Mentoring Preservice Teachers in Disciplinary Literacies: A Model of Content Area Literacy Instruction

2016-07-01T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Steven Kushner
Despite the growing body of literature emphasizing the unique literacies of history, mathematics, and science, teacher education programs in the U.S. seldom offer a content literacy course specific to each discipline. Rather, preservice teachers across the disciplines are often combined in a single course, requiring literacy educators to be knowledgeable in multiple fields of study. It is unrealistic, however, to assume that literacy educators possess the kind of disciplinary expertise that is required to adequately prepare preservice teachers for disciplinary literacy instruction in every content area. Consequently, the aim of this study was to provide a space for teacher candidates in history, math, and science enrolled in a content area literacy course to collaborate with university faculty – i.e., historians, mathematicians, and scientists – on disciplinary ways of thinking and practice. Through an action research approach, I designed a semester-long mentorship framework pairing preservice teachers with university faculty to (1) support preservice teachers’ disciplinary literacy development and (2) examine university faculty role in preparing preservice teachers for disciplinary literacy instruction. Thirteen university faculty were recruited from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to mentor fourteen preservice teachers during three scheduled meetings spread out over the entire 2014 fall semester. The mentorship meetings were purposefully developed and structured to make visible the implicit thoughts of experts as they read texts, solved problems, and discussed being a competent member of their communities of practice. Data sources include writing artifacts, pre and post surveys, interviews from each participant, researcher memos, and observational notes. Saldaña’s first and second cycle coding method was used to organize and analyze the data. Results revealed that embedding a mentorship within a content literacy course provided preservice teachers with an inside look into the role of literacy in specific disciplines (i.e., how meaning is made in different disciplines). The mentorship framework also created opportunities to expose the thinking processes and proficient reading skills of university faculty when approaching discipline-specific texts. Additionally, this experience allowed university faculty to reflect on their own literacy practices and reinforce the importance of literacy in their disciplines. The findings from this dissertation underscore the need to build collaborative relationships across departments, colleges, and faculty in teacher education. Furthermore, preparing preservice teachers for literacy instruction demands shared learning experiences with people who have already mastered the discipline.