Along with my research team we have been studying literacy/English teacher educators. Through this work I became very fascinated with a notion of a pedagogy of literacy teacher education. In the second interview we asked them to define the goals for their courses. We then categorized and tabulated the results. As the table below show not surprisingly building knowledge of literacy was their first goal.
Goals for course
Number who identified this goal
Build knowledge of literacy
Build knowledge of pedagogical strategies
Student teachers adopt a professional role
Student teachers develop a critical stance
Build knowledge of government initiatives
Build knowledge of digital technology
Focus on student teacher growth
When the specific goals for their courses were analyzed using NVivo a more nuanced picture emerged. Their vision for literacy varied tremendously. Regarding literacy although learning about literacy and acquiring pedagogical strategies were common goals, interpretations of what student teachers need to know about literacy theory and teaching strategies varied.
Some like Melissa, Dominique, and Maya (pseudonyms used throughout) focused on critical literacy while Amelia and Jessie had multiliteracies as the framework for their courses. Jane and Lance focused on children’s literature, while Sharon and Margie had the writing process as their priority. One LTE focused her course totally on phonics and phonological awareness. Justin commented: “I see our work as being about the development of teachers as public intellectuals … not simply to prepare beginning teachers for whatever the particular curricular or pedagogic demands of policy here now are but for a lifetime in teaching and this involves them being able to be both critical of initiatives that are thrust on them and creative in their approaches.”
It also became apparent the teacher educators’ broader goals for teacher education were quite different. For example Justin believed that he should “prepare student teachers for a lifetime of teaching; prepare them to be public intellectuals; see schools as an emancipatory space. Caterina aims to have her student teachers “themselves as professionals not college students.” Emma has very specific goals: “understand current curriculum … develop skills to plan and asses … be independent thinkers who are not just teaching for the schools we have.” Bob by contrast has broader goals “student teachers learn to focus on the students … to unpack their beliefs [about schooling] … and to develop an identity as a professional.” While Martha Ann focuses on the individual’s development “develop a sense of self-efficacy … learn to take initiative … …. know children’s literature … empower students.” The lack of consistency in literacy methods courses (content and pedagogy) in teacher education is a concern because student teachers may graduate with markedly different understandings of literacy and may have been exposed to a particular set of literacy theories and pedagogies.
In my next blog post I will present the framework for a pedagogy of literacy teacher education.
Academic writing is often criticized for being unnecessarily complex and as a result inaccessible to most people. In a response to simplify academic writing, there has been a hilarious online movement to tweet your research using only emojis. I decided to try it out. Surprisingly, this task was more difficult than I expected. Below is my final result (I had to use text + emojis). Interestingly, my husband commented the emoji statement helped clarify what the heart of my research is really about. Go figure!!
I (Clare) am the Principle Investigator of a large-scale study of 28 literacy/English teacher educators from four countries. This week I am doing a presentation at the Ontario Ministry of Education where I will give an overview of our findings. Attached is the powerpoint which I thought you might find interesting. MOE LTE 2014
For more information on the study click on the tab Projects and then click on Literacy Teacher Educators: Their Backgrounds, Visions, and Practices.
Clive and I (Clare) are at the European Conference on Educational Research in Porto Portugal. This is an amazing conference which brings together educational researchers from around the world. Network 10 which focuses on teacher education research is a truly wonderful community. Clive and I are doing a few papers. Below are the papers and powerpoints for our presentations:
As I continue to read the news about states exiting the Common Core standards to reclaim standard-setting autonomy, I am reminded of a quote from a participant from our SSHRC study on literacy teacher educators:
“You’re teaching the student. You’re not teaching the curriculum. The student should be in the middle and to try to stretch the curriculum to fit around that.” (Melissa)
The Common Core Standards are national U.S. standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics grades K-12. The implementation of these standards began in 2011. However, in the past few months three states have formally withdrawn from the Common Core Standards (Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina). Recently, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana made public that he was also looking to formally withdraw from the Common Core Standards.
