Academic journal article English Education

Preparing Preservice Teachers to Become Teachers of Writing: A 20-Year Review of the Research Literature

Academic journal article English Education

Preparing Preservice Teachers to Become Teachers of Writing: A 20-Year Review of the Research Literature

Article excerpt

In the teaching of writing, teachers' instructional decisions and practices should be guided by a sound conceptual framework. This conceptual frame- work encompasses understandings about writing as a subject specific con- tent (what there is to know about the act of composing) and the pedagogy of teaching writing (how to teach writing to others). Ideally, through their undergraduate experiences teachers develop conceptual tools, which are "principles, frameworks, and ideas about teaching, learning and English/ language arts acquisition that teachers use as heuristics to guide decisions about teaching and learning," and pedagogical tools, "classroom practices, strategies, and resources" to inform their teaching (Grossman, Smagorinsky, & Valencia, 1999, pp. 11-12).

Vygotsky's theory of concept development articulates the need for the integration of scientific or academic concepts learned through formal instruction, often in academic settings, and spontaneous concepts learned through practice in everyday activities (Smagorinsky, Cook, & Johnson, 2003). To Vygotsky (1987), "direct instruction in concepts is impossible" (p. 170); rather, principles learned in formal academic settings must come "in conjunction with empirical demonstrations, observation, or activity" (Smagorinsky, 2011, p. 43). There is a necessary interplay between scientific and spontaneous concepts in learning to teach and in the settings in which teachers encounter them. Developing both a conception of the subject matter and knowledge of how to teach is a challenge teachers face (Smagorinsky, Lakly, & Johnson, 2002).

Teachers learn about teaching in many settings, with university pro- grams being the "foremost settings for learning how to teach" (Smagorinsky et al., 2003, p. 1407). Teacher educators must support preservice teachers (PSTs) in developing content knowledge about the subject of writing while also providing them with specific tools they can employ in the classroom. It makes sense that an examination of teaching and learning occurring within university programs is necessary to know what PSTs are learning about teaching writing and are prepared to do when they enter the classroom. In this review, we sought to investigate the following questions: What pedagogi- cal understandings do PSTs encounter and appropriate in these "foremost settings" about the teaching of writing? What conceptual understandings are they gaining through their formal coursework and field experiences? In what ways are these foremost settings contributing to PSTs' future ability to teach writing in their classrooms?

This article sets forth to review research literature published on pre- service writing teacher education. First, we describe our decision-making process. Next, we examine each collection of studies to identify what research has found PSTs learn about the teaching of writing. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of the available research and share directions for writing teacher education research.

Method for Literature Review

Our goal for this literature review was to develop a coherent picture of the research concerning PSTs' preparation to teach writing. While there is informative research about teaching inservice teachers about writing, for example, research conducted with teachers associated with the National Writing Project (NWP), we argue that PSTs need a specialized agenda. PSTs are beginning their journeys as educators. It is critical that PSTs enter the classroom, whether as student teachers or in their early careers, with strong theoretical and pedagogical knowledge for teaching writing. If PSTs must immediately be ready to teach writing, teacher educators must examine methods courses and practicums to explore ways in which PSTs learn about writing instruction, how they enact this learning when teaching, and obstacles they may face. For these reasons, an examination of research on preparing PSTs to teach writing seemed warranted. …

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