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Title:An analysis of the literacy beliefs and practices of faculty and graduates from a preservice English teacher education program
Author(s):Mora Velez, Raúl A.
Director of Research:Willis, Arlette I.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Willis, Arlette I.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Noffke, Susan E.; Cope, William; Clift, Renée T.
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Secondary & Continuing Educ
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literacy beliefs and practices
English education
methods courses
evolution of practices
Abstract:The following qualitative study explored changes in literacy beliefs and practices and changes in messages about literacy in Secondary English teacher education courses in the past 15 years. Four distinct groups affiliated with the University of the Midwest (methods course instructors, English instructors, recently graduated teachers, and teachers graduated after 7 years) participated in this study. Data sources included individual in-depth interviews and written documents from the twelve participants, including syllabi, English and methods course assignments, and blogs and websites. A conceptual framework coined “permeable literacy continuum,” which included ideas from five influential literacy paradigms, was the basis for data analysis. This analytical framework responded to a need in the literacy research for more comprehensive frameworks that do not equate literacy to reading or writing. Findings showed that participants’ literacy beliefs and practices have evolved to include ideas such as critical thinking, the use of multiple genres and forms of writing expression, and the integration of technology. However, the participants argued that working on formal aspects of language, including style and grammar are still pressing needs that the current context is ignoring. These lessons challenge traditional positions that have argued that literacy practices may become stagnant over time. These findings also challenge views of literacy and technology that create distinctions such as “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.” This study identified a dichotomy between conceptions of reading and views of writing. Whereas participants admitted that their own written practices had changed in varying (and sometimes radical) ways, they found little variation in the evolution of reading practices. This finding is an invitation to reconceptualize the research on literacy and English education, which has historically favored reading, to encompass the wider range of changes taking place in writing. It also calls for more dissemination and discussion about how reading is changing in the advent of new technologies. Participants reported that in both English and methods courses, discussions about integrating multicultural and canonical texts, technologies, and critical thinking, as well as paying attention to middle and high school students’ literacy practices, have become an important feature over the years. This finding challenges traditional assertions in the literature that English courses and instructors hold canonical views of literacy, reading, and literature. The messages stemming from English and methods courses, rather than mixed or contradictory, were overlapping and sometimes even complementary. This poses a challenge to the assumption that methods courses and Arts & Science instructors are moving in separate, sometimes antagonizing, directions. The findings in this study suggest a rethinking of traditional notions of literacy through a proposed new paradigm, Foundational Literacy. This paradigm would attend to elements of formal and informal language and other instructional considerations required for more critical thinking and a heightened use of technology. This study also confirmed my assertion that framing literacy paradigms as binary oppositions does not capture the true complexity of beliefs and practices found in today’s society. This study also calls for a deeper conversation about what it means to teach English to preservice teachers. This would include reflecting on what instructors still need to consider when preparing middle school and high school teachers. Finally, this study challenges teacher educators in methods courses and English to recognize that overlaps in the messages they are sending are more common than what they have traditionally thought. Future research should include the analysis of literacy events within classrooms, more research about how messages about beliefs and practices play out in other content areas, and more follow-up on the effects of policies from past and current administrations on instructors’ and teachers’ literacy beliefs and practices.
Issue Date:2010-08-20
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Raúl Alberto Mora Vélez
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-08-20
Date Deposited:2010-08

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