Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Voices: Student Teachers Link Teacher Education to Perceptions of Prepardness for Literacy Teaching

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Voices: Student Teachers Link Teacher Education to Perceptions of Prepardness for Literacy Teaching

Article excerpt

Literature and the learning of language are such social events. That's why I like literature circles because they provide opportunities for students to do so much work together, such as writing stories where they brainstorm together. This whole theory is that they learn together and they can help each other. The ideas don't always have to come from the teacher. It's better when they come from the other students. (Lee C., student teacher)

The changing world of literacy teaching creates considerable controversy over how student teachers should be prepared to meet the needs and challenges of literacy education. Former taken-for-granted notions about literacy and literacy education are no longer stable, and changing populations and a proliferation of new literacy technologies are challenging teachers to account for unprecedented rapid changes in language itself (Luke, 1995; New London Group, 1996). In the past two decades, broader and more complex approaches to literacy teaching have been developed which have the potential to result in increased student engagement, greater depth of literacy learning, improved literacy abilities in real-life settings, and continued literacy participation and learning in later life. Social constructivist tenets undergird many of these approaches to literacy teaching, but the shift they necessitate in teacher education are not occurring without debate. Lee's voice provides an insight into how a student teacher begins to grapple with the ideas contained in a theory where the social context of language learning is highly relevant.

In this article, we explore the ways in which a selection of student teachers from two universities in Canada expressed their feelings of preparedness to teach literacy in elementary classrooms. The student teachers had experienced various approaches to literacy teaching as they progressed through their teacher education program. These student teachers had been in either cohort-based programs or a course-based program. We present the student teachers' voices, taken from interview transcripts, and juxtapose them with current theory and research on teacher education.

Purpose of the Article

Britzman (2003) writes, "Voice is linked to trying to represent something of the self but in doing so, bumping up against the language, or the prevailing discourses in education and the larger social [milieu]" (p. 17). We trace the uniqueness of the individual voices of these student teachers in an effort to understand how they were coming to find their authentic "teacher voice." Frequently, they encountered contradictory realities as they began to move their thinking from that of student teacher to beginning teacher. The voices of the student teachers in this study raised many issues about approaches to teacher education, especially in relation to creating the most appropriate environment for them to explore and reflect upon both their present understandings about literacy education and the new ideas presented to them in their program. One important issue they raised is how cohort-based programs provide a different underpinning for teaching in the 21st century than do course-based programs. In the next section, we focus our discussion on two sets of approaches to teacher education as well as discuss the concept of cohort-based programs.

Approaches to Teacher Education

Richardson (1997) suggests there are two sets of approaches to teacher education: transmission approaches and critical, reflective, constructivist approaches. The transmission approaches provide student teachers with the opportunity to be engaged in intensive direct teaching of what is commonly referred to as basic literacy skills (NCEE, 1983; Pinnell & Fountas, 1998). Those who advocate the transmission approaches emphasize providing students with a clear target and then inducing students to work continually to achieve it (Tucker & Codding, 1998). From the transmission approaches perspective, the main focus of teacher education is the transmission of subject content (Barr, Watts, & Yokoto, 2000; NCEE, 1983). …

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