology was followed closely by a “social turn” with its focus on the socially constructed nature of texts, learning, and reading, particularly influenced by Vygotsky and work on scaffolding.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter uses literature from the field to contextualize the gradual release of responsibility (GRR) model and to discuss research or practice chapters included in this edited volume.

Findings – This chapter described the transition from behaviorism to cognition to social construction as it applies to the reading process generally and to GRR in particular. It noted that this transition has required teachers to be more nimble and flexible than ever before, cautioned that the complexity of classroom life and the pressures on teachers can cause techniques such as GRR to be misused, and suggested ways to manage the group work which is central to social cultural approaches to literacy. And along the way it spotlighted the ever-widening range of applications of the GRR documented in the earlier chapters of the book.

Practical implications – The section in this chapter with most immediate practical implication is clearly the section on misuses of the GRR model. This section discusses some misuses of the model: neglecting explicit teaching; missing the middle (i.e., jump from explicit teaching directly to independent practice); and applying in an overly rigid manner.

Originality/value of paper – This chapter makes an original contribution to the field in providing a historical context for the gradual release model and for addressing the chapters in this edited collection. The authors also point to some areas for next steps forward as reminders to those applying the model.

Cover of The Gradual Release of Responsibility in Literacy Research and Practice
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Literacy Research, Practice and Evaluation
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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