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CEE Position Statement

What Do We Know and Believe about the Roles of Methods Courses and Field Experiences in English Education?

English education programs provide a set of related professional orientation experiences including coursework, fieldwork (broadly defined), and other aspects of teacher preparation that enable extended, interrelated conversations across the multiple settings and constituencies involved in teaching and learning. English education programs foster a sense of authority, a spirit of inquiry, and a belief in the possibility of change among prospective and inservice teachers as well as English educators.

Belief statements focus on ways to conceive, express, justify, and enact a strong educational program. In conceptualizing the following belief statements, we recognize that English education programs share common goals as well as exhibit uniqueness defined by the specific contexts in which programs are located. We have identified a set of beliefs that are widely shared among the Conference on English Education members who assembled in Atlanta for the 2005 CEE Summit.

We recognize that these beliefs describe programs in English education that exist in more or less ideal settings. We understand that many dedicated English education professionals work in environments that do not provide the resources to incorporate all, or even most, of the ideas that follow. We offer an ideal depiction of an English education program because it provides a goal to strive toward, and provides an argument that may enable under-funded programs to leverage additional resources that will enable them to expand the possibilities that they offer their teacher candidates. In no way do we wish to imply that the only high quality programs in English education are those that implement all of the recommendations that follow. Indeed, we have enormous respect and admiration for our colleagues whose universities provide little financial or material support, yet who labor above and beyond the call of duty to prepare the next generations of English language arts teachers.

The following set of beliefs about the roles of methods courses and field experiences in English education is divided into three sub parts: (1) Program; (2) Coursework; and (3) Field Experiences.

Belief Statements on PROGRAMS

1. English education programs exhibit coherence.

English education programs present a sustained and unifying approach to teacher preparation. The work in the field and the work in the courses are integrated and relational. Programs make explicit connections between the education course work and the courses in the major. Programs help students develop concepts of teaching and learning as well as pedagogical and content knowledge, dispositions, and habits of mind.

Possible implementations:

  • Texts provoke and enable conversations integrating practical and conceptual concerns.
  • Field experiences and university course work inform one another.
  • Faculty and instructors actively participate in field experiences.
  • Program faculty maintain a dialogue with colleