Academic journal article Reading Horizons (Online)

Motivated to Engage: Learning from the Literacy Stories of Preservice Teachers

Academic journal article Reading Horizons (Online)

Motivated to Engage: Learning from the Literacy Stories of Preservice Teachers

Article excerpt

Motivated to Engage: Learning from the Literacy Stories of Preservice Teachers

Classroom teachers act as important gatekeepers of literacy access, knowledge, and motivation for elementary learners, with an influence sometimes extending well beyond students' membership in particular classrooms. As Ruddell and Unrau (2004) point out, teachers' content knowledge and pedagogical decisions are strongly influenced by the affective and cognitive factors that made up their own backgrounds in classrooms. So, teachers implement literacy instruction under the influence of their own histories, creating literacy experiences that may place a lasting stamp on their students. This perpetuating cycle continues to color the perspectives of successive generations of literacy learners.

The significance of this cycle for teacher education became clear to us as a result of reading the stories of pre-service teachers in our courses, who wrote about and reflected upon literacy experiences that they perceived to have had an impact on their current literate identities. Gathered as part of a larger study on the influence of the "apprenticeship of observation" (Lortie, 1975, p. 61), this collection of stories sheds light on the experiences of these students, but may also hold important implications for classroom teachers regarding a broad range of school practices and the long- lasting effects they can have on literacy learners. Applegate and Applegate (2004) explain the troubling impact that pre-service teachers, who are not readers themselves, might have on their students' literacy futures, a finding they label "The Peter Effect" (p. 556). This finding increases our urgency as teacher educators to identify school experiences from our pre-service teachers' literacy histories that tended to motivate or discourage their literacy interest. As a result of our concern, we examined these stories with the following questions in mind: 1) What patterns do we see in the literacy histories of pre-service elementary teachers? and 2) What can we learn about school-based literacy practices from pre-service teachers' stories?

We were struck by the consistency in our participants' stories with respect to experiences that they perceived to motivate and discourage them from engaging in literacy in the moment and/or throughout their lives. We were reminded of the power that teachers, ourselves included, have over who our students become. In this article, we share stories of school literacy practices remembered by our students, accompanied by their perceptions of the ways these experiences motivated or discouraged them from literacy interactions. We end with our interpretations of what the patterns in this data might reveal about the long-lasting influence of school literacy instruction.

Literature Review

To contextualize our study, and because our data were collected from students enrolled in a literacy course in their teacher education program, we consider the body of work on the use of literacy histories as a pedagogical tool in pre-service teacher education. From there we move to a review of the literature on motivation to read. This body of work is relevant as we consider the stories pre-service teachers told about the experiences that were motivating and discouraging for them as they developed their literate identities.

Literacy Histories with Pre-Service Teachers

Since the early 1990's, accessing narrative ways of knowing and learning through the use of literacy history and autobiography has become more and more common in pre-service teacher education (Clandinin & Connelly, 1996; Conle, 1996; Heydon & Hibbert, 2010; LeFevre, 2011). It is believed that "narratives have the potential as a rich platform to make visible some of one's existing theories and beliefs about learning and teaching and from which to develop new theories and beliefs" (LeFevre, 2011, p. 781). Teacher educators engage pre-service teachers in exploring their literate pasts for multiple purposes. …

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