Literacy Content and Core Practices: Teacher Educator Pedagogy as the Bridge Between Knowing and Doing
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Abstract Mary Kennedy (1999) introduced the problem of enactment to describe how novice teachers often struggle to put what they have learned in coursework into practice in the field. One approach to this problem is to put practice at the center of teacher education by specifying core practices of teaching around which to structure novices’ learning opportunities. A core practices approach includes addressing the content and the pedagogy in preparing teachers. While research has been conducted on the use of core practices in mathematics, science, history, and secondary English Language Arts, there is currently a gap in the research in elementary literacy. In addition, most research available on elementary literacy methods courses includes information about the content of the courses but little literature is available on the teacher educator pedagogy in those courses. The literacy community has a large body of research on how children read and best practices to teach children to read. However, we don’t have knowledge on the best ways to prepare teachers to do this work. In order to ensure all students are reading we need to better understand how to prepare teachers for this complex work. This dissertation begins to address this gap by investigating an elementary literacy methods course that includes core practices. Importantly, this dissertation introduces a framework for understanding the types of decomposition in teacher education. This framework emerged in the interplay between concepts from sociocultural theory and data analysis. Sociocultural theory directed the attention to the relationship between knowing and doing and extended that concept considering the context in which learning takes place. Using a sociocultural lens to analyze data, patterns emerged within decomposition illustrating nuanced complexities that led to the development of the framework. This dissertation addressed the broad questions: How does an elementary literacy teacher educator learn the work of teaching core practices in a teacher education program? What pedagogical practices does one teacher educator use when preparing teacher candidates to teach reading? How do teacher candidates enact literacy practices when working with children? Does a literacy methods course that includes core practices produce changes in candidate knowledge on reading and the teaching of reading? I answered these questions though a mixed-methods study at State University, a larger research-focused university in California. This study draws on data collected from October 2014 – February 2015 – the first quarter of the program and part of the second. Drawing from interviews of five faculty members, interviews of eight candidates, ten course observations, and six field observations, data was analyzed to understand how the course instructor began using core practices, the relationship between content and core practices in the course, teacher educator pedagogy, and the ways in which candidates enacted practice. When analyzing these data, I looked across sources for triangulation. In this dissertation, I first present findings related to decomposition, a specific pedagogy used by the teacher educator. The study develops a framework of decomposition in teacher education that highlights the different dimensions where complex practice is unpacked into integral parts when preparing teachers. Based on concepts from sociocultural theory, this framework highlights conceptual and practical ideas that are decomposed and how practices of varying grain size are unpacked for candidates. Conceptual ideas are the larger ideas and principles behind literacy instruction and practical tools are those that can be used in the classroom with children when teaching them to read. This framework provided an analytical frame to understand the teacher educator pedagogy of decomposition in the course. A second theme was around enactment, historically viewed as a one shot deal where candidates sink or swim. This study revealed enactment is much more complex. I introduce a continuum of enactment. In order to support candidates in enacting practice, the teacher educator made thoughtful decisions to ensure all candidates had an opportunity to teach children what they were learning in the methods course. The teacher educator did this by including enactment at a lab school within the course. The teacher educator made intentional decisions to provide candidates with supports in this initial enactment. Grounded in sociocultural theory, the enactment continuum begins with highly designed settings on the left end and the traditional sink or swim on the right. My analysis indicates that a core practices approach engages teacher educator pedagogy that can serve as a bridge between knowing and doing in different contexts in a literacy methods course. Teacher educator pedagogy as a bridge supports candidates in understanding how they can put what they have learned in their methods course into action in the field with children. This dissertation makes several contributions to theory and practice. First, it illustrates the importance of teacher educator pedagogy. The framework for decomposition in teacher education and enactment continuum can both be used as a guide by teacher educators and as an analytical tool for researchers. This dissertation highlights how the inclusion of core practices can work towards ameliorating the problem of enactment. While this dissertation advances research on the use of core practices in an elementary literacy methods course, it recognizes that there is much more to learn and understand about high quality literacy teacher education.
- Education - Seattle