Understanding Resistance: Preservice Teachers’ Discourse Models of Struggling Readers and School Literacy Tasks

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<ul><li><p>Journal of Adolescent &amp; Adult Literacy 55(1) September 2011doi:10.1598/JAAL.55.1.3 2011 International Reading Association (pp. 2534)</p><p>25</p><p>The attitudes and beliefs </p><p>about reading that preservice </p><p>secondary teachers bring </p><p>to their undergraduate </p><p>coursework can shape </p><p>their futures as teachers, </p><p>sometimes to negative effect.</p><p>Mellinee Lesley</p><p>Understanding Resistance: Preservice Teachers Discourse Models of Struggling Readers and School Literacy Tasks</p><p>Concern over struggling adolescent readers has given rise to a recent ac-cumulation of research and policy statements (see Faggella-Luby, Ware, &amp; Capozzoli, 2009, for a summary). Concomitantly, theories and methods for teaching these readers have become a major focus in content area literacy textbooks marketed for secondary-level preservice teachers (e.g., Irvin, Buehl, &amp; Klemp, 2007). Even with this exigency for content area literacy methods, I have found preservice teachers to be less than enthusiastic about joining the crusade for efforts designed to meet the needs of struggling adolescent readers through content area instruction.</p><p>Over the past two decades, several studies have documented similar in-tractable attitudes toward teaching literacy exhibited by preservice teachers enrolled in secondary-level content area literacy courses (e.g., Bean, 1997; Draper, 2002; Nourie &amp; Lenski, 1998). Similarly, several studies have been directed toward remedies for such negative attitudes (e.g., Beck &amp; Feret, 2004; Bintz, 1993; Braunger, Donahue, Evans, &amp; Galguera, 2005; Daisey, 1996; Lesley, 2004; Lesley, Watson, &amp; Elliot, 2007; Stevens, 2002). Alger (2007) developed a content area literacy class predicated upon a view of lit-eracy for adolescents as a form of social justice. Similarly, Begoray (2008) noted the positive effects of adopting a multiple literacies perspective in con-tent area literacy instruction for music education majors. As part of the accu-mulation of such studies, a great deal of analysis has resulted in theories that examine the relationship between content and literacy instruction (Conley, Kerner, &amp; Reynolds, 2005; Draper, Smith, Hall, &amp; Siebert, 2005; Fisher &amp; Ivey, 2005; Moje, 1996, 2010).</p><p>To address such pedagogical orientations of preservice teachers, Stewart (1990) contended teacher educators needed to examine the complex and deeply ingrained beliefs (p. 62) about literacy that preservice teachers possess. Similarly, Bean (1994) argued in favor of a constructivist approach to under-standing preservice teachers attitudes toward reading, which would allow for ref lective and individualistic views of literacy development. Hall (2005) noted, however, that teacher beliefs about teaching were difficult to change:</p><p>Journal of Adolescent &amp; Adult Literacy 55(1) September 2011doi:10.1598/JAAL.55.1.3 2011 International Reading Association (pp. 2534)</p></li><li><p>26</p><p>Jour</p><p>nal of</p><p> Ado</p><p>lesc</p><p>ent &amp; A</p><p>dult L</p><p>iter</p><p>acy </p><p> 55</p><p>(1) Sep</p><p>tembe</p><p>r 20</p><p>11</p><p>language, tools, texts, nonverbal behaviors, and other kinds of artifacts to describe life experiences under-stood through the lens of social and cultural groups. Using Gees theoretical construct, I set out to exam-ine the Discourse models fueling the literacy identities of preservice secondary-level teachers in an attempt to understand their generally negative predisposition toward content area literacy instruction and the pros-pect of teaching struggling readers.</p><p>In spite of many studies and theories, questions and space for conjecture remain about the causes of reading difficulty for adolescents. Thus, I turned to autobiographical writing about literacy acquisition to engage my students in examining notions of struggling readers vis--vis their own literacy histories. Bean (1994) viewed autobiographical writing about reading experiences as a key ref lective process in preservice teachers preparation in content area literacy methods. Alvine (2001) noted writing about ones memories of literacy learning helped make explicit the ways one has lived literacy theories and thus supported devel-opment of a more fully integrated knowledge base for teaching (p. 10). Soliday (1994) referred to this process as crossings between two worldsone lived and one examinedin which self-translation al-lows individuals to develop an interpretive perspec-tive and see that reading and writing are not natural acts, but culturally situated, acquired practices (pp. 511, 520). The act of rendering the details of ones literacy acquisition into a story constructs an identity developed around friction points between being a student and becoming a teacher (p. 520). Cook-Sather (2006) noted that preservice teachers engage in more imagining than enacting their identities as teachers (p. 198), but Clark and Medina (2000) found con-structing narratives of past literacy events made them visible and available for examination and critical re-f lection (p. 69). The literacy narrative assignment I developed for preservice teachers was based on this body of work and is shown in Figure 1.