An after-school literacy program : investigating the experiences of students with literacy difficulties, their volunteer tutors, and the tutors' transition into the teaching profession
Gallagher, Tiffany L.
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This research responds to a pervasive call for our educational institutions to provide students with literacy skills, and teachers with the instructional supports necessary to facilitate this skill acquisition. Questions were posed to gain information concerning the efficacy ofteaching literacy strategies to students with learning difficulties, the impact of this training on their volunteer tutors, and the influence of this experience on these tutors' ensuing instructional practice as teacher candidates in a preservice education program. Study #1 compared a nontreatment group of students with literacy difficulties who participated in the program and found that program participants were superior at reading letter patterns and at comprehending the elements of story grammar. Concurrently, the second study explored the experiences of 19 volunteer tutors and uncovered that they acquired instructional skills as they established a knowledge base in teaching reading and writing, and they affirmed personal goals to become future teachers. Study #3 tracked 6 volunteer tutors into their pre-service year and identified their constructions, and beliefs about literacy instruction. These teacher candidates discussed how they had intended to teach reading and writing strategies based on their position that effective teaching ofthese skills in the primary grades is integral to academic success. The teacher candidates emphasized the need to build rapport with students, and the need to exercise flexibility in lesson plan delivery while including activities to meet emotional and developmental requirements of students. The teacher candidates entered their pre-service education with an initial cognition set based on the limited teaching context of tutoring. This foundational ii perception represented their prior knowledge of literacy instruction, a perception that appeared untenable once they were immersed in a regular instructional setting. This disparity provoked some of the teacher candidates to denounce their teacher mentors for not consistently employing literacy strategies and individualized instruction. This critical perspective could have been a demonstration of cognitive dissonance. In the end, when the teacher candidates began to look toward the future and how they would manage the demands of an inclusive classroom, they recognized the differences in the contexts. With an appreciation for the need for balance between prior and present knowledge, the teacher candidates remained committed to implementing their tutoring strategies in future teaching positions. This document highlights the need for teacher candidates with instructional experience prior to teacher education, to engage in cognitive negotiations to assimilate newly acquired pedagogies into existing pedagogies.
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