Reading and teaching in an urban middle school: preservice teachers' self-efficacy beliefs and field-based experiences.
In its report on clinical preparation and partnerships for improved student learning, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (2010) called for field-based experiences that combine content and practice. Further, the National Association of Professional Development Schools' (2008) calls for a preservice teachers to be actively engaged in the school community through school and university partnerships.
However, these field-based experiences and clinical preparation vary greatly among Institutes of Higher Education (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2010). Additionally, there is consensus that preparing future teachers to face the challenges of today's classrooms is dependent upon field-based teacher education programs that integrate content and pedagogy within mutually supportive partnerships. With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010), creating a workforce of teachers who are knowledgeable and confident in their ability to reach all of their students is of growing importance. This challenge is especially complex for middle level teachers who face the unique challenge of motivating and teaching the young adolescent.
In a recent study in New York City, Marinell and Coca (2013) found that over half of the middle level teachers who worked in the city left their schools within the first 3 years. This staggering number may lead teacher educators to question what they can do to help preservice teachers stay in the classroom. Increasing middle level preservice teachers' self-efficacy and field-based experiences may be one way to do this. In this study, middle level preservice teachers' reading teacher self-efficacy and general teacher self-efficacy were measured on a variety of reading instruction tasks affiliated with a field-based reading course and student teaching. which were each embedded in an urban middle school.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND LITERATURE
This study is framed within the constructs of Bandura's social cognitive theory (1986, 1997); the National Association of Professional Development Schools' essential elements of a professional development school (PDS) (2008); and the Association of Middle Level Educations (AMLE) Teacher Preparation Standards. The following sections detail the literature in these three areas.
Social Cognitive Theory and Self-Efficacy
Bandura (1986, 1997) states that individuals are self-organizing, self-regulating, proactive, and self-reflecting in shaping their own learning and behavior. Specifically, social cognitive theory focuses on a person's beliefs, self-perceptions, and expectations (Bandura, 1986, 1997). In this theory, cognition is based on the person with regard to what Bandura called triadic reciprocality between one's behavior, environment, and personal factors. Thus, cognition is multifaceted and is related to self-efficacy.
According to Bandura (1994), efficacy beliefs result from mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological arousal. An individual's personal factors may lead to an individual's sense of self-efficacy, which can determine and predict accomplishments and achievements. Bandura (1977) believed that mastery experiences create the greatest change in self-efficacy. A mastery experience is an experience wherein an individual actually completes a task. When a task is completed and the individual is successful, efficacy grows. Contrarily, when the task is not successfully completed, efficacy decreases.
An example of a mastery experience is when a middle level teacher teaches a difficult mathematical equation in the classroom. If the students are able to demonstrate an understanding of the equation, the teacher's efficacy in teaching mathematics would grow. However, if the students are unable to demonstrate their understanding, the teacher's mathematics teaching self-efficacy may decrease. Such experiences are important, as self-efficacy beliefs have the potential to affect the way in which an individual thinks and feels. These beliefs can also strongly determine and predict one's accomplishments (Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 2001).
Self-efficacy is task specific (Plourde, 2002) and individuals choose to perform tasks in which they have high self-efficacy. In other words, people who have a high self-efficacy belief in their ability to perform a certain task are more likely to persist at that task and challenge themselves more (Plourde, 2002) than those with low self-efficacy. For example, a middle level preservice teacher will be more likely to choose subject areas to teach in which he or she has high self-efficacy.
Due to the importance of self-efficacy, task completion, and choice researchers have investigated self-efficacy beliefs with regard to teaching. The definition for personal teaching self-efficacy is a belief in one's capability to teach effectively (Plourde, 2002). High teacher self-efficacy is of importance, as it has been found to relate to positive and beneficial teacher practices and beliefs. In their seminal study, Gibson and Dembo (1984) stated that teacher efficacy could impact a teacher's behavior in the classroom, which in turn would support achievement gains.
More recently, teacher efficacy has been related to higher end-of-the-year goals for students and has correlated with positive teacher practices and policies used in the classroom. High teacher self-efficacy also demonstrated a relation to personal achievement goals for teaching, as well as correlated with progressive teaching techniques in the classroom (Allinder, 1995; Cho & Shim, 2013; Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Guskey, 1988; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2007; Wolters & Daugherty, 2007).
