Outside in and Inside Out: Using a Case Study Assignment in a Reading Methods Course

By Kindle, Karen J.; Schmidt, Cynthia M. | Teacher Education Quarterly, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Outside in and Inside Out: Using a Case Study Assignment in a Reading Methods Course


Kindle, Karen J., Schmidt, Cynthia M., Teacher Education Quarterly


Teacher education programs that focus on preparing urban elementary school educators face a daunting task. In a relatively short time, roughly four semesters of coursework, students are prepared to be transformed into teachers who are certified to meet the challenges of urban schools. This transformation occurs from the outside in as they learn culturally responsive pedagogy, effective strategies for classroom management, instructional design, assessment, and develop strong content knowledge in literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. At the same, they must be transformed from the inside out, developing the dispositions and identity of an urban educator. To maximize development within program confines, it is essential that every assignment in every course be relevant and powerful with elements that facilitate both content and disposition development.

We decided to study how this happens with preservice teachers in the context of a reading methods course. Accordingly, our purpose was to examine the use of a case study assignment in a reading methods course for elementary and early childhood pre-service teachers preparing to be urban educators. We sought to identify elements that resulted in outside in/inside out development as well as those that were not functioning as designed. As literacy teacher educators in a university committed to the preparation of teachers for urban schools, we continuously revise and refine our coursework, engaging in the same cycle of learning, enactment, assessment, and reflection (Snow, Griffin, & Burns, 2005) that we intend for our students to adopt as habits of practice. We seek new ways to develop content knowledge and dispositions by scaffolding their learning experiences through authentic tasks that "enculturate" them into the community of reading professionals (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Lave & Wenger, 1991). The case study assignment is the primary vehicle for this work as students connect their growing understanding of literacy development and the reading process with their work with a struggling reader in their field placement.

This work began with identifying a need to make the case study a learning experience for our students that would build knowledge, efficiency, and insight (Sternberg & Horvath, 1995). We were not satisfied with the level of analysis of reading behaviors that our students demonstrated in their assignments. We sensed that students were approaching the case study as "one more hoop to jump through" in their progress toward certification and were not building their knowledge and skills to the extent we believed possible. Thus, we examined all aspects of the assignment to see how outside in and inside out elements could be combined and strengthened. Elements were added to the assignment prior to the beginning of the semester to support our students' growing understanding of ways to differentiate instruction for an individual struggling reader, to scaffold them in developing greater expertise needed for reading instruction in urban schools, and to facilitate the development of teacher dispositions and identity. These elements included the dialogic learning log, collaborative sessions, and presentation of the case study in a mock parent/teacher conference.

With these goals in mind, the following questions guided our investigation:

(a) What aspects of the case study, as currently implemented, were effective in developing preservice teachers' content and pedagogical knowledge and dispositions? and

(b) What were the students' perceptions of their outside in/inside out development from completing this assignment?

Related Literature

The case study assignment is consistent with the dual focus of developing pre-service teachers from the outside in and the inside out. Outside in development occurs as content knowledge and pedagogy in reading are mastered, and inside out development occurs as teacher dispositions and identity take root. …

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