Community-Based Placements As Contexts for Disciplinary Learning: A Study of Literacy Teacher Education Outside of School

Feb. 21, 2013

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 64(1), January/February 2013, p. 47-59.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study is an investigation of field placements in after-school community-based organizations (CBOs) within one teacher education program.
The author examined literacy-related activity and learning opportunities available to preservice teachers in two CBO field placements, one serving mainly Latino children and another serving mainly Muslim Somali children.
Specifically, she investigated the ways in which community-based placements and mediating methods coursework shaped teacher candidates’ learning about literacy content and pedagogy.

Data sources included direct observations, journal entries, interviews, and documents.


The placements examined in this study brought candidates into contact and shared activity with communities previously unfamiliar to them, and with mediating elements from the CBOs and ELTEP courses shaping their activity, these candidates demonstrated promising conceptual and pedagogical development related to literacy.

Implications for Teaching and Learning

The findings suggest CBO placements hold potential for preparing literacy teachers for urban schools.
First, considering the meaningful ways in which students engage in literacy across the day better enables teachers to recognize students’ linguistic competence and their competence as users of literacy.
Furthermore, when teachers recognize a fuller range of students’ linguistic and literacy competence, purposes, and uses, they are more likely to design expansive learning arrangements in which students are engaged in literacy in authentic and relevant ways and for meaningful purposes.
Candidates’ proficiency in facilitating student talk around text is also a promising development.

Implications for Teacher Education Programs

The findings also highlight organizational implications for programs and teacher educators who are involved, or who are considering involvement, with community-based placements. Specifically, this research engages and informs perennial issues inherent to orchestrating field placements of all sorts: site selection and mediation.
A number of components of the two CBO activity systems were found to be influential for candidate learning; this can inform the selection of placement sites for programs aiming to foster similar outcomes.
Both La Unidad and Community Village were well-established organizations in their respective communities; they had leaders who were deeply trusted by parents and families, and they both mainly served bilingual and ethnic-minority children. Language and literacy flourished in the activity systems of these CBOs.
Both CBOs included literacy work in the programming in terms of resources, focused time, allocated space, and expectations.

The findings also shed light on course-based mediation considerations for programs.
First, they reaffirm the need for coordination and collaboration between teacher education faculty and community-based educators.
The example of candidates’ enhanced learning about engaging children in talk around text illustrates the power and potential when there are common goals, modeling, and opportunities to practice across sites.
In this case, there was not a negotiated or coordinated effort between literacy methods faculty and CBO staff to collectively focus on this aspect of instruction.

Data from this study suggest there were times when candidates encountered aspects of literacy instruction in only one setting, and without further opportunities to engage with the concept, came away with limited understandings.

Updated: Feb. 21, 2016