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Voices From the Classroom: Literacy Beliefs and Practices of Two Novice Elementary Teachers.

Voices From the Classroom: Literacy Beliefs and Practices of Two Novice Elementary Teachers--Deal & White

Both teacher preparation and early literacy skills of children have been focal points of recent federal legislation, with the goal of producing highly prepared teachers who can teach reading. While many teacher preparation programs have increased the number of reading theory and methodology courses, little research documents how that preparation is translated into the first few years of teaching.

The current study presents case reports of two preservice teachers as they complete their preparation program and move into the first teaching positions. The two teachers, Maggie and Natalie, enrolled in a typical teacher preparation program that offered coursework and experiences in the teaching of reading, including placements in a professional development school in which they were both eventually employed. Maggie was a 2nd-grade teacher and Natalie taught in a 3rd-grade classroom.

Data (from interviews, direct observation of the teachers' classrooms, reflections from the teachers, and artifact analysis) were collected during the end phase of the teacher preparation program and during Maggie's and Natalie's first year of teaching. Data were analyzed through a constant comparative method and centered on factors that influenced teacher beliefs in general, beliefs about literacy instruction, and how these beliefs changed over time. Coded data generally fell into three categories: school context, teacher preparation, and dispositions of the individual teachers. The types of supports in the school content changed from the student teaching experience to the first year of professional teaching. Maggie found her peers during the first year to be very helpful, while Natalie found her peers to be more competitive in nature. From student teaching to the first year, both candidates grew increasingly frustrated with time and paperwork constraints.

Regarding beliefs about literacy instruction, the two teachers promoted balanced literacy approaches, strategy instruction, differentiated instruction, and assessment strategies that highlighted the strengths of individual children. These beliefs about reading instruction expanded as the two began their teaching careers and included flexible grouping arrangements as well as a continued focus on instructional strategies. The strength of these beliefs evolved as the year progressed and the two teachers advocated an even stronger balanced approach to literacy. Maggie and Natalie also became more comfortable with the non-instructional components of literacy instruction (e.g., time, paperwork, political agendas).

The results of this study contribute to our understanding of teacher preparation and induction to teaching as teachers whose philosophical continuity was consistent between their teacher preparation program and their initial solo experiences in the classroom. The school context contributed greatly to the teachers' literacy instruction by valuing reflective practice and offering peer support in the school. The two teachers' dispositions also influenced their practice. These skills and dispositions suggest the need for future research on teacher preparation programs and, specifically, on early literacy instruction and the continued development of such skills.
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Article Details
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Author:Neuharth-Pritchett, Stacey
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 15, 2006
Words:475
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