</p><p>MethodologyThe methods of data collection I employed were consistent with qualitative research (Erickson, 1986), predicated on a practitioner stance (Baumann &amp; Duffy-Hester, 2002). Methodologically, I grounded </p><p>As teacher educators, we have to remember that pre and in-service teachers are inf luenced by their expe-riences as former students, teachers, and the context they have or are currently experiencing.... Given this, it is important for us to understand content area teach-ers beliefs about reading instruction and how they view their role as teachers of reading. (p. 405)</p><p>All of these studies highlight the importance of ref lec-tion in shaping preservice teachers views of literacy.</p><p>Through the years I have been teaching content area literacy, I have come to question the part pre-service teachers literacy identities play in their de-veloping beliefs about the relevance of content area literacy instruction. The formation of literacy identi-ties for preservice teachers is a complex terrain de-lineated by social and cultural markers (Gee, 2005; Williams, 2004), many of which are derived from previous schooling experiences. I therefore set out to examine the literacy identities secondary-level preser-vice teachers presented prior to entering a content area literacy course.</p><p>The Impetus for My Research QuestionThe story of my research question began in 2007 when a preservice teacher wrote in her description of a les-son plan that, as an English teacher, she would call on her smarter students to answer questions pertain-ing to assigned readings. Her plan for teaching mar-ginalized students, struggling readers, and teenagers who were still learning English was to ignore them. At the end of the semester, I also received the follow-ing comment in my course evaluations: I would have benefited more from learning how to do lesson plans, learn how to motivate and teach the smart kids (not just the slow learners). These comments raised my awareness of a deeper philosophical orientation tug-ging at the seams of the course content.</p><p>To address such resistance to the idea of teaching struggling readers, I decided to examine preservice teachers Discourse models about reading (Gee, 2005). Gee defined Discourse models as the largely uncon-scious theories individuals hold about texts and the world that shape their actions (p. 71). Discourse models are images and storylines of taken-for-granted assumptions about what is typical or nor-mal (p. 72). They are revealed through ones use of </p></li><li><p>27</p><p>Und</p><p>erst</p><p>andi</p><p>ng Res</p><p>ista</p><p>nce:</p><p> Pre</p><p>serv</p><p>ice Te</p><p>ache</p><p>rs D</p><p>isco</p><p>urse</p><p> Mod</p><p>els of</p><p> Strug</p><p>glin</p><p>g Re</p><p>ader</p><p>s an</p><p>d Sc</p><p>hool</p><p> Liter</p><p>acy Ta</p><p>sks</p><p>I then went through a process of identifying re-curring models and linking models with similar pat-terns together to form a deeper understanding of the evaluative relationships between the Discourse mod-els, similar to a process of determining axial codes in a grounded-theory approach to data analysis (Harry, Sturges, &amp; Klingner, 2005).</p><p>In analyzing the narratives, I compiled numerous preliminary Discourse models about literacy arising in the data. The following are examples:</p><p>1. Reading ability is fixed and represented through monolithic evaluative experiences in school.</p><p>2. Reading in school is an act of complicit behavior.</p><p>3. Authentic reading in school requires rebellion against the curriculum and authority figures.</p><p>From the connected models, I identified master models, or predominant Discourse models arising in the data. Gee (2005) defined master models as sets of associated Discourse models, or single models that </p><p>this study in literacy theories that consider the so-cial practices and cultural perspectives of individuals as major contributors to constructing literacy (e.g., Heath, 1990/2004). Furthermore, language use is viewed as symbolic action (Gee, 2005). Through this sociocultural theoretical lens, I developed the follow-ing research questions to guide my inquiry:</p><p>1. How do preservice teachers enrolled in a con-tent area literacy course describe their read-ing and writing abilities and experiences for both in-school and out-of-school purposes in a written literacy narrative?</p><p>2. What kinds of Discourse models about read-ing and writing do secondary-level preser-vice teachers give voice to in written literacy narratives?</p><p>Data sources gathered to address these questions consisted of literacy narratives written by preservice teachers at the beginning of the semester in five sec-tions of a content area literacy course for secondary-level teacher certification. The literacy narratives were gathered at the beginning of each semester and thus captured my students views of literacy instruction prior to their participation in the content area literacy course.