Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Academic Writing Development and Self-Efficacy A Model for Linguistically Diverse Pre-Service Teachers

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Academic Writing Development and Self-Efficacy A Model for Linguistically Diverse Pre-Service Teachers

Article excerpt

Today's Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are designed to "ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school" (National Governors Association [NGA], 2010, p. 3). The CCSS emphasize student ability to analyze complex texts and compose informational, argumentative, and evidence-based writing across disciplines; they also stress that instruction in writing and other literacy skills should be a shared responsibility within schools and across content areas (NGA, 2010). Yet, little attention has been given to an important question: How confident are teachers and teacher candidates in these skills and how prepared are they to teach them? This area is of special concern in states like California where the public universities have a significant student population which struggles with college-level writing skills. Historically, a large percentage of these students have been non-native speakers of English (Howell, 2011; Scarcella, 2003). While many of these students make significant progress in their academic literacy skills during their university experience, others, including students in teacher preparation programs, continue to struggle with academic and professional writing.

For instance, in a survey of 202 students enrolled in the College of Education at San José State University (SJSU) 79% of English learners1 and 66% of non-English learners indicated they felt they needed to work on improving their academic writing skills (Karathanos-Aguilar, 2014). Similarly, qualitative and quantitative research conducted with pre-service and in-service teachers at a large university in California revealed that many teachers did not feel comfortable teaching writing or knowledgeable about using writing with their students (Street, 2003; Street & Stang, 2009).

In the following student reflection, Maria2, a teacher candidate enrolled in a joint elementary teaching credential and master's program at San José State University, poignantly describes her post-secondary academic writing experiences and struggles:

In college I had several writing classes. This was a stage in which I really stressed about my writing. As a freshman I had English classes and I would get Cs on all of the writing assignments. My writing experience continued with research papers and formatted essays. I was not doing my best work because I knew I was lacking something in my writing. I was not sure what I needed to improve in my writing, and I did not have much feedback from my professors. I managed to graduate college, but I had the feeling I was not a good writer. [After taking a three year break from school] I decided to enroll in graduate school [in Elementary Education], and my first semester was rough. I had two master classes that required long essays every two weeks. When I got my papers back, it had no white spaces because all of it was covered with comments. It was extremely frustrating and discouraging to see so many marks on my paper. I seek help from the writing center tutors; however, they were not much help because I needed someone to look at my entire essay to identify my errors and teach me how to fix them. As I finished my [first] semester as a graduate student, I know I was not ready to work on my Masters project because my writing is not up to standards. What I do not know is how I can improve my writing because when I look at my essays I cannot identify what does not make sense, has errors, needs details, or needs to be rearranged.

Maria's account of her writing struggles at the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate level is representative of many students who find academic writing difficult and overwhelming and look to university faculty for support in improving their writing (Mullen, 2006). Unfortunately, a common expectation among faculty is that students who enter graduate- level academic programs are already competent in their writing. As a result, the topic of writing development at the graduate-level has been given limited attention as well as narrow focus. …

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