In conjunction with the findings on inservice teachers, research on preservice teachers has shown a positive correlation between positive teacher practices and knowledge as well as high teacher efficacy (Fives, Hamman, & Olivarez, 2007; Schoon & Boone, 1998; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). In accordance with selfefficacy theory, preservice teachers in the aforementioned studies should have had mastery experiences from which they created their task specific efficacy beliefs. In fact, Enochs, Scharmann, and Riggs (1995) believed that preservice teachers need opportunities to be in real-world experiences that are comparable to the mastery experiences of classroom teachers. In a recent study comparing preservice and inservice teachers, Putman (2012) found that preservice teachers with less experience had lower teacher self-efficacy when compared to those with more experience.
Interestingly, past studies have also shown that such experiences were found to have varying effects on preservice teachers' self-efficacy (Al Otaiba, 2005; Chiang, 2008; Fives et al., 2007; Knoblauch & Hoy, 2008; Lancaster & Bain, 2007; Newman, 1999; Parameswaran, 1998; Plourde, 2002; Rogers-Haverback & Parault, 2011). The difference in impact may be for different reasons. First, some of the classroom experiences were based on general educational psychology courses. Thus, the experiences were not domain specific. Second, some of the research is based on pure observation, wherein the preservice teachers' efficacy was based on a task that they had observed but not completed. Third, some of the experiences were not accompanied by a partnership between the classroom teachers and university, thereby weakening the experience.
Professional Development Schools Essential Elements
The National Association of Professional Development Schools is an international organization that focuses on school-university partnerships, supports PDS initiatives, and disseminates research and information about PDSs. In their document, "What It Means to Be a Professional Development School" (2008) they outline the essential elements of a PDS. These elements, especially element two which notes the importance of a "school-university culture committed to the preparation of future educators that embraces their active engagement in the school community" (p. 2), and element eight, which states "work by college/university faculty and P-12 faculty in formal roles across institutional settings" (p. 3) help to frame this study. The field-based reading course and student teaching in which the participants were enrolled was founded in the essential elements of a PDS.
Middle Level Teacher Education Preparation
AMLE's teacher preparation first standard states that institutions create courses with field-based experiences that directly address middle level education (2001). Likewise, AMLE states that preservice teachers should have opportunities to work within the middle level organization and reflect on their role as middle level teachers. This is important for preservice teachers, as classrooms need to have qualified middle level teachers who are readily prepared to meet the unique social, emotional, and developmental needs of the young adolescent (Jackson & Davis, 2000). By allowing preservice middle level teachers more time in the classroom, Parkinson (2009) found that they were able to display a contextual understanding of the middle level students. This understanding impacted the preservice teachers by allowing them to identify any preconceptions, create a theoretical understanding of coursework, and participate in middle school observations (Parkinson). Thus, the more middle level experience they have, the more prepared they will be.
Both clinical classroom experience and teacher preparation programs are important to middle level preservice teacher education. In their study, Marinell and Coca (2013) found that the teachers with more clinical and classroom experience were the teachers who stayed in the classroom longer than the 3-year average. Likewise, Freedman and Appleman (2009) found a connection between teacher preparation programs and teacher retention in urban schools.
Field-based experiences also impacted middle level preservice teachers with regard to their teaching in diverse classrooms and efficacy. Miller, Thompson, and Xu (2012) stated that preservice teachers who taught in diverse field placements increased feelings of efficacy. Specifically, preservice teachers in this study were found to be more efficacious in their ability to have a better understanding of the young adolescents' developmental characteristics. In other words, middle level preservice teachers who experienced time in the field stayed in the classroom longer and were more efficacious. While it is understood that self-efficacy is an important factor when it is comes to task completion, it is also important to understand how self-efficacy can be impacted.
Field-Based Experiences in Reading and Student Teaching
As mastery experiences have been found to have the greatest influence on preservice teacher efficacy, preservice teachers who participate in a mastery experience (i.e., field experience, student teaching, tutoring, etc.) are likely to have higher efficacy than those who do not. These field-based experiences are important when considering adolescent literacy and the need for middle level educators to be able to teach reading in their content areas. This importance is highlighted by the fact that middle school students have difficulty with content literacy and learning, despite the fact that they may use various literacies outside of the classroom for a number of reasons (Moje, 2007). In fact, many young adolescents struggle with content specific reading tasks (Lee, Grigg, & Donahue, 2007) and it could be argued that reading is the cornerstone to all content learning. Thus, having field-based experiences in the area of reading is important for preservice middle level teachers who one day will have to engage the young adolescent in not only learning content, but reading content on a strategic level as well.
