“Preservice teachers entering their field experiences face challenges even when they are well prepared with course work in research-based writing pedagogy. Erika Kramer was one of those preservice teachers. She had completed a full semester course in writing pedagogy with Dr. Virginia Crank before beginning her Teaching and Learning English in the Secondary Schools course with Dr. Margaret Finders. The Teaching and Learning course included a required co-enrollment field experience that was supervised by faculty in the Education Department. At the end of the semester, we (Virginia and Margaret) asked to talk with Erika because she was especially adept at negotiating the competing expectations; while Dr. Finders asked her to teach writing rhetorically, her cooperating teacher wanted her to teach compound and complex sentence worksheets. Erika sat down across from us and remarked, “I was surprised when I first went into the field. I thought teachers would be teaching writing the way I was learning it.” Erika’s admission troubled us.
After conversations, the three of us decided to write together. Given the complexities of the field experience, we asked ourselves what can we do to help our preservice teachers hold to theoretical and pedagogical tools appropriate in the teaching of writing when they face a field context in which writing may be reduced to teaching a set of rules and prescriptions?
For new teachers, understanding what is expected of them in the context in which they work is essential for their success and for the success of their students. Yet we in higher education may tend to ignore or degrade the contexts which our preservice teachers enter as they begin their field experiences. We may simply say “don’t do it that way” if we talk about the context at all. We, most often, design our coursework around theoretical and pedagogical research-based writing pedagogy, ignoring the realities of the contexts into which they enter. It is important to note that each field’s context may be different: some preservice teachers may find a rigid environment while others find they have a cooperating teacher who provides a rhetorical approach to teaching writing; many may find themselves somewhere between. Most will have varied expectations throughout their field experiences through student teaching and into their first years of teaching. Erika and other preservice teachers like her must negotiate these competing expectations with or without the help of university teachers. We should not let them meet the field with surprise and without the tools needed to negotiate any nonalignment. Certainly there are many cooperating teachers who employ a theoretical research-based approach to writing pedagogy, and perhaps we have provided enough support for those preservice teachers who work with them. But preservice teachers will likely face nonalignment in expectations at some time throughout their early years of teaching. In this article we will address how Erika, one preservice teacher, attempted to confront this nonalignment. Promoting a more complex view of writing in the school contexts can be quite a challenge and is one that we are attempting to meet as teacher educators. The purpose of this article is to share the complexities that Erika faced. More specifically, what we offer here is an account of her instructional approach as she attempted to teach writing meaningfully. And finally we will reflect on what might happen in a content pedagogy course to better prepare preservice teachers to meet the challenges and be better prepared to navigate any nonalignment in more pedagogically sound ways.”
Read the full article in Teaching/Writing: The Journal of Writing Teacher Education