We Taught Them about Literacy but What Did They Learn? The Impact of A Preservice Teacher Education Program on the Practices of Beginning Teachers

Nov. 28, 2008

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Volume 4, Issue 2, November 2008,
p.115 - 128

(Reviewed by The Portal Team)

This article reports a study of literacy instruction in the authors own elementary preservice program. It examines the views and practices of both the preservice faculty who teach literacy and a sample of graduates of the program during their first three years of teaching.

The fundamental question: How can beginning teachers acquire this array of content knowledge involved in teaching reading, consolidate their learning, and develop an appropriate pedagogy or approach that is feasible for the extremely challenging initial years of teaching?

The authors are particularly interested in what goes on in courses and classes:
How are courses organized? What content is taught? What pedagogical strategies do instructors use?


A relatively small sample of 10 instructors and 22 new teachers, whom the authors studied in depth.

The teacher Educators

Of the ten literacy instructors, three were male, eight were over 40 years of age, and all were white. The biographical data on the instructors reveal an experienced group of teacher educators.
Two were tenure-stream and eight were on contract.
Six had completed a doctorate and two others were nearing completion.
Only two had not been classroom teachers, with most having more than 15 years of experience. Six had more than five years of experience teaching preservice candidates.

New Teachers

The new teachers all had some experience working with children before entering the preservice program (e.g., as an educational assistant, camp counselor, or ESL teacher overseas), and all had at least a B-average in their undergraduate degree.
Their average age was 28 when they began the preservice program; three were male and three were members of a visible minority.
Regarding coursework, for those in the one-year preservice program, only one literacy course (36 hours) is required. In one of the two-year programs, the students complete one literacy course (39 hours) each year. In the other two-year program, there is one literacy course (39 hours) offered in the first year and students can take a second literacy course as an elective; approximately one-third do so.

The new teachers reported learning many things from their preservice program, including the importance of engaging learners, strategies for developing an inclusive class community,
the names of high-quality works of children's literature, and a variety of general teaching strategies. However, there were gaps between what was taught and what the new teachers wanted to learn. The new teachers struggled with program planning, desired more direct instruction on developing a literacy program, and wanted closer links between theory and practice. The teacher educators tried to cover so much material that the new teachers were unable to develop a focused, coherent pedagogy. The authors describe how they are revising their courses in light of these findings, modifying their approach to preservice instruction, and giving priority to certain key aspects of teaching.

Updated: Dec. 08, 2008