Literacy Metaphors of Pre-service Teachers: Do They Change after Instruction? Which Metaphors Are Stable? How Do They Connect to Theories?

Feb. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 37, No. 1, February 2011, 77–92. (Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aims to explore pre-service elementary teachers’ metaphors of ‘literacy’ and ‘teaching literacy’ as they enrolled in a two-semester literacy methods course at a Midwestern American university.

Data were collected over a three-year period, guided by the following questions:
(1) What patterns exist among the metaphors pre-service teachers bring to the literacy methods course to describe teaching literacy?
(2) What are the pre-service teachers’ metaphors of teaching literacy at the conclusion of the methods courses? To what extent do their metaphors change?
(3) What are the sustained metaphors across multiple samples of pre-service teachers? How do the metaphors connect to literacy theories?

The participants in the present study were 47 pre-service teachers majoring in elementary education at a research university in the Midwest (USA).
The participants were divided into three groups. One group took the literacy courses in 2006 (January–December), another group enrolled in the literacy courses during 2007, while the last group enrolled in the literacy courses in 2008.

The results identified six themes of teaching literacy. Five themes were connected to literacy theories.
The authors conclude that the majority of the pre-service teachers bring well-articulated metaphors with them and these remain a part of their belief system even after a year-long literacy methods course.

A few participants changed their metaphors. The authors argue that these participants predominantly came to the first day of class with the idea that literacy was exploring the world and opening doors and possibilities.


The results offer educators some ideas about the types of beliefs elementary pre-service teachers bring with them to the teacher education programme, and their steadfastness to those metaphors after a year of preparation and practicum experiences.

Furthermore, the participants realized that literacy is a complex skill with multiple components. Many of them understand that they have a responsibility to identify students’ developmental needs and plan instruction based on literacy components.


Implications for Teacher Education

This research reveals beginning elementary teachers come into teacher education programmes with fairly consistent, yet vague, views of teaching and how these characteristics interact with the dominant elements of classroom practice.

Updated: Nov. 07, 2012