Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

What Work Samples Reveal about Secondary Pre-Service Social Studies Teachers' Use of Literacy Strategies

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

What Work Samples Reveal about Secondary Pre-Service Social Studies Teachers' Use of Literacy Strategies

Article excerpt

For the past several decades, research has indicated that content area pre-service and in-service teachers do not use literacy strategies in their teaching (Conley, 2008; Fisher & Ivey, 2005; Lenski, 2009; Nourie & Lenski, 1998). We wondered whether things would be different for 21st century teachers. With a national focus on adolescent literacy, many teacher preparation programs now require secondary pre-service teachers to take a content area literacy course. Furthermore, our state requires every pre-service teacher to develop two work samples in which they need to embed literacy instruction in their unit of study. In light of these new requirements, we wondered whether pre-service teachers were still resistant to incorporating literacy strategies in their lesson planning and teaching.

The purpose of this study was to answer the following research questions:

* Do secondary social studies pre-service teachers incorporate literacy strategies in their work samples during student teaching?

* To what extent and under what conditions do secondary social studies pre-service teachers use higher levels of literacy strategies in their work samples?

Theoretical Framework

This study is framed by three areas of research: activity theory, work sample methodology, and disciplinary literacy.

Activity Theory

Researchers have recently begun investigating content area literacy from the perspective of activity theory (Russell, 1997; Van Den Broeck & Kremer, 2000), and researchers investigating reading comprehension have used activity theory to look at how certain tools have shaped the comprehension of texts (Bean, 2001; Smagorinsky & O'Donnel-Allen, 1998). These studies have suggested that examining comprehension from the perspective of activity theory allows for an examination of how psychological tools and instructional artifacts interact with students' prior knowledge as they comprehend texts (Bean, 2001).

Activity theory is among the socio-cognitive concepts emerging from the work of Vygotsky and his colleagues' work on mental processes and language development (Werstch, 1985). Briefly, activity theory posits that cognition and learning are mediated through tools, that these tools are dynamic and shift as learners interact with them, and analyses of these processes and relationships cannot be undertaken outside of a context (Engestrom, 1987; Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999; Werstch, 1985). It is a framework for examining how human beings construct and interpret meaning and how that process is mediated through tools of language, or anything used in learning (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999; Kuutti, 1996). In this way tools can be physical, such as a computer, or they can be mental, such as a framework. The individual or group in any activity has intention and is goal directed. Therefore, activity consists of "goal-directed hierarchies of action" (Jonassen & Rohrer-Murphy, 1999, p. 63), and these actions are linked to other activities and operations in dynamic ways.

Work Sample Methodology

Work sample methodology was developed for pre-service teachers to examine ways in which they connect teaching and learning and is currently being implemented in many teacher preparation programs (Girod & Shalock, 2002; Henning, Kohler, Wilson, & Robinson, 2009). We used activity theory as the basis for our investigation of pre-service teachers' construction of literacy in their work samples. We considered work samples a tool that pre-service teachers used to make their knowledge of literacy visible, and we also considered work samples to be a performance assessment tool to evaluate pre-service teachers' ability to apply that knowledge. The research that has been conducted on work samples indicates that works samples are effective activities for pre-service teachers and also a reflection of pre-service teachers' thinking (Devlin-Scherer, Burroughs, Daly, & McCartan, 2007). …

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