Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Enhancing Preservice Teachers' Skillsets and Professionalism through Literacy Tutoring Experiences

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Enhancing Preservice Teachers' Skillsets and Professionalism through Literacy Tutoring Experiences

Article excerpt

This qualitative study explores preservice teachers' experiences in a service-learning literacy tutoring program offered at a university with children in grades one through eight. This study examines briefly the history of literacy centers and service-learning, the specific instructional tutoring methods employed by preservice teachers connected to decoding, comprehension, and vocabulary, and the professional growth of preservice teachers pertaining to communication and teaching with intentionality, as identified in their written reflections. Advantages and disadvantages of tutoring, as perceived by the participants, will be addressed, too. Providing multiple early field opportunities for preservice teachers is essential and doing so within a service-learning literacy tutoring program can be a successful experience for all involved.

Key Words: Early childhood, Special education, Literacy, Tutoring, Service-learning, Preservice teachers, Professional development

Problem

Demands on teacher preparation education programs continue to grow, as "the United States is becoming progressively more challenging with respect to the demands of teachers" (Haverback, 2009). Alongside these increasing demands is the rising cost of a college education which can be burdensome when young students are undecided about possible teaching careers. The idea of providing preservice teachers with early and multiple field experiences with young children may help to solidify their decisions to enter the teaching profession, thereby limiting some of the financial burden consumed by taking unnecessary coursework. These early field opportunities are important as they may help students identify their career desires before they spend too much time and money on an education in which they may decide does not fit their future needs.

Authentic field experiences help preservice teachers apply theory to practice, differentiate instruction to meet students' needs, understand the workload and challenges of classroom teachers, and gain knowledge and appreciation for teachers and public schools (Lane, Hudson, McCray, Tragash, & Zeig, 2011; Massey & Lewis, 2011). University-initiated service-learning literacy tutoring programs may be one way to provide early field experiences for those students who are interested in teaching. The earlier future teachers understand the numerous demands, the better it will be for them as they choose a career path. Teaching is the career for some, but not for all.

The purpose of this qualitative case study was to identify the ways in which providing service-learning to young children through tutoring in a literacy center would enhance preservice teachers' skills, growth, and development as teaching professionals. Students who were enrolled in a reading course entitled, "ECED 351, Literacy for the Emergent Reader PreK-Grade 1," were provided the opportunity to tutor children in grades one through eight. Upon completion of the tutoring program, the students were required to submit a reflective paper mat described the experience and the way in which it may, or may not, have helped them grow as professionals. The researchers collected data from these papers, tutoring observations, and the Literacy Center Supervisor's journaling process to address the research questions of this study.

Literature Review

To provide a comprehensive overview of the literature related to this study, service learning and tutoring will be described first. Then, information about the foundation of literacy centers, the ways in which undergraduate teacher candidates use these literacy centers for tutoring, and the instructional methods employed by them during these tutoring sessions will be included. Finally, preservice teachers' perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of their tutoring experiences, as well as their perceptions of professional development attained through these tutoring interactions, will be described, as stated within the literature. …

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