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Reflective Practice in an Online Literacy Course: Lessons Learned from Attempts to Fuse Reading and Science Instruction

by Donna E. Alvermann, Achariya T. Rezak, Christine A. Mallozzi, Michael D. Boatright & David F. Jackson - 2011

Background/Context: One of several challenges to fusing reading and science instruction through the use of reflective practice arises from recent claims that it is questionable whether anyone can “make” preservice teachers into reflective practitioners. This challenge has implications for researchers and teacher educators in general, especially if one assumes that novices are without sufficient resources for reflecting on their own experiences and interactions.

Two frequently cited commissioned reviews of reading research conclude that skills-based instruction in graphic organizing, self-questioning, summarizing, and other similar generic reading strategies can improve adolescents’ comprehension of written texts. However, there is a growing consensus about the importance of domain-specific pedagogical knowledge, and preservice teachers who view science instruction as largely concept oriented may not view reading instruction as highly relevant. Little research has been directed toward understanding how preservice science teachers learn to integrate what they know about their subject matter with the generic reading strategies they are taught in content literacy courses.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The researchers documented a prospective science teacher’s struggle to make sense of an online content literacy course that attempted to strengthen her capabilities to combine skills-based instruction (reading) with concept-based instruction (science). Specifically, the researchers were interested in her reflections on the feedback she received from the course instructors and, in turn, how her struggle caused the researchers to reflect on several contradictory discourses in the online course that needed addressing before offering it in subsequent semesters. While looking at the course through the eyes of this student’s experiences and interactions, the researchers were also mindful of how her professional identity as a science teacher was being informed by those same contradictory discourses in small but incremental ways throughout the semester.

Research Design: In the context of an online content literacy course, 11 pairs of prospective and mentor teachers worked as partners in the instruction of middle school students reading one or more grade levels below actual grade placement in one or more content areas. This interpretive case study focused on one of those pairs. The concept of approximations of practice framed this study and led to a focus on the clinical aspects of reflective practice manifested during periods of preactive teaching (e.g., lesson planning) and reflective teaching (e.g., explaining and receiving feedback on the planned lessons).

Data Collection and Analysis: Data sources included a prospective teacher’s four intervention lessons plans and e-mails containing reflections on those lesson plans from the prospective teacher, her mentor teacher, and the teaching team. Analysis was a four-step process that included coding key sources and writing analytic memos through the use of deductive and inductive methods. The primary researcher used discourse analysis to interpret the researchers' and participants’ written reflections related to preactive and reflective teaching.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Implications derived from the study’s findings for literacy educators point to the value of collaborating with colleagues in schools of teacher education who have expertise in teaching their specific discipline’s content. Most importantly, the implications point to the need to reexamine the assumption that prospective teachers are without sufficient resources for reflecting on their own experiences and interactions in situations that call for fusing skills-based reading instruction with concept-based science instruction.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 1, 2011, p. 27-56
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15987, Date Accessed: 6/15/2021 11:31:06 AM

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About the Author
  • Donna Alvermann
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    DONNA E. ALVERMANN is Appointed Distinguished Research Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. Formerly a classroom teacher, her research focuses on adolescent literacy instruction and youth-initiated engagement with digital media. She recently coauthored a chapter with Christine Mallozzi entitled “Moving Beyond the Gold Standard: Epistemological and Ontological Considerations of Research in Science Literacy” (2009).
  • Achariya Rezak
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    ACHARIYA T. REZAK is a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia, specializing in the field of Reading Education. Her concentration is in informal education in online spaces, more specifically, how fan culture informs the ways in which fans think and feel about literacy. Her dissertation research focuses upon the exchange of learning (and specifically cultural learning) in online anime-based role-playing games.
  • Christine Mallozzi
    University of Kentucky
    E-mail Author
    CHRISTINE A. MALLOZZI is an assistant professor in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the University of Kentucky. Her research interests include teacher education, feminist theories, qualitative methods, and globalization. Currently, she is researching how bodies are texts when teachers experience personal change and public perception.
  • Michael Boatright
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    MICHAEL D. BOATRIGHT is a doctoral student in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. Drawing from his experiences as a college ESOL instructor, a high school ESOL teacher and department chair, a Reading First external evaluator, and a teacher educator working with prospective high school English language arts teachers, his current research interests focus on reading as a democratic enterprise and American pragmatism.
  • David Jackson
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    DAVID F. JACKSON is an Associate Professor of Science Education and Graduate Coordinator for Science Education Programs in the Department of Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Georgia. His major research interests include the teaching of historical geology and biological evolution, middle school science teaching and teacher education, and the use of electronic technologies in science teaching. Two of his most recent works include a book chapter entitled “The Personal and the Professional in the Teaching of Evolution” (2007) and a piece coauthored with Joy Dike called An Ordinal, Three-Dimensional Model for the Interaction of Evolution, Creationism, and Their Teaching (2009).
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