A Study Into How Pre-Service Teachers Learn the Specialised Knowledge for Teaching Reading Within a Collaborative Partnership

Year: 2017

Author: Moore, Criss

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Academic and media debate is ongoing about the pedagogy of teaching reading in our primary schools (e.g., debate over the phonics check). The level of pedagogical knowledge and understanding that teachers bring to the classroom environments a high predictor of student success in becoming independent and motivated readers. This relationship is particularly important for students who experience difficulty in learning to read (Benedict, Foley, Holdhelde, Brownell & Kamman, 2016; Snow, Burns & Griffin, 2015).
A number of reports over the past two decades has occurred on the key elements or big ideas that are required within a learning to read program (e.g., Hempenstall, 2016; National Reading Panel, 2002; Snow et al, 2005). These reports highlight the need for programs to comprise the following big ideas: oral language, phonological awareness, alphabetic principal, vocabulary, automaticity of code, and comprehension. In addition, implementation of these programs requires teachers to be highly skilled in terms of instructional expertise.
Recent concerns about the level of literacy within Australia have focused on the preparation of teachers to teach reading (Australian Government, 2014). While there is considerable research around in-service teachers, and their ongoing support in being prepared to teach students to read, little exists about how pre-service teachers(PST) develop their knowledge and understanding for teaching reading (Meeks et al., 2017), especially for those students who experience difficulties learning to read within the traditional classrooms.
This paper will report a study that examined how PST developed their knowledge and understanding of the big ideas of reading during an eight week tutoring program conducted as a university-school partnership. PST, in the final year of a teaching degree, were paired with a student identified as experiencing difficulties in learning to read. Using an mixed methods design that incorporated interviews, observations, case studies, a pre-post study teacher questionnaire (Piasta, 2016), teacher development was examined.
Through interviews and observations, teacher knowledge was plotted onto a matrix of the specialized content and procedural knowledge required for teaching reading as found on the Snow et al. (2005) framework. Modifications were undertaken to suit the Australian context, as well as being inclusive of all students.
The findings of this study indicated teachers learned the specialized knowledge for teaching reading beyond that expected of a beginning teacher as indicated in the Snow et al. (2005) framework. Student results showed they had made a significant gains in learning to read.