Past research has also shown that field-based experiences can impact preservice teacher efficacy with regard to reading. In fact, preservice teachers in a reading course stated that tutoring a student in reading was one of the most important experiences in their class (Duffy & Atkinson, 2001) and that it had the greatest influence in their belief changes (Linek et al., 1999). Moreover, researchers found that candidates who worked with students in the area of reading were more likely to have a greater capability to satisfy individual student needs (Worthy & Prater, 1998) and put reading theory into practice (Fang & Ashley, 2004).
Research on student teaching showed that teacher efficacy increased over time during a student teaching experience (Fives et al., 2007; Hoy & Spero, 2005). In fact, Knoblauch and Hoy (2008) found that this was true for preservice teachers in urban, suburban, and rural settings. It should be noted that a few studies have shown that field-based experiences do not have a positive impact on preservice teacher efficacy (Lancaster & Bain, 2007; Newman, 1999; Oh, Ankers, Llamas, & Tomjoy, 2005). Likewise, much of the aforementioned research is focused on general teaching efficacy beliefs. However, there are a smaller number of studies that are domain specific. In a study on reading tutors, Haverback and Parualt (2011) found that reading teacher efficacy did not grow significantly more after a mastery field experience when compared with a vicarious experience.
PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
This study is aligned with the AMLE teacher preparation standards (2012) in that it employs both a field experience and reflections; however, this study differs from past research in a number of other ways. First, the researchers investigated a unique approach to teaching reading through a new middle grades teacher education program. This field-based experience took place within a middle school for a year. During the field-based experience, preservice teachers were embedded into the school community and worked with both their university professors and the teachers at the school for the entire year. This is unique, as past field-based experiences lasted less than a year were taught both at the university with a separate experience in the field. Second, a good amount of the past research on preservice teacher self-efficacy focuses on general teaching self-efficacy. This is an issue, as self-efficacy is task specific. Thus, the researchers focus on general teacher self-efficacy as well as reading self-efficacy. Third, little is known about preservice middle level teachers' self-efficacy. The researchers shed light on the impact of an embedded field-based reading course and student teaching on preservice teacher self-efficacy. Finally, most previous studies followed students through one experience, while in this study preservice teachers were followed for one full academic year.
The following questions guided this research: (1) How did preservice teachers' reading self-efficacy and general self-efficacy change at the conclusion of a field-based reading course and student teaching? (2) Was there a significant difference in preservice teachers' reading and general self-efficacy from time one to time three? (3) Did preservice teachers report that the field-based reading course impacted their reading teacher self-efficacy and ability to teach reading in the future? (4) Did preservice teachers report that student teaching impacted their reading teacher self-efficacy and their ability to teach reading in the future?
The participants in this study were 8 middle grades preservice teachers enrolled in a bachelor of science middle school education program at a state university in a mid-Atlantic state. The cohort of students was the first graduating cohort from the newly constructed degree program. There were 10 students enrolled in the cohort but only 8 of the 10 candidates opted to participate in the study. All members of the cohort were invited to participate in the study. There were 3 male and 5 female participants. Of these, 5 participants self-identified as Caucasian, 1 as Asian, and 2 as biracial.
The Middle School Major. The middle school major was in its first year of operation when the researchers collected the data for the study. The cohort of eight participants graduated with a bachelor of science degree in middle school education and became certified by the state to teach grades four through nine with a focus in two content areas (mathematics, science, social studies, language arts). The participants chose to major in middle level education because of its focus on the young adolescent (Mee, Rogers Haverback, Passe, 2012). At this university, students have the choice of majoring in elementary education to become certified through sixth grade or majoring in a content area and become certified in secondary education for seventh through 12th grades. The middle level major, on the other hand, prepares students to teach only in the middle level setting. To that end, all courses and field-based experiences were middle-level specific.
