Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Community-Based Placements as Contexts for Disciplinary Learning: A Study of Literacy Teacher Education outside of School

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Community-Based Placements as Contexts for Disciplinary Learning: A Study of Literacy Teacher Education outside of School

Article excerpt

Community-based fieldwork has a long history in teacher education (Flowers, Patterson, Stratemeyer, & Lindsey, 1948) but has never been a widely deployed approach. A small but growing body of research in this area indicates that field placements in community settings, when well-mediated, show great potential for interrupting racist attitudes, positively impacting perceptions of families, and boosting preservice teachers' willingness to work in schools that serve diverse populations (Bondy & Davis, 2000; Boyle-Baise, 1998; Burant & Kirby, 2002; McDonald, Brayko, & Bowman, in press; McDonald et al., 2011; Sleeter, 2001, 2008; Zeichner & Melnick, 1996). Interestingly, most of the community-based placements described in teacher education literature are add-on components to stand-alone multicultural education courses. The placements are rarely designed in connection with particular subject areas or methods courses--including language arts and literacy--and subsequently, they are also rarely researched with a language and/or literacy focus. This reflects a trend in teacher education in which learning about and engaging with communities has typically been conceptualized and organized as mainly a social/ multicultural foundations issue, receiving far less attention in methods preparation work.

This trend persists despite research suggesting that teachers' knowledge of students' out-of-school language and literacy is of particular importance. For decades, scholars have argued the importance of considering students' language and literacy beyond school walls, noting that language and literacy are deeply connected to social processes and structures, identity formation, power, and ideology (i.e., Au & Mason, 1981; Heath, 1983). The inclination for programs to engage community-based experiences almost solely as opportunities for foundational and dispositional learning mirrors a larger pattern in teacher education of dichotomizing foundations and methods preparation (Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009); this arguably limits the learning opportunities for preservice teachers who are preparing to teach language arts or other subject areas to children in diverse urban schools.

The study described here is an investigation of field placements in after-school community-based organizations (CBOs) within one teacher education program. Although situated in one particular program, this study's findings apply broadly to our understandings of teacher learning through placements in CBOs. I examined literacy-related activity and learning opportunities available to preservice teachers in two CBO field placements, one serving mainly Latino children and another serving mainly Muslim Somali children. The research questions in the study were as follows: In what ways do community-based placements shape preservice teachers' learning about (a) literacy and (b) literacy instruction? This article includes a review of literature of preservice teachers' literacy-related learning in CBOs; a description of the study's conceptual framework, which is grounded in cultural historical activity theory (CHAT); an explanation of the study and findings; and finally, a discussion of implications and next steps for research.

Candidates' Literacy-Related Learning in CBOs

Although there has been a recent proliferation of research on children's literacy learning out of school, there has been far less attention to the learning of inservice and/or preservice teachers in these settings, including community organizations (Hull & Schultz, 2001). The available literature in this area suggests there is promise for out-of-school preservice literacy learning. For example, Patton, Silva, and Myers (1999) studied teacher candidates' learning in a family literacy program for recent immigrants, and Shelby Wolf, Ballentine, and Hill (2000) examined candidates' one-on-one work with students from low socioeconomic status or ethnic-minority families. …

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