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A fresh perspective on preservice teacher reading efficacy beliefs.

This research examined preservice teachers' efficacy in the domain of reading. The Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSES) was adapted to create a domain specific reading TSES (RTSES). This scale was used to investigate how high efficacy was in preservice teachers before entering a course and before completing a mastery experience in reading. Analyses of pre-test data showed that participants rated themselves as having fairly high teacher efficacy in the domain of reading. Although preservice teachers had high efficacy scores, they did not have any experience in teaching reading. Therefore, one may question on what these preservice teachers based their efficacy. This question suggests that there is a need for more research to further investigate if high efficacy, not based on experience, is a benefit to preservice teachers.

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Preservice teachers in the United States are currently faced with increasing expectations. First, state and federal education policies and requirements have increased with the No Child Left Behind Legislation. Second, expectations on these future teachers to improve elementary school students' reading abilities has intensified under the Reading First initiative. Third, preservice teachers encounter more diversity in the classroom than in years passed (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). Given these increases in teacher expectations and requirements, it is not surprising that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES, 2001) reported that one in five new teachers leaves the profession after only three years.

This attrition rate is disappointing because teaching is a profession wherein the training includes offering students mastery experiences (e.g. real world, hands-on experiences). During these mastery experiences, preservice teachers are given the opportunity to train within a public school. For example, in the state of Maryland preservice teachers spend time in the schools early on in their education courses. The program allows for preservice teachers to observe, participate, and eventually student teach. These real world experiences are meant to present preservice teachers with insight into their future profession while working with a mentor teacher. Although such experiences are of great import, the belief systems of preservice teachers are too. Thus, preservice teacher efficacy beliefs should be investigated by teacher educators.

Efficacy beliefs are important for preservice teachers because they have been found to influence how people feel, reason, motivate themselves, and act (Bandura, 1993). Personal teaching efficacy has been defined as an individual's belief in his or her capability to teach effectively (Plourde, 2002) and is task specific. High teacher efficacy has been correlated with academic achievement, positive teacher practices, and better service to students in need of special education (Allinder, 1995; Bandura, 1993; DeForest and Hughes, 1992; Gibson and Dembo, 1984; Meijer & Foster, 1988). Moreover, teachers with high efficacy are more likely to be more satisfied in their jobs and less likely to experience teacher burnout (Caprara, Barbaranelli, Borgogni, & Steca, 2003; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007). But how are teacher efficacy beliefs created?

Bandura (1994) states that mastery experiences, or one's real world experiences, are the best way to create a high sense of efficacy. Further, Pajares (2002) believes that humans determine the influence of their actions, and how these actions are interpreted constructs their efficacy beliefs. This creation of efficacy beliefs is understandable for an experienced teacher. For instance, an experienced teacher has mastery experience in the classroom, and has had the opportunity to determine whether or not he or she has interpreted the mastery experiences as failure or achievement. After this interpretation of actions, a teacher's efficacy beliefs are created. However, in the case of the preservice teacher, no such mastery experiences have taken place. Thus, one may question on what efficacy beliefs are based for the preservice teacher. Furthermore, how do preservice teachers rate their teacher efficacy before they have had an experience to teach? While some studies have investigated preservice teacher efficacy beliefs (Fives, Hamman, & Olivarez, 2007; Schoon & Boone, 1998; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990), very few have looked into preservice teachers before they have had an opportunity to engage in any formal education or mastery experiences.

This research differs from previous research in two ways. First, this research investigated how preservice teachers reported their efficacy beliefs before engaging in a reading mastery experience or formal reading pedagogy courses. Second, as efficacy is task specific, this research studied the pedagogical domain of teaching reading. The main question guiding this research was: How do preservice teachers rate their reading teacher efficacy beliefs before having mastery experiences learning about or teaching reading? The hypothesis was that preservice teachers will report low efficacy beliefs based on the notion that they do not have mastery experiences upon which to base their efficacy beliefs.

Methods

Participants

The participants in this study included 120 university students enrolled in reading acquisition courses at two large, Mid-Atlantic Universities. This course is a requirement for Early Childhood and Elementary Education certification in the state. As such, the participants were education majors. Students take this course prior to being placed in the elementary schools for observing or student teaching; therefore, the participants did not have formal mastery experiences in the teaching of reading or the learning of reading pedagogy.

Measures

The participants in this study completed the Tschannen-Moran and Woolfolk-Hoy (2001) Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSES) known as the Reading Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale (RTSES). This measure was adapted to examine teacher efficacy within the specific domain of reading. Factor analyses revealed two factors labeled: "reading motivation" and "reading assessment" (Haverback & Parault, 2009). The RTSES asks: "How much can you do?" on a continuum of 1-Nothing, 3-Very Little, 5-Some Influence, 7-Quite a Bit, and 9-A Great Deal. The original measure has been shown to have high overall reliability rates ranging from Alpha .95 to .86 and has been used and accepted in studies of pre-service teacher efficacy (Fives, Hamman, & Olivarez, 2007; Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2007). Sample items include: "To what extent can you provide an alternative explanation or example when students are confused about reading?", "How much can you do to motivate students who show a low interest in reading?", and "How much can you do to get students they can do well in reading?" The RTSES is presented in Appendix A.

Procedures

All participants in this project were enrolled in a reading acquisition course, which is the first reading course in a series. This course is given before preservice teachers are permitted to engage in courses that include a mastery experience. In other words, the preservice teachers in this study have not engaged in a formal reading education course or mastery experience, such as observations or student teaching. At the beginning of the course, before any formal reading education instruction, the participants were given the RTSES.

Results

Analyses showed that preservice teachers had fairly high overall mean scores (M = 6.5). Likewise, analyses showed that preservice teacher reported a higher pretest score in motivation efficacy (M = 6.65) than assessment efficacy (M = 6.5). These findings show the average preservice teacher in this study reported themselves as having "quite a bit of influence" over their ability to assess and motivate students in the area of reading. These mean scores and standard deviations are summarized in Table 1.

Discussion

In the past, a number of researchers have found that higher teacher efficacy beliefs are correlated with better teacher practices (Allinder, 1995; Bandura, 1993; DeForest and Hughes, 1992; Gibson and Dembo, 1984; Meijer & Foster, 1988). The reasons for those findings are understandable, as in-service teachers have a plethora of experiences from which to base their efficacy beliefs.

For example, an experienced reading teacher has most likely been formally trained in reading pedagogy and has mastery experiences with students in the domain of reading. Such in-service teachers have had mastery experiences in the classroom including: creating reading lessons, engaging children in reading lessons, motivating children to read, and assessing reading abilities and strategies. If an experienced teacher has had success while teaching students to read, that teacher will most likely report high reading teacher efficacy beliefs. However, if that teacher did not feel he or she was successful at teaching students to read, low reading teacher efficacy beliefs would probably be reported. However, one may question how one who does not have experience upon which to base these beliefs will do so.

Consider a high school mathematics teacher who is an accomplished, veteran teacher but has never had any experience fixing a car engine. If this teacher is asked how much he can do when motivating and assessing a student in mathematics, the mathematics teacher's efficacy beliefs are probably pretty high based on his experience and expertise. However, if this same teacher was asked how well he could fix the engine on a car, he would probably report fairly low efficacy beliefs, as he lacks experience doing this task.

In the case of the preservice teachers in this study, efficacy beliefs were not based on mastery experiences. Instead, the preservice teachers were asked to predict how well they could teach if given the opportunity. Contrary to the hypothesis, the preservice teacher participants rated themselves as having fairly high reading teacher efficacy beliefs. In fact, most participants felt that they could do "quite a bit" to both motivate and assess students in the domain of reading. These findings are fairly high despite the fact that these preservice teachers have not yet had formal experiences with reading pedagogy or mastery experiences teaching reading. When considering that Bandura believes mastery experiences are the most influential in creating efficacy beliefs and that teacher efficacy beliefs are based on one's interpretations of previous experiences, one may question how the mean scores in this study were so high. Based on the aforementioned findings that high efficacy is correlated to better teacher practices, the efficacy scores reported by preservice teachers in this study may seem positive. However, one may question if the benefits of high efficacy will still hold true if the efficacy scores are not based on mastery experiences.

Future research should investigate upon what preservice teachers are basing their efficacy beliefs. Additionally, it would be beneficial to teacher educators to study whether or not it is beneficial for preservice teachers to have tempered efficacy beliefs upon entering a classroom for the first time. As the preservice teachers in this study reported fairly high efficacy beliefs, one may question whether or not high beliefs are actually a benefit. Past research has investigated different aspects of preservice teacher efficacy, but the longitudinal impact of these efficacy beliefs on future teaching practices has yet to be investigated. This researcher speculates that moderate expectations for those entering the field of teaching may assist preservice teachers in having realistic beliefs about how well they will be able to motivate and assess students within the first years of teaching. As the first years of teaching can prove to be challenging, perhaps having preservice teachers who are realistically efficacious will help alleviate some of their potential frustrations while allowing their teacher efficacy to grow.

References

Allinder, R.M. (1995). An examination of the relationship between teacher efficacy and curriculum-based measurement and student achievement. Remedial & Special Education, 16 (4), 247-254.

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28, 117-148.

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human-behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).

Caprara, G, Barbaranelli, C., Borgogni, L., & Steca, P. (2003). Efficacy beliefs as determinants of teacher's job satisfaction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 9.5 (4), 821-832.

DeForest, P.A., & Hughes, J.N. (1992). Effect of teacher involvement and teacher self-efficacy on ratings of consultant effectiveness and intervention acceptability.

Fives, H.; Hamman, D.; & Olivarez, A. (2007). Does burnout begin with student teaching? Analyzing efficacy, burnout, and support during the student-teaching semester. Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 23 (6), 916-934.

Gibson, S., & Dembo, M. H. (1984). Teacher efficacy: A construct validation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76 (4), 569-582.

Haverback, H.R., & Parault, S.J. (2009). Paper presented to American Educational Research Association. Too Much, Too Soon? Pre-service reading tutors' efficacy and content knowledge. San Diego, CA.

Meijer, D., & Foster, S. (1998). The effect of teacher self-efficacy on referral chance. Journal of Special Education, 22 (3), 378-385.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2001). Put reading first: The research building blocks for teaching children to read. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Pajares (2002). Overview of social cognitive theory and of self-efficacy. Retrieved January 23, 2008, from http://www.emory.edu/EDUCATION/mfp/eff. html.

Plourde, L. (2002). The influence of student teaching on preservice elementary teachers science self-efficacy and outcome expectancy beliefs. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 29, 245-254.

Schoon, K. J., & Boone, W., J. (1998). Self-efficacy and alternative conceptions of science of preservice elementary teachers. Science Education, 82, 553-568.

Skaalvik, E. & Skaalvik, S. (2007). Dimensions of Teacher Self-Efficacy and Relation with strain Factors, Perceived Collective Teacher Efficacy, and Teacher Burnout. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99 (3), 611-625.

Tschannen-Moran, M., Woofolk-Hoy, A. (2001). Teacher efficacy: Capturing an elusive Construct. Teacher and Teacher Education, 17(7), 783-805.

Tschannen-Moran, M. & Hoy, A. W. (2007). The differential antecedents of self-efficacy beliefs of novice and experienced teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(6), 944-956.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. (2002) No child left behind: A desktop reference. Washington, D.C.

Woolfolk, A. E., & Hoy, W. K. (1990). Prospective teacher's sense of efficacy and beliefs about control. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 81-91.

HEATHER ROGERS HAVERBACK

Assistant Professor

Towson University
Table 1
Means and Standard Deviations for Reading Efficacy

                               Mean (Pre)   SD (Pre)

                                Reading
                                Efficacy

Reading Efficacy Total            6.54        1.20
Reading Efficacy Motivation       6.65        1.20
Reading Efficacy Assessment       6.51        1.19

Note: The RTSES contains 10 questions on a 9-point
Likert scale.

Teacher Beliefs

Directions: This questionnaire is designed to help us gain a better
understanding of the kinds of things that create difficulties for
teachers in their school activities. Please indicate your opinion
about each of the statements below. Your answers are confidential.

How much can you do?

                           Nothing            Very Little

1.  How much can you do    (1)    (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (6)
    to motivate students
    who show low
    interest in reading?

2.  How much can you do    (1)    (z)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (b)
    to get students to
    believe they can do
    well in reading?

3.  How much can you do    (1)    (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (6)
    to help your
    students value
    reading?

4.  To what extent can     (1)    (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (6)
    you craft good
    reading questions
    for your students?

5.  How much can you       (1)    (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (6)
    foster student
    creativity while
    reading?

6.  How much can you do    (1)    (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (6)
    to adjust your
    reading lessons to
    the proper level for
    individual students?

7.  How much can you use   (1)    (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (6)
    a variety of reading
    assessment
    strategies?

8.  To what extent can     (1)    (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (6)
    you provide an
    alternative
    explanation or
    example when
    students are
    confused about
    reading?

9.  How well can your       (1)   (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (6)
    implement
    alternative reading
    strategies in your
    classroom?

10. How well can you        (1)   (2)   (3)   (4)   (5)   (6)
    provide appropriate
    challenges for very
    capable readers?
                                                                A
                           Some   Influence   Quite a bit   great deal

1.  How much can you do    (7)    (8)   (9)
    to motivate students
    who show low
    interest in reading?

2.  How much can you do    (7)    (8)   (9)
    to get students to
    believe they can do
    well in reading?

3.  How much can you do    (7)    (8)   (9)
    to help your
    students value
    reading?

4.  To what extent can     (7)    (8)   (9)
    you craft good
    reading questions
    for your students?

5.  How much can you       (7)    (8)   (9)
    foster student
    creativity while
    reading?

6.  How much can you do    (7)    (8)   (9)
    to adjust your
    reading lessons to
    the proper level for
    individual students?

7.  How much can you use   (7)    (8)   (9)
    a variety of reading
    assessment
    strategies?

8.  To what extent can     (7)    (8)   (9)
    you provide an
    alternative
    explanation or
    example when
    students are
    confused about
    reading?

9.  How well can your       (7)   (8)   (9)
    implement
    alternative reading
    strategies in your
    classroom?

10. How well can you        (7)   (8)   (9)
    provide appropriate
    challenges for very
    capable readers?
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Author:Haverback, Heather Rogers
Publication:Reading Improvement
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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