This turbulent time in the implementation of national standards reminds me of the stance several of our literacy teacher educators had on teaching directly to national mandates. Several had lived through many curricula, and so tended to veer away from explicitly teaching the curriculum. Rather, they emphasized with their student teachers that the focus should always be on the student.
Below is a chart summarizing U.S. resisting the implementation of the Common Core:
We (Clare) have begun the third round of interviews of for our research study of Literacy/English teacher educators. A focus of these interviews is on their use and views of digital technology. We have learned about some very clever ways technology is being integrated into their literacy methods courses. Wow! What a range of interesting examples:
Blogs (student teachers do blog post on the disciplines e.g., their insights into teaching)
podcasts (both professionally made and student-teacher made)
virtual tasks (done individually and in small groups)
surveys (during the course to monitor student teacher learning)
You Tube videos
student teacher-made videos of practice teacher
SKYPE (with authors that they are reading class)
discussion on BlackBoard on readings prior to class
Email (a way to remain connected to student teachers during practice teaching, especially for those working in rural areas)
Videos were used frequently. These were seen as a way for student teachers to observe and analyze exemplary practice.
When asked the question, What does digital technology provide you that you could not do decades ago?, there was overwhelming recognition that technology is supporting and enhancing teaching and learning. It provides ready access to materials, supports development of community (e.g., student teachers introduce themselves prior to the course beginning; social media connects them socially), and extends their repertoire of pedagogies. All felt that their efforts to teach with, through, and about digital technology took a huge amount of time and effort.
The first day of our Symposium was a smashing success! The large group discussion of “where we are” revealed the extreme pressure on teachers and teacher educators. We heard about the fast and furious rate of reform in some countries – non-stop initiatives coming from the government. These are so prolific that there are often contradictory messages (e.g., be inquiry-based but focus on skills development). The mini presentations addressed a range of issues: what happens when standards are implemented; student teacher expectations for courses versus the teacher educators’ goals; problems of teacher retention; the vast number of pathways into teaching creates confusion; and teacher educators having different emphases in their courses even when there is a common syllabus. A problem that arose is lack of control over the implementation of standardization. It can take a very different form from the envisaged use of the standards. The place of digital technology in literacy/English education still eludes and needs much more discussion of what to do and how to do it so that technology is used to support learning. The discussion was rich and far-ranging. A number of participants commented that we rarely have an opportunity to discuss “big issues” in education and teacher education.
Today promises to be another day full of lively discussion.
We (Clive and Clare) are in NYC interviewing literacy/English teacher educators who are part of our large-scale study which includes participants from four countries: Canada, US, UK, and Australia. To date, we have conducted two interviews and are now starting the third round of interviews. The first interview focused on their backgrounds and interests; the second on their pedagogy; and the third on their use of digital technology and future plans. (For the interview questions click on the tab About Our Research then on the drop down menu, click on the tab for Instruments.) To say this research has been fascinating is an understatement! I feel I have gotten to know 28 outstanding teacher educators both personally and professionally. I have learned so much through this research:
their approach to literacy teacher education is thoughtful and complex (e.g., consistently they believe you need to start with the student teacher’s own views of literacy and to help them “unlearn” in order to develop a more expansive view of literacy);
most did not plan to do a PhD or become a teacher educator (e.g., their journey to becoming a professor/lecturer were serendipitous with a key figure/mentor influencing them);
they have very heavy workloads in part because they are so committed to their student teachers (e.g., they develop tutoring programs in schools in order to provide student teachers with authentic experiences)
the political context is impacting on them in untold ways (e.g., the pressure from external credentialing agencies to conform to a narrow view of literacy – phonics – is complicating their work. They cannot always teach what they feel student teachers need to know).
they must hold multiple identities – as teacher educators, as teachers, and as researchers
I feel truly lucky to have had the opportunity to interview these 28 remarkable teacher educators. We as an education community can learn much from them. We have published two papers from the study so far. Click on the Link Publicationsthen click on the Link Clare’s Publications for copies of our papers.