Academic journal article Education

The Effect Structured Participation Experiences Have on Pre-Service Teachers' Preparedness to Teach Reading

Academic journal article Education

The Effect Structured Participation Experiences Have on Pre-Service Teachers' Preparedness to Teach Reading

Article excerpt

Acquiring content knowledge is the first step in becoming an effective teacher (Amobi, 2006). However, effective teaching skills are also essential. These skills can only be acquired through practice in K-12 classrooms through field experiences (Harmon, Hedick, Marinex, Fine, Eldridge, Flint, Littleton, Bryant-Shanklin, Loven, Assaf, & Sailors, 2001). Field experiences must be designed to provide pre-service teachers with an opportunity to transfer their content knowledge to the classroom (Anderson & Radencich, 2001). Well structured and supported field experiences, practicums, and student teaching opportunities are essential to help pre-service teachers apply, practice, and hone the skills that they learn during their Education coursework (Beck & Kosnik, 2002). Field experiences provide unique experiences for pre-service teachers to learn from interacting with children, teachers, and families that cannot be replicated in the college classroom (Hammerness, Darling-Hammond, Grossman, Rust, & Shulman, 2005).

Teacher education programs typically have only two years to prepare pre-service teachers. Therefore, the content and experiences included within each course of a teacher education program are essential (Hammerness et al., 2005). Well-planned field experiences aligned with coursework are an important part of a pre-service teachers' education. Field experiences help pre-service teachers connect theories and strategies they learn in the college classroom to actual students and schools (Fang & Ashley, 2004). These field experiences must provide pre-service teachers with a variety of teaching opportunities to improve both their knowledge and skills (Darling-Hammond, 2000). These opportunities must also include a variety of opportunities for pre-service teachers to practice teaching strategies designed to meet the needs of diverse learners (Allen, 2003). Diverse and extensive field experiences are especially important for helping pre-service teachers feel prepared when working with struggling readers (Duffy & Atkinson, 2001).

Pre-service teachers need prolonged experiences teaching reading in order to ensure their effective use of the reading strategies they learn during their college coursework (Linek, Sampson, Raine, Klakamp, & Smith, 2006). Pre-service teachers often see teaching reading to students as an overwhelming challenge due to the wide range of abilities in the classroom (Duffy & Atkinson, 2001). Therefore, they often believe that the responsibility for teaching students who are struggling in reading is that of the reading teacher or specialist (Nierstheimer, Hopkins, & Dillon, 2000). This is due to their lack of confidence in their ability to teach reading (Bos, Mather, Dickson, Podhajski, & Chard, 2001). However, in-depth reading field experiences providing pre-service teachers with extensive opportunities to work with students can help them feel comfortable assuming their responsibility for teaching struggling readers. (Linek et al., 2006). These experiences can also improve pre-service teachers' confidence levels while increasing their ability to teach reading (Harmon et al., 2001). In fact, researchers have found that well designed literacy courses with extensive field experiences that provide ample exposure to working with struggling readers can help empower pre-service teachers and help them succeed in their role as a teacher for all children in their classes, regardless of ability (Nierstheimer, Hopkins, & Dillon, 2000).

The reality of today's classrooms is very different from what many pre-service teachers experienced even just 10 years ago. It is essential that pre-service teachers have a variety of opportunities to apply what they are learning in the college classroom to help them shift their paradigm of what teachers do and what teaching is from being based on their own experiences, to being based on best practice and the needs of students today (Cole & Knowles, 1993). …

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