</p><p>I analyzed the data through an inductive process of identifying Discourse models present in each lit-eracy narrative. I analyzed each class set of literacy narratives separately as I taught the classes to estab-lish the Discourse models. I also engaged in member checking with the preservice teachers after analyzing each set of essays to confirm my interpretations of the students work and to establish trustworthiness in the Discourse models identified in the narratives. The preservice teachers were familiar with one anothers essays through engaging in writers workshop and a publishing activity, so they were in a good position to offer collective insights about recurring and discrep-ant models.</p><p>To code the literacy narratives, I created a unit of analysis that consisted of any cluster of sentences that rendered a judgment or insight about previous literacy experiences (e.g., This type of writing caused me to be turned off to writing and affected my attitude to-wards these assignments as I advanced in school).</p><p>Figure 1 Literacy Narrative Assignment</p><p>At the beginning of the semester, I would like you to write a narrative of your literacy development. You can think of this paper as a literacy autobiography in which you explore the origins of the ways you learned to read and write. You can also discuss your current beliefs about yourself as a reader/writer. These papers serve two purposes: (1) reflective analysis of your literacy histories and (2) an opportunity to get to know one another in this class.</p><p>I encourage you to experiment with a variety of formats for this assignment (e.g., interviews, lyrics, extended vignettes).</p><p>In developing this paper, you may want to explore some of the following questions:</p><p>(1) What are your earliest memories associated with learning to read?</p><p>(2) What are your earliest memories associated with learning to write?</p><p>(3) How do you currently approach reading/writing tasks?</p><p>(4) How do you feel about yourself as a reader?</p><p>(5) How do you feel about yourself as a writer?</p><p>(6) How do you use language in different settings?</p><p>This paper should be approximately 35 typed, double-spaced pages in length. Your paper will be published in a collective class archive.</p></li><li><p>28</p><p>Jour</p><p>nal of</p><p> Ado</p><p>lesc</p><p>ent &amp; A</p><p>dult L</p><p>iter</p><p>acy </p><p> 55</p><p>(1) Sep</p><p>tembe</p><p>r 20</p><p>11</p><p>FindingsFrom my analysis of Discourse models in the literacy narratives, I identified five master models that cap-tured what literacy looked like and meant in school settings for the preservice teachers in this study. These master models also indicated the ways previous expe-riences with literacy forged the preservice teachers literacy identities. Table 2 is a breakdown by academic major of the frequency of master models referenced by the preservice teachers. </p><p>Master Model 1: School Experiences Have Greater Impact Than Home ExperiencesVirtually all the preservice teachers wrote positively about their home literacy experiences, but few found a seamless connection between what happened at home and what was required with literacy in school settings. School definitions of literacy eclipsed home definitions in the literacy narratives through the im-portance given to school literacy tasks. Also, school experiences with literacy played a significant role in determining the preservice teachers attitudes to-ward literacy, whether these attitudes were positive or negative.</p><p>Explaining the enduring grip school labels for reading ability possess, a male student majoring in ex-ercise and sports sciences wrote,</p><p>As I began kindergarten I found myself falling behind the others at my age, and after a while it became em-barrassing to me because of my strong competitive nature to be lagging behind the other students. The teachers and school didnt really help this problem out any when they put me in a reading improvement class. This class was no different than a regular class; I learned nothing that helped my reading problem.... I thought I was finished with reading problems until I made the transition to Junior High in the sixth grade. I found myself in the same position I was in early el-ementary. Reading was not my strong subject and the teachers noticed, so it was back to reading improve-ment for me.</p><p>Often preservice teachers wrote of the ways fami-lies worked to help them become successful in school, though sometimes contradictions arose between home and school literacy practices. In either instance, school approaches, labels, and definitions trumped </p><p>help shape and organize large and important aspects of experience for particular groups of people (p. 83). From an analytical perspective, the master models were similar to theoretical codes or assertions about the predominant Discourse models arising in the data. For example, the master model Writing is rarely pre-sented as a tool for exploration, creativity, or think-ing in school was developed by combining Discourse models of Students receive little choice in construct-ing writing, Writing instruction was formulaic in genre and expectations, Writing instruction was driven by standardized test formats, Instruction in creative writing was rare, and Students enjoy being challenged with creative writing tasks.</p><p>ParticipantsSubjects were 114 undergraduate st...</p></li></ul>