The Reading Course. Participants were enrolled in a new reading course that was cotaught by a university reading professor and the middle school reading teacher. The course was newly constructed with the goal of bringing the university professor to the middle level classroom and to enhance and increase the field-based experience by having all aspects of this course embedded into the middle school. This was the first time this particular approach had been used in a methods course at the university. The course was the second of two reading courses required by the state and the university for middle school majors. The course takes the preservice teacher's foundation of reading in the content area knowledge from the first course, and then connects and expands upon that knowledge within the middle school classroom. Thus, there was a focus on how preservice teachers can translate reading knowledge and strategies into the classroom. Examples of the topics that were covered in the course include: principles of content literacy learned in previous coursework and reflective of the Common Core Standards, "real-world" road blocks to implementing content literacy pedagogy, and addressing the needs of different levels of reading ability different types of readers in the middle school, and creating content area reading lessons for all middle school readers.
The reading course was taught at the school site to enable a true partnership with the university and the school, wherein the classroom was used as a laboratory and the teacher as an expert in the field. For example, the preservice teachers worked with middle school students in their classrooms on specific literacy strategies while reading text. Then, the participants were able to debrief immediately with the reading specialist and the university professor. During this debriefing, the participants discussed the course content, teaching experience, how the middle school students reacted to the lesson, and ideas on how to improve upon what they taught for next time.
The Field-Based Experience. Consistent with research that emphasizes the importance of field-based experiences (National Association of Professional Development Schools, 2008; Worthy & Prater, 1998), this program maximized the amount of hours preservice teachers spent in the field by implementing field-based experiences wherein they were engaging with students in the same middle school for over two consecutive semesters. Students began this study in the fall of their senior year, during which time they spent 2 days per week in the middle school teaching students. It was during this semester that they were enrolled in the reading course. In addition, participants were asked to implement the topics and theories learned in their course into the classroom. In other words, this program allowed for the preservice teachers to have an extra classroom experience, which was embedded within this course. In the spring of their senior year, the students spent 5 full days per week student teaching in the classroom.
The Middle School. The middle school site where the participants in this study student taught is in an urban area in a mid-Atlantic state. The school is socioeconomically and culturally diverse. In 2013, the students in this school ranked below the state average, which showed 67%-88% of middle school students performing at advanced or proficient, on middle level assessments. In this school, the students' average scores on the state assessments ranged between 58%-70% advanced and proficient in reading, mathematics, and science. The median household income of the school is about $20,000 less than the state average and 62% of the students received free or reduced meals in 2012. Of the approximately 900 students in Grades 6 through 9, Caucasian students comprised 50%, African Americans 40%, Hispanic 5%, and Asian 5%.
Teacher Sense of Self-Efficacy Scale. Participants completed the Teacher Sense of Efficacy scale (TSES) at three time points over the year (beginning, middle, end). In 2001, Tschannen-Moran and Woolfolk-Hoy proposed this integrated model of teacher self-efficacy for in-service and preservice teachers, which joined the previous variables of teacher self-efficacy with additional areas in need of expansion. This measure was employed in this study as it has been shown to have high rates of overall reliability ranging from alpha .95 to .86 and has been used and accepted in studies of preservice teacher self-efficacy (Fives et al., 2007; Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk-Hoy, 2001). Moreover, recent research with this scale supports the use of a unidimensional model with regard to preservice teachers (Duffin, French, & Patrick, 2012). Duffin and colleagues stated that due to a lack of pedagogical knowledge and teaching experience, preservice teachers are not able to differentiate between various aspects of teaching.
The TSES contains 24 questions examining three areas of general teacher self-efficacy: classroom management, student engagement, and instructional practices. Responses to each question were assessed on a 9-point Likert scale and measure "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). Sample items included: "To what extent can you provide an alternative explanation or example when students are confused?" and "How much can you do to get students so they can do well in school work?"
Reading Teacher Sense of Self-Efficacy Scale. Participants completed an adapted version of the TSES named the Reading Teacher Sense of Efficacy scale (RTSES) at three time points over the year (beginning, middle, end). For the reason that the TSES was not designed to measure domain-specific teacher self-efficacy, this researcher adapted it to examine teacher self-efficacy within the domain of reading and have used it in past research (Haverback & Parault, 2011). This adaptation included deleting the classroom management scale as it was not pertinent to the specific domain of reading. Next, the 16 original TSES items examining teacher self-efficacy in engagement and instructional practices were revised and adapted under the advisement of a psychometrician and based on the test theory standards set forth by Crocker and Algina (1986). To begin revisions, all of the original engagement and instruction questions were adapted to be domain specific. Sample items included: "How much can you do to help your students think critically while reading?" and "How much can you do to gauge student comprehension of reading skills you have taught?"
Reflection Logs. The participants completed reflection logs at three time points (beginning, middle, and end) over the academic year. These reflection logs were hand written, and provided an opportunity for participants to reflect on their field-based experiences. The format of the reflection logs consisted of guided questions that focused on the new middle level reading course and the preservice teachers' perceptions of the impact of that course and student teaching on reading self-efficacy. These questions were created to give the participants an opportunity to reflect, while focusing on any changes that may be occurring during the course and the year. While these reflection logs were one aspect of the course, they were primarily used for the participants' reflection of their experience.
In this log, participants reflected on questions such as: "What impact did the field-based reading course/student teaching have on your ability to teach reading? Please explain." and "What impact did the reading course/student teaching have on your beliefs about your ability to teach reading (self-efficacy)? Please explain." The last part of the log asked participants to reflect on any other aspects of their field-based experiences that impacted their teaching and self-efficacy.
Data Collection. During the course of a year, participants were engaged in field-based experiences within a public middle school. During the first semester, the preservice teachers completed the reading course with the university professor at the middle school. During this course, the preservice teachers learned reading theory and strategies for reading in the content areas and then immediately entered the classroom to teach these reading strategies to the students (field experience). Directly after teaching the strategies, the candidates met again with their professor, the school reading specialist/teacher, and various other teachers to discuss their strategy use and links to theory. During the second semester, students completed their student teaching at the same school. Data were collected at the public middle school where the candidates were taking the course.
ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
Question 1 examined the preservice teachers' reading teacher self-efficacy and teacher self-efficacy at three time points. An analysis of mean scores showed that reading self-efficacy grew over the year on the RTSES from time one (M = 5.70, SD = 1.32) to time two (M = 6.04, SD = 1.13) and time three (M = 6.845, SD = 1.10) and the TSES at time one (M = 6.07, SD = .77) to time two (M = 6.35, SD = .70) and time three (M = 7.18, SD = .78). Table 1 displays all means and standard deviations.
To answer question two, paired sample t tests compared pretest and posttest scores on the RTSES and the TSES. Analysis revealed that self-efficacy scores grew significantly in the RTSES from time one to three t(7) = -3.027, p < .05. and the TSES t(7) = -4.451, p < .00. However, there was not a significant difference from time one to time two.
To answer Questions 3 and 4, the reflection logs were read, coded, and analyzed Following qualitative tradition (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Miles & Huberman, 1994; Yin, 2003) the author used a constant comparative method to code the reflection log entries to determine how the participants felt the reading course and student teaching impacted self-efficacy. To ensure validity (Yin, 2003) an outside reader looked at the data and the coding system, and confirmed the themes for all data.
With regard to questions three and four, the researcher coded each preservice teacher's log using the codes pos for a positive impact and neg for a negative impact. The researcher read each response and made an initial evaluation of the impact that the candidate believed the reading course had on their ability to teach reading. Then, an outside objective reader followed the same method and coded a second time. When discrepancies were found among the codes, a third examiner was asked to review the logs, and/or the researchers discussed the different interpretations.
Second, responses were coded for themes that identified the specific impact of the experience. For example, all preservice teachers (100%) reported that both reading field-based experiences had an impact on their reading teacher self-efficacy. Most of the participants (77%) reported the reading course impacted their ability to teach reading. Upon coding and analyzing the most frequent themes that participants reported, two themes emerged from the reflections logs. These included the notion that being in that classroom for the field-based reading course helped the preservice teachers have a realistic sense of reading resources available and the classroom environment and a realistic ability to use certain reading strategies. The researcher read all logs for general impressions of positive of negative as explained above and then, upon recognizing two emerging themes, coded the logs with avail for availability of resources and use for ability to use these resources.
Specific to the first theme of "availability," participants reported that the reading course helped them gain knowledge of the realities of the reading resources in the school and the classroom environment. This theme was expressed when a participant accredited the course with teaching him or her to feel more efficacious in his or her ability to "choose readings" based upon what was available in the school. In one case, the participant discussed that this was very important to her teaching. In another case, a participant felt that it would be "easy to teach the reading strategies" he had learned at the university in the middle school, but "after interning I realized that it takes a lot of hard work to manage a classroom" and teach. Another individual stated that it was "very hard to do everything they wanted actually in the classroom."
The second theme revealed that participants better understood the reality in using reading strategies and motivation techniques to teach the middle level students. While many participants had learned how to teach specific reading topics or strategies in the university classroom, they stated that certain topics and strategies, like vocabulary for example, were better learned in the middle level classroom working with students. One participant wrote, "I learned that ... middle school students love to read (out loud) ... minimizing the length of the text and providing pictures and activities are needed to grab their attention." Another participant stated that she felt efficacious in teaching reading due to the middle school teachers "helped us improve and implement ways to incorporate reading" into the content areas that he had not learned before. While many of the reflections yielded positive ideas about teaching reading, a few students felt a bit frustrated by the amount of time they would need to spend scaffolding reading skills in the middle school. One student wrote, "I understand why it is important for kids to be able to read in my class; however, I cannot see myself devoting as much time as it seems to demand. After all, I still have to teach my content."
To answer question four, which investigated the impact of student teaching on teacher self-efficacy, reflection logs were analyzed in the aforementioned manner. Again, all of the participants (100%) felt that student teaching impacted their reading teacher self-efficacy. However, for this question, 100% of the preservice teachers reported student teaching impacted their ability to teach reading. Themes that emerged from the reflections with regard to student teaching were less strategically focused and more teacher and student based. The two themes that emerged were the participants' ability to teach reading and the importance of motivating the students to read.
For the first theme, many participants reflected on their growth in self-efficacy and ability to teach reading in the classroom. One student stated, "(after student teaching) ... I believe that I can incorporate reading into math." and "I have now learned to incorporate reading in my content areas (while) improving their literacy skills." This view was reflected in this participants' statement "student teaching was a great experience. Teaching reading to students can be a struggle, and working within the classroom is the best way to improve at it." Another student wrote, "I feel ready! I feel like I was meant to do this!"
The second theme focused on the participants' view of the need to motivate the middle school students with regard to reading for class. One student wrote, "I learned in the classroom how little middle school students want to read. So, I need to motivate them, too." Another student felt efficacious in their ability to motivate the students and stated, "I can now motivate and expand one's knowledge." To motivate his middle level students, this participant stated, "Student teaching has exposed the challenges in thinking outside of the box. I have to be on top of my game to be effective."
"Teaching (middle level students) reading can be a struggle. So, working with it in the classroom is the best way to improve." This participant's sentiment is aligned with the AMLE standards. As stated earlier, AMLE stated that preservice teachers should have opportunities to work within the middle level organization and reflect on their role as middle level teachers (2012). Pajares (2002) found that a person considers the effect of one's actions and the analysis of these actions help to create one's self-efficacy beliefs. In this study, participants had two opportunities in which they completed a task specific action (participating in and completing the reading embedded course and participating in and completing student teaching). The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of these two activities.
One of the unique aspects of this study was the participants were given an additional, task specific field-based experience within a middle school. In line with Bandura's (1977) theory, middle level preservice teachers' self-efficacy grew after the mastery experiences. Interestingly, the participants' self-efficacy grew quite gradually over the year with regard to reading and general self-efficacy as a result of a mastery experiences the participants had in both their reading course and student teaching. Thus, there was not a significant increase from time one to time two, which lends one to question if the amount of time spent on a mastery experience, and not the mastery experience alone, creates self-efficacy growth. In other words, the combination of both classes gradually created greater self-efficacy. This finding is novel, as much of the past research investigated a shorter term (one semester or a few hours a week) and focused on one mastery experience (tutoring, internship, or student teaching). Therefore, perhaps the combination of the embedded reading course and student teaching over the length of a year added to a continuous steady growth.
Additionally, the fact that participants grew positively and slowly is a benefit within itself. Past research (Haverback & Parault, 2009) has found that preservice teachers with little experience can have a possibly inflated sense of self-efficacy. For example, preservice teachers who have never taught reading can regard themselves as having a "Great Deal" of influence with regard to reading teacher self-efficacy on a task that they have never completed. The downside of this inflated self-efficacy may be a level of frustration and lower self-efficacy once they are in the field and actually see how difficult teaching can be. In the case of the present study, the preservice teachers have completed the task over a longer period of time; therefore growth is modest but constant. This may benefit these teachers in the long run.
Another significant finding is the preservice middle level teachers' perceptions about how the courses impacted their self-efficacy and ability to teach changed over time. After the embedded reading course, participants reflected that the mastery experience impacted their future reading self-efficacy and teaching through specific, classroom-based strategies and procedures. For example, having a realistic knowledge of reading resources and an ability to use certain reading strategies are both beginning tasks that middle level teachers who are focused on reading in the content areas need to be prepared to do. In fact, when working in a middle school, one could argue that having this basic knowledge will help an early teacher better navigate through his or her first experiences in the classroom.
Consequently, once the middle school preservice teachers entered student teaching, they had already come to terms with these beginning concrete aspects of teaching and therefore moved on to more abstract parts of the job. In fact, during student teaching, participants' looked into their own beliefs about their ability to teach reading. Because they had overcome the initial phase of understanding strategies and materials used in teaching reading in their content, they felt more secure in their own abilities and areas in which they could grow. Moreover, they were able to identify not only the individual needs of students in their class, but they clearly understood the importance of motivating the middle level students to read. This is again a deeper pedagogical understanding of the classroom than what they had the first semester. Hence, it seems that the constant growth pattern was key in having these student teachers go to the next level of reflection.
Another notable finding is that the participants reported that these mastery experiences impacted their self-efficacy beliefs and their ability to teach. While past research has shown that classroom experiences can have varying effects on self-efficacy, in this study, it was revealed that a task specific course with a great deal of scaffolding can positively impact task specific self-efficacy. Perhaps the difference in this study was the format of the course and the level of guidance the preservice middle level teachers received. To start, participants learned much of the reading material within a middle level classroom. Then, they immediately entered the middle level classroom and attempted the reading strategies they had just learned with the university professor and classroom teacher. Finally, they returned to the original classroom to debrief and reflect on the strategies they had used. This unique and hands-on approach offered the preservice teachers a chance to learn in a hands-on, immediate way.
LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH
Before concluding, the limitations of the study must be addressed. First, this study is based on one cohort of eight preservice teachers from one university. Although the data are revealing, it is only a small representation. Despite this limitation, however, this study is significant in the contribution it makes to middle level teacher education and middle level teacher self-efficacy and reading self-efficacy. Future researchers should investigate whether or not preservice teachers at varying universities report similar results. Moreover, the teachers in this study all taught at the same middle school. Thus, future researchers should investigate whether or not the school within which teachers are placed changes their self-efficacy beliefs. Additionally, there is not a way for the researchers to know what the impact of the participants overall growth has on their efficacy beliefs. In the future, the notion of general growth should be considered with regard to self-efficacy.
Also, this study only took place over one year with all of the participants sharing the same reading professors. While employing the same professors has the advantage of controlling for teaching differences, it would be interesting to see if a different professor would yield different results. Finally, this study only took place over a year long period. In a past study, Hoy and Spero (2005) investigated 53 prospective teachers' self-efficacy at the start of their teacher preparation program, after student teaching, and after their first year of teaching. They found that in most of the self-efficacy measure, self-efficacy grew during student teaching and then declined after the participants actually taught. Thus, future research should follow students for a longer period of time to see if self-efficacy is maintained after the supports of the university are withdrawn.
This study is novel, and therefore informs the base of self-efficacy literature in two ways. First, the researchers explored a new reading course within a new middle level program. This is beneficial and novel research, as preservice teachers are often asked to learn about reading pedagogy in the university classroom. In this research, that learning was taken outside of the university and into the middle level classroom. Second, the findings in this study reinforce Bandura's (1977) research as it is domain specific and followed participants over the course of a year to find a gradual increase in reading self-efficacy and teacher self-efficacy. Teacher educators and researchers can use this study when considering the importance of providing preservice teachers with
additional field-based experiences that connect to coursework within the middle level classroom.
The Catholic University of America
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* Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Heather Rogers-Haverback, email@example.com
TABLE 1 Means and SD Reading Efficacy and General Efficacy General Teacher Efficacy Reading Teacher Efficacy Time 1 Time 2 Time 3 Time 1 Time 2 Time 3 Mean 6.07 6.35 7.18 5.70 6.04 6.85 SD .77 .70 .78 1.32 1.13 1.10
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|Author:||Rogers-Haverback, Heather; Mee, Molly|
|Publication:||Middle Grades Research Journal|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2015|
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