Looking beyond and Looking Within: Discovering Literate Lives

By Pellegrino, Debra A. | Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Looking beyond and Looking Within: Discovering Literate Lives


Pellegrino, Debra A., Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly


Abstract

To examine the differences between a foundations course in literacy versus a traditional methods reading course for preservice teachers, this paper explained the assessment, required readings, and pedagogical approaches for a foundations course in literacy at a small liberal arts university. The on-going tensions to not marginalize a required content area literacy course needed for state certification requirements were analyzed. By analyzing my own complex course, Fundamentals of Literacy Learning, and defining my research question (What extent does a teacher education course challenge preservice teachers to think deeply about their own "best practices" for use in the K-12 classroom?) refined my own instructional practices by reflecting on assessment, teaching, and learning in my interactions with graduate students. These findings have the potential to encourage other colleagues to document the pedagogical approaches involved in teaching critical pedagogy for other teacher education programs.

Introduction

In many universities across the nation, the "teaching of content reading course" has not evolved since the reports of the mid 1980s (e.g., A Nation at Risk and Education for Excellence Act). Although many reading courses must meet state certification requirements, these courses often follow a reading sequence approach that has yet to become effective in today's teaching environment (Allington, 2001). In actuality, as professors involved in teacher education, perhaps we must re-examine our course work and ignite the passion in our students with innovative strategies and critical pedagogy. We must teach our preserves teachers in the same innovative manner that we expect them to employ in the classroom when teaching literacy learning and social justice. If theoretical principles and practices are explored, then a required state mandate course needs to implement effective content literacy learning strategies as well as the understanding of critical literacy through reading and writing from elementary school to high school.

Education is undeniably value-laden and literacy is at the core of all social change. If our society is placing the blame for social ills on public education, then studies by scholars like Snow (2002) and Gee (1991) are confirming the belief that the " best" schools in America don't challenge the K-12 students to think deeply. Perhaps with new state and national mandates, the right time has come to take critical literacy a step further and examine teacher education programs to see if course work in teacher education programs is challenging our future teachers to think even more deeply or to question "best" practices.

The conceptual framework for the teacher education programs at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, becomes the heart, hand and soul for designing coursework. The Missouri Department of Education's conceptual framework identifies three principles that undergird the work of the professors, graduate students, and preservice teachers in the programs. As Chair of the Department of Education at Rockhurst University, I am confident the department teaches for social justice, for reflection on moral values, and for a liberal arts approach to subject matter (Teacher Preparation in the Jesuit Tradition, 2002).

The Department of Education at Rockhurst has had a long history of questioning critical literacy. For example, in November of 2002, I presented a paper on "the challenge of unlocking the sequence of reading courses in an undergraduate program" at the National Council of Teaching English, Atlanta, Georgia where I unfolded my belief in a constructivist view of literacy development (Au, Carroll & Scheu, 2001; Calkins, 2001). This endeavor supported instructional teaching practices that aim to develop students' understanding, ownership, and flexible use of reading and learning strategies in the context of reading worthwhile literature and non-fiction texts (Allington, 2001; Fountas & Pinnell, 2000). …

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