Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Preservice Teachers' Professional Development in a Community of Practice Summer Literacy Camp for Children At-Risk: A Sociocultural Perspective

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Preservice Teachers' Professional Development in a Community of Practice Summer Literacy Camp for Children At-Risk: A Sociocultural Perspective

Article excerpt

This inquiry applied an innovative sociocultural framework to examine transformations in preservice teachers' professional development as they worked with children at-risk in a summer literacy camp. The camp incorporated a community of practice model in which teams of master's and doctoral students mentored small groups of preservice teachers. The study examined preservice teachers' learning following Rogoff's (1995, 1997) notions of the personal, interpersonal, and community planes of analysis. The research also employed a postmodernist crystallization imagery to capture multiple perspectives on the preservice teachers' growth. The study assigns importance to the contextual dimensions in which learning takes place, and emphasizes that learning is nourished by interactions with others.

Key Words: Children At-Risk, Community of Practice, Personal Interpersonal and Community Planes of Analysis, Sociocultural Theories, and Summer Literacy Camp


Many children who attend high poverty elementary schools make significant reading gains during the school year (Alexander, Entwistle, & Olson, 1997; David & Pelavin, 1978; Heyns, 1978; Murane, 1975). However, during summer vacation children from high poverty schools often experience decreases in reading achievement, while children from more affluent schools usually improve (Schacter, 2001). This phenomenon makes sense when we consider that when schools are closed, parents with limited monetary resources may find it difficult to provide educational opportunities for their children, such as visits to bookstores and libraries, access to technology and literature in the home, and enrollment in summer literacy programs (Foster, 2002; Neuman, Celano, Greco, & Shue, 2001). Schema theory, which posits that what readers bring to the text is as important as the text itself helps explain how participation in diverse experiences has the potential to expand children's background knowledge. In addition, a transactional socio-psycholinguistic perspective, which views reading as an interactive transaction between the reader and the text helps explain how engagements with literature have the potential to expand children's language and literacy development (Goodman, 1994; Rumelhart, 1994).

As a professor who works during the school year with preservice teachers and children at-risk, in high poverty elementary schools. I recognized a need to expand opportunities for preservice teachers to learn how to work effectively with children in low-socioeconomic learning environments. Recently, as part of my summer teaching requirements, I was scheduled to teach a graduate and an undergraduate reading course. Therefore, I devised a plan where I formed collaborative teams of preservice teachers and master's and doctoral students to offer a summer literacy camp for 60 at-risk kindergarten to fourth grade children. The study described here focuses on transformations in the preservice teachers' professional development as they participated in camp activities. I believe the education of future elementary teachers is an important place to begin to expand literacy learning opportunities for children at-risk (1).

The Context, Philosophy, Content, and Structure of the Summer Camp

In conjunction with a required advanced reading course for preservice teachers, the 10-week camp met one evening a week in a low-income Charter School located on the campus of a large urban southeastern university. A comprehensive, interactive view of literacy guided the philosophical perspective for the camp's tutoring sessions. This perspective values multiple ways of learning and considers reading to be a cognitive process in which meaning results from interactions between the reader and the text (Gipe, 2006; Rosenblatt, 1994). A comprehensive interactive stance also honors children's personal talents and unique differences (Gardner, 1999; Lipson, & Wixson, 1991). …

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