Noticing and Naming as Social Practice: Examining the Relevance of a Contextualized Field-Based Early Childhood Literacy Methods Course

Feb. 10, 2012

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Volume 33, Issue 1, p. 3–18, 2012.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examines what early childhood preservice teachers enrolled in a field-based literacy methods course deemed relevant regarding teaching, literacy, and learning.
The following question guided the study:
What do early childhood preservice teachers come to understand about literacy learning and what do they deem relevant by participating in a field-based literacy methods course within a diverse public school setting?

The participants were 7 early childhood preservice teachers, enrolled in field-based literacy methods course.
The Preservice teachers were assigned to work within one of the three second-grade classrooms in Smith Elementary with one to three second-grade children, whom the authors called “partner children.”
The first author conducted semi-structured interviews with the participants after the end of the academic year.


The authors recognize that learning to teach and learning to see oneself as a teacher does not happen within one course or within one field placement.
They expected preservice teachers to notice and name more concrete aspects of teaching, such as literacy strategies.
However, they were surprised to find that preservice teachers became more attuned to the more nuanced and complex practices that shape learning and children’s identities as learners.
Understanding the intimate links between identity and learning may take years of experience for teachers to develop, yet within this contextualized field based course, preservice teachers were provided opportunities to begin this practice early on in their teaching careers.

The contextualized literacy based methods course situated within a school provided preservice teachers with regular engagement with young children and participation in professional discussions.
The contextualized field experience within a diverse school setting provided a context for preservice teachers to confront their own deficit perspectives before they began student teaching internships where such perspectives may not get addressed.
Noticing and naming the social nature of learning drew preservice teachers’ attention to young children’s situated identities.
Noticing how children may thrive in one peer relationship compared to another reminded preservice teachers of the importance of helping young children negotiate multiple contexts.

The preservice teachers also developed a growing sense of professional agency.
Working with children situated the preservice teachers within a contextualized decisionmaking framework.
Yet, in these kinds of situations, agency was the responsible choice.
The authors saw that the preservice teachers’ agentive instructional moves were often in response to fostering their students’ sense of independence and agency.


The authors believe early childhood preservice teachers in the study developed the social practice of noticing and naming because they were continually asked to pay close attention to the learners in front of them in relationship to course readings, discussions, and observations. The authors suggest that in order to encourage preservice teachers to notice and name as a social practice, instructors must create a course context for dialogue.

The preservice teachers shared that the opportunity to debrief with their peers and professor following their experiences with children elevated their sensitivity to labelling, deficit perspectives, the social nature of learning, the immediacy of teaching, and the diverse needs of learners.
The authors suggest that in order to prepare teachers to work in today’s diverse schools, teacher educators plan contextualized field experiences in schools that reflect the racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity new teachers will encounter.

Updated: Jan. 11, 2015