Pre-Service Teachers' Growth in Understandings of Best Practice Literacy Instruction through Paired Course and Field Experience

By Lipp, Jamie; Helfrich, Sara R. | Reading Horizons (Online), January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Pre-Service Teachers' Growth in Understandings of Best Practice Literacy Instruction through Paired Course and Field Experience


Lipp, Jamie, Helfrich, Sara R., Reading Horizons (Online)


Pre-Service Teachers' Growth In Understandings of Best Practice Literacy Instruction Through Paired Course and Field Experience

Introduction

Today's struggling readers will face many obstacles as they progress through school. These may include a higher likelihood of being retained in school, being incarcerated, and living in poverty. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that over $2 billion is spent each year on students who repeat a grade due to reading problems (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015), while the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that 60% of America's prison inmates are illiterate, and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems (U.S. Department of Justice, 2003). Further, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) revealed that 14% of adults over the age of 16 read at or below a 5th grade level and 29% read at an 8th grade level (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Among those with the lowest literacy rates, 43% live in poverty.

Combating illiteracy has become a national problem, but effective teachers can provide the solution. There is strong agreement that schools will succeed only when teachers have the expertise and competence needed to teach reading effectively (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998). Research from the International Literacy Association [ILA], formerly the International Reading Association, concluded that putting a quality teacher in every classroom is key to addressing the challenges of reading achievement in schools (2007). Because colleges and universities prepare 80% of today's teachers, increased attention to the formal training of pre-service teachers in the area of literacy is necessary (United States Department of Education, 2013).

At the university level, coursework and field experience have often existed as a theory/practice divide, with one having little influence on the other. Research revealed that excellent teacher education programs engage beginning teachers in a variety of field experiences in which they have opportunities to use their coursework and interact with excellent models and mentors (ILA, 2007). Darling-Hammond (as cited by Scherer, 2012) asserted how important it is to create coherent programs for pre-service teachers in which all of the courses are connected to clinical work. She described these programs to be those where, "the student learns specific practices, goes into the classroom and works on those practices, and then brings the experience back, debriefs, problem solves, learns some more and takes it back to use in the classroom" (p. 20). Creating pre-service teachers who are highly prepared for the demands of today's classroom can be supported through the coherent combination of course and field work.

The purpose of the present research study was to examine how pre-service teachers change and grow in their understandings of best practice literacy instruction when course and field work are closely aligned. The present research sought to answer the following question: In what ways do pre-service teachers grow in their understandings and beliefs of best practice literacy instruction through unified course and field work?

Literature Review

Pre-service teachers need specific learning opportunities to become effective teachers of literacy. The ILA (2010) identified Curriculum and Instruction as well as Assessment and Evaluation among their six standards for Pre-K and elementary classroom teachers in regards to teaching reading. Instructional approaches and materials are the fundamental tools of reading instruction (Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2010). Pre-service teachers must be equipped with a solid understanding of best practice literacy instruction that is based on research and theory. Pre-service teachers can learn to implement effective literacy instruction based on knowledge gained from their teacher preparation programs (Fazio, 2000). …

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