Reflective Practice in an Online Literacy Course: Lessons Learned from Attempts to Fuse Reading and Science Instruction

Jan. 10, 2011

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 113 Number 1, 2011, p. 27-56.

Two frequently cited commissioned reviews of reading research conclude that skills-based instruction in graphic organizing, self-questioning, summarizing, and other similar generic reading strategies can improve adolescents’ comprehension of written texts.
However, little research has been directed toward understanding how preservice science teachers learn to integrate what they know about their subject matter with the generic reading strategies they are taught in content literacy courses.

Purpose of Study

The researchers documented a prospective science teacher’s struggle to make sense of an online content literacy course that attempted to strengthen her capabilities to combine skills-based instruction (reading) with concept-based instruction (science).
Specifically, the researchers were interested in her reflections on the feedback she received from the course instructors and, in turn, how her struggle caused the researchers to reflect on several contradictory discourses in the online course that needed addressing before offering it in subsequent semesters.

Research Design
In the context of an online content literacy course, 11 pairs of prospective and mentor teachers worked as partners in the instruction of middle school students reading one or more grade levels below actual grade placement in one or more content areas. This interpretive case study focused on one of those pairs.

Data Collection
Data sources included a prospective teacher’s four intervention lessons plans and e-mails containing reflections on those lesson plans from the prospective teacher, her mentor teacher, and the teaching team.


Implications derived from the study’s findings for literacy educators point to the value of collaborating with colleagues in schools of teacher education who have expertise in teaching their specific discipline’s content.
Most importantly, the implications point to the need to reexamine the assumption that prospective teachers are without sufficient resources for reflecting on their own experiences and interactions in situations that call for fusing skills-based reading instruction with concept-based science instruction.

Updated: Oct. 10, 2011