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)

January 18, 2012

Schon, Educating the Reflective Practicioner

Schon, Donald. “Educating the Reflective Practicioner.” American Educational Research Association. 1987. Washington, DC. Web. http://resources.educ.queensu.ca/ar/schon87.htm 18 January 2012.

Schon, who sets out a context of contemporary conversations about school reform and teacher accountability and the history of higher education, which draws a line between (high) theory and (low) practice, argues that good teaching is artistic, responsive, and spontaneous in nature. He argues for a change in how teachers are prepared to teach, suggesting that they be taught (or rather coached) through reflective practicums, in the same vein as the practical education doctors, artists, and musicians receive.

Schon highlights that in these practicums, uncertainty and vulnerbility feature prominently: the students (the prospective teachers) are the ones who have to figure out what it is they are learning; their instructors can’t tell them discrete, contained bits of knowledge that then they can transfer. Reflective, spontaneous, artistic teachers experiment, test, and improvise.

Schon points out that this kind of teacher training can only flourish in an environment that grants teachers the freedom to experiment and the permission to be confused.

Quotes

“But underneath the debate about the schools, as it cycles through our history, certain fundamental questions keep coming up: “What are the competences that teachers should be trying to help students, kids acquire?” “What kinds of knowledge and what sort of know-how should teachers have in order to do their jobs well?” What kinds of education are most likely to help teachers prepare for effective teaching?””

“this capacity to respond to surprise through improvisation on the spot is what I mean by reflection-in-action. When a teacher turns her attention to giving kids reason to listening what they say, then teaching itself becomes a form of reflection-in action, and I think this formulation helps to describe what it is that constitutes teaching artistry. It involves getting in touch with what kids are actually saying and doing; it involves allowing yourself to be surprised by that, and allowing yourself to be surprised, I think, is appropriate, because you must permit yourself to be surprised, being puzzled by what you get and responding to the puzzle through an on-the-spot experiment that you make, that responds to what the kid says or does. ”

“And this is teaching in the form of reflection-in-action. It involves a surprise, a response to surprise by thought turning back on itself, thinking what we’re doing as we do it, setting the problem of the situation anew, conducting an action experiment on the spot by which we seek to solve the new problems we’ve set, an experiment in which we test both our new way of seeing the situation, and also try to change that situation for the better. And reflection-in-action need not be an intellectual or verbalized activity. If you think about–my favourite example of reflection-in-action is jazz, because if you think about people playing jazz within a framework of beat and rhythm and melody that is understood, one person plays and another person responds, and responds on the spot to the way he hears the tune, making it different to correspond to the difference he hears, improvisation in that sense is a form of reflection-in-action. And so is good conversation which must be neither wholly predictable nor wholly unpredictable. If it’s wholly predictable, it’s boring and not good, and if it’s wholly unpredictable, it’s crazy. Good conversation, which all of us have some gift for, involves a moving between those extremes in a kind of on-line observation and action which is so natural and spontaneous to us that we don’t even think about the capacity we have to do it.”

“My experience in other kinds of reflective practicums such as the design studio in architecture is that the phenomena of confusion and mystery and anger are endemic at the beginning”

“But all this depends on there being at the heart of the school a core of people, at least a small group of people, who are prepared to create a new kind of research presence, who want to produce experiences and knowledge which is usable by teachers. I think that’s the crucial feature–that their research would be usable. That it would be engaged collaboratively with teachers, that it would be conducted on line in experience with teachers, and that it would be aimed at healing the splits between teaching and doing, school and life, research and practice, which have been so insidiously effective at deadening the experience of school at all levels. ”

Notes

there is an ongoing tradition, dialogue about reforming school – nothing new

difference between school-based knowledge and knowledge acquired outside school (tacit, experimential, improvisational)

argues against the separation of theory and practice

distinguishes between reflection-in-action and reflection-on-reflection-in-action

teaching like jazz improv

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