Academic journal article High School Journal

Preservice Teachers' Experiences Facilitating Writing Instruction in a Juvenile Detention Facility

Academic journal article High School Journal

Preservice Teachers' Experiences Facilitating Writing Instruction in a Juvenile Detention Facility

Article excerpt

A myriad of personal and contextual factors are important in understanding how preservice teachers learn to teach and why they adopt or reject certain teaching practices. Activity theory was used a framework in understand preservice teachers' experiences teaching writing during a field experience at a juvenile detention facility. The purposes of this study were to (a) to examine the pedagogical tools and practices that preservice teachers implemented during a field experience at a juvenile detention facility (b) to understand why they implemented these pedagogical tools and practices, and (c) to explore preservice teachers' perceptions of how they were shaped by the activity setting, the detention center. Results found preservice teachers entered the setting with very specific expectations about the arena, and these perceptions shaped their pedagogical choices.

Keywords: preservice teachers, activity theory, field experience

Introduction

This field experience really opened my eyes to the fact that the kids in this setting have a story to tell and they want to tell it (Mia, preservice teacher).

A myriad of personal and contextual factors are important in understanding how preservice teachers learn to teach and why they adopt or reject certain teaching practices. Although there is a current emphasis on writing instruction in grades K-12, few research studies address preservice teachers' learning to teach writing (Morgan & Pytash, 2014). Preservice teachers have specific and distinct needs as beginning teachers. While university methods courses are typically the central location where preservice teachers learn to teach writing, preservice teachers also navigate field experiences in school settings. Research often points to the disconnect preservice teachers experience when they move from their university methods courses to school settings for field places (Grossman, Smagorinsky, & Valencia, 1999). This is often due to clashes in the way writing is taught in methods courses versus the way it is taught in schools, relationships with cooperating teachers, and the overall school culture and climate. Missing from the research are examinations of field placements in nontraditional educational environments. This study focused on preservice teachers' experiences while teaching writing in a nontraditional educational environment, a juvenile detention center. This is an important site because detention centers offer educational services for detained youth, those often marginalized in mainstream settings and perceived as struggling readers and writers. This necessitates a closer examination of how preservice teachers learn about and teach writing when working with youth in this space.

The study concentrated on the following three goals: (a) to examine the pedagogical tools and practices that preservice teachers' implemented during their field experience; (b) to understand why they implemented these pedagogical tools and practices, and (c) to explore preservice teachers' perceptions of how their instruction was shaped by the activity setting, the detention center.

Conceptual Framework

Cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) is a framework examining a person's thinking, beliefs, actions, as well as the contexts where learning occurs (Brayko, 2013. From this perspective, "learning is intimately connected to human activity, which is socially situated in one or more activity systems" (Brayko, 2013, p. 48). According to Engestrom (2001) activity is mediated by components in the system and is in relationships with particular communities. The activity is "shaped and constrained by cultural factors" (Brayko, 2013, p. 49). Therefore, this theory examines cultural norms that govern participants' decisions, the environmental contexts, and the outcomes. Because preservice teachers' learning and adoption of particular pedagogical tools and practices takes place over multiple contexts, scholars have used activity theory to explain the ways preservice and inservice teachers transfer their learning from university methods courses to the enactment of pedagogical practices and beliefs in school settings (Grossman et al, 1999; Grossman et al. …

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