Reading to dogs in schools: An exploratory study of teacher perspectives

Jill Steel*, Joanne M Williams, Sarah McGeown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Reading to Dogs (RTD) interventions have become increasingly prevalent in UK primary schools. However, there is a need for research examining teachers’ perspectives of RTD, as this could be key in influencing the uptake and adherence to school RTD interventions. 
Purpose: This study sought to examine primary school teachers’ views of RTD in schools, exploring perceived benefits and challenges, in addition to their experience of RTD interventions. 
Method: The sample was gathered through voluntary/self-selecting participation in an open questionnaire-based survey shared through UK online teaching forums. In total, 253 UK primary school teachers (with varying knowledge and experience of RTD) completed the questionnaire, which focused on benefits and challenges associated with RTD identified in existing literature. More specifically, teachers’ perspectives of reading, social, emotional and behavioural benefits, and challenges (e.g., paperwork, time commitment, allergies, child/staff/dog welfare) were examined. Also, 59 teachers provided additional written comments regarding benefits and challenges associated with RTD. 
Results: Teachers’ perspectives of RTD were generally very positive; perceptions of benefits to social, emotional and behavioural outcomes were more positive than those associated with reading outcomes. Furthermore, teachers perceived greater benefits to children’s reading affect (e.g., motivation, confidence) than their reading frequency or skill. In general, teachers reported low concerns about the challenges associated with RTD; qualitative responses suggested that, while these challenges were real, they were not seen as insurmountable. Finally, teachers with greater knowledge and/or experience of RTD were more positive about its benefits and had fewer concerns about the challenges, although there were some exceptions. Additional written responses provided qualitative insights into teachers’ experiences of RTD. 
Implications and conclusion: Overall, UK primary school teachers in our sample were very positive about RTD; while they acknowledged challenges, these were not regarded as barriers to implementation. Furthermore, teachers were able to provide useful insights into the benefits and challenges associated with RTD from a practical and pedagogical perspective. Indeed, this study highlights the importance of gaining teachers’ perspectives of interventions that affect them and their pupils. Understanding teachers’ varied perspectives, and experiences, of educational interventions is essential to ensure that their professional and pedagogical knowledge feeds into future intervention design and implementation, in addition to future research and evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEducational Research
Early online date17 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • reading to dogs (RTD)
  • reading
  • wellbeing
  • teacher perspectives
  • educational intervention
  • animal-assisted learning

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