Revolution Lullabye

October 23, 2014

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

Morgan, Denise N. and Kristine E. Pytash. “Preparing Preservice Teachers to Become Teachers of Writing; A 20-Year Review of the Research Literature.” English Education 47.1 (October 2014): 6-37. Print.

Morgan and Pytash, in their review of the 31 published peer-reviewed research studies focused on preparing preservice teachers (PST) to teach writing, argue for an explicit focus on writing teacher preparation in undergraduate teacher education programs. They reiterate the National Commission on Writing’s recommendation for PSTs to have a writing pedagogy methods course in their undergraduate teacher preparation.

Morgan and Pytash organized the 31 studies they found in four thematic categories: 1. studies that focused on PST’s attitudes and beliefs toward writing; 2. studies that focused on PST’s interactions with student writers and writing; 3. studies that looked at PST’s influential experiences in methods courses that expanded their understanding of how to think and read as a writer; and 4. studies that looked at how PST applied what they had (or had not) learned in their methods courses about the teaching of writing in their student teaching and first few years of teaching.

Morgan and Pytash contend that the teaching of reading and the teaching of literature overshadow the teaching of writing, and they argue that it is time, especially in the advent of the CCSS, to rebalance the focus in teacher preparation coursework and in K-12 language arts classrooms. They also point out that there is a need for further research in how PSTs learn and enact the teaching of writing, pointing out that the literature available on how inservice teachers learn and enact the teaching of writing through venues such as the National Writing Project do not address the same needs and concerns as PSTs and beginning teachers. They call for further, longitudinal, cross-institutional research studies that can explore what kinds of concepts and practices learned in methods coursework helps PSTs negotiate both their past experiences as student writers and their current school contexts as they teach writing to whole classes of students.

Quotable Quotes

Goal of the research review: “To develop a coherent picture of the research concerning PSTs’ preparation to teach writing” (7)

“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” (7).

“Writing is a complex, nuanced, and layered activity. Teaching writing is even more so as teachers are challenged with making visible the in-the-head processes associated with writing, often to 30 students at a time, each with individual writing processes. To make instructionally sound decisions, teachers need to develop a conceptual framework that will guide their interactions with students. PSTs should be able to look to teacher education for that initial guidance” (33).

“Without writing methods coursework, the topic of writing is ‘sandwiched in’ the semester, with often just a few class periods devoted to teaching writing and the rest devoted to teaching reading. This provides PSTs with, at best, surface understandings of and experiences with teaching writing” (30).

“Now more than ever teacher educators are faced with the critical need to prepare PSTs to become confident and capable teachers of writers. With the current national focus on writing instruction in schools due to the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010) teachers must be prepared to enter the profession with strong pedagogical knowledge of how to teach writing and with a sense of their own writing self-efficacy. Just as schools at the K-12 level are being required to increase their writing instruction, universities should consider increasing the amount of writing preparation PSTs receive. Reading coursework cannot dominate literacy teacher education preparation” (28).

The literature review shows there is “a crucial need for PSTs to experience methods courses that provide explicit, consistent, and thoughtful writing experiences” (28)

Notable Notes

what sorts of preparation do PST get for designing and teaching digital and multimodal writing? (32)

future research project could be analyzing the syllabi of writing methods courses (repeat a similar study done by Smagorinsky and Whiting in 1995)

the methods course for teaching writing must provide PST with a conceptual framework to teach writing and practical strategies to implement in the classroom (29)

there is a divide between what is taught in methods courses at the university and what is implemented in K-12 classrooms – more studies needed about the transition of PSTs to the classroom to see what causes this (29)

studies done with experienced or inservice teachers are helpful, but they do not fully address the particular challenges faced by PST who are teaching writing (30)

without a methods course (or without a strong one), PSTs and beginning teachers revert to teaching as they were taught (27)

good methods courses give PST a reference of both theoretical concepts and hands-on practical strategies (26)

Question about methods courses that are run as modeling/writer workshops: “Is ‘living through’ a writing workshop and all it entails a significant method for learning how to teach writing?” (23) – the difference between being a writer and being a writing teacher (23)

Questions about methods courses that ask students to work one-on-one with student writers: How does working one-on-one with a student writer help a PST learn how to teach writing to a whole class? (19) If the PST only focuses on providing feedback, how do they learn how to create assignments and teach writing before and during the drafting stage? (19)

PSTs who have negative self-images as writers end up not valuing writing in their classroom and/or providing poor writing instruction (14)

Their methods: search databases using key word search terms (“systematic browsing”) and “footnote chasing” (9)

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