Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Developing Preservice Teachers: A Self-Study of Instructor Scaffolding

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Developing Preservice Teachers: A Self-Study of Instructor Scaffolding

Article excerpt

In this collaborative self-study, two teacher educators examined transcripts of preservice teachers' inquiry groups focused on assessment and tutoring of struggling readers as part of a reading methods course. The analysis identified instances of scaffolding by the course instructor that influenced preservice teachers' development. Types of scaffolding included a shift in instructor stance from authority to expert peer, strategic prompts to promote inquiry, modeling professional language, and the transfer of responsibility from instructor to preservice teachers.

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During an interview for a faculty position, Karen was asked how teaching 1st graders compared with teaching undergraduates. Karen replied jokingly that there were more similarities than differences. That comment, made in jest, has come to mind many times in our work with preservice teachers and has framed this research. In this self-study, we explore the ways that one instructor scaffolded the development of preservice teachers, noting parallels to teaching young children. We do not discount the significant differences between adult and child learners, but do suggest that scaffolding and prompting are equally applicable, and that one's expertise with young learners might be leveraged in teaching preservice teachers. For clarity, throughout this paper we adopt the convention of Dillon et al. (2011) and use the term preservice teacher (PT) to refer to the students in our university classes. The children in the PTs field experience classrooms are referred to as children or students.

Karen's experience in reading instruction in Reading Recovery (Clay, 1993) has had a profound influence on her teaching. The principles of starting with the known, following the child, and strategic prompting within the zone of proximal development (ZPD) are ingrained in her teaching interactions, with both children and PTs. This parallel was not apparent at first, but emerged in the course of our analysis of transcripts of Dialogic Inquiry Groups (DIGs); small groups that met regularly during the semester to support PTs during a case study assignment and to foster collaborative inquiry and problem-solving.

Our reading methods courses are structured to build a community of practice in which the PTs, as newcomers to teaching, develop a teacher identity by engaging in authentic practices (Lave & Wenger, 1991). As part of this process, we initiate our PTs into the Discourse of the profession, defined by Gee (2004) as ways of "talking, listening, writing, reading, acting, interacting, believing, valuing, and feeling" (p. 124). The DIGs were designed to promote both the community of practice and the use of professional discourse that we believe are essential for the development of our teacher candidates.

Teacher educators who conduct research on their own practice operate simultaneously in various dimensions and to several purposes as they instruct their classes. We are members of the reading research community and seek to extend the knowledge of the field. We are part of a group of faculty at a particular institution who work together to continually revise and refine our teacher preparation program. We are instructors seeking to improve our own practice through reflection on our teaching decisions, assignments, and interactions.

We began our collaborative work as partners interested in exploring whether the DIGs were serving their intended purposes and meeting the needs of these students at this time. In our initial study, data analysis focused on identifying evidence of growth in knowledge, skills, and dispositions in our PTs (see Authors, 2011). It was Cynthia, coding data independently, who noticed many ways that Karen was scaffolding the PTs to notice critical concepts related to purposeful tutoring of beginning readers. Cynthia discussed her interpretations with Karen, taking the role of "critical friend", to learn more about the intentions behind Karen's questions and comments in the group sessions. …

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