Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Voices from the Classroom: Literacy Beliefs and Practices of Two Novice Elementary Teachers

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Voices from the Classroom: Literacy Beliefs and Practices of Two Novice Elementary Teachers

Article excerpt

Abstract. As political mandates in the United States continue to demand increasing levels of literacy by all young children, the importance of identifying factors that influence novice teachers' development over time become more critical. In this article, we explore Phase I of a longitudinal study, which describes the evolving literacy beliefs and practices of two early childhood teachers as they progress from pre-student teaching through the end of their first year as professional teachers. Interview and observational data indicated that external factors such as teacher preparation and teaching context, as well as dispositions, were key factors across time. As professional teachers, the participants' demonstrated beliefs and practices associated with effective teachers. Their literacy practices reflected their expressed beliefs and broadened over time.

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The preparation of both pre- and inservice teachers in early reading and the language arts is receiving extraordinary scrutiny due to federal legislation in the United States, such as the Reading First provisions of Title I and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (2002). A central challenge for teacher educators is to find effective ways of preparing both pre- and inservice teachers to teach young children to read and write in ways that both engage children and help them achieve at satisfactory levels (Teale, 2003). Although the beliefs and practices of beginning teachers have received increased attention in the literature in the past five years, little is known about how novice teachers develop effective literacy teaching practices during their first years of teaching. The purpose of this study was to investigate preservice teachers' beliefs about literacy instruction as they progressed from student teaching to their initial years of teaching. Specifically, the study sought to determine what factors influenced their literacy beliefs and how the literacy beliefs and practices of these novice teachers evolved over time.

Theoretical Framework

In the past 20 years, researchers have focused on the relationships between teacher beliefs, knowledge, and practices to better understand teaching and learning in classroom settings (Anders, Hoffman, & Duffy, 2000; Fang, 1996; Pajares, 1992). The literature widely acknowledges the potential for teachers' beliefs to affect classroom interaction and instruction (Dillon, O'Brien, Moje, & Stewart, 1994; Fang, 1996; Kagan, 1992). For example, both Kagan (1992) and Pajares (1992) identified clear connections between beliefs and practices in which an individual teacher's beliefs influence her instructional behaviors. Although several studies have examined preservice teachers' beliefs about literacy instruction (e.g., Bean & Zulich, 1991; Linek, Nelson, Sampson, Mohr, & Hughes, 1999; Maloch et al., 2003; Smith, Sampson, Linek, & Raine, 2001), fewer studies have examined the evolving beliefs of preservice teachers as they moved from preservice field experiences into professional teaching.

Preservice teachers may have naive beliefs about what it takes to be a successful teacher, bring to their preparation program beliefs about teaching and learning influenced by their childhood experiences, and may not understand the importance of challenging their beliefs (Stuart & Thurlow, 2000). The process through which a teacher learns to make instructional decisions has been found to occur over the teacher's lifetime, with the induction period, including student teaching, being of particular importance (Kagan, 1992). Understanding how preservice teachers' individual beliefs influence their teaching and perceptions of literacy can inform and hopefully strengthen the preparation and induction of novice teachers (Barr, Watts-Taffe, Yokota, Ventura, & Caputi, 2000; Maloch et al., 2003; Whitbeck, 2000).

Many schools of education seek to prepare beginning teachers through a process of reflection, which focuses on problem solving, personal meaning-building, and multiple viewpoints related to the practical and moral issues that permeate teaching (Roskos, Vukelich, & Risko, 2001; Wolf, Ballantine, & Hill, 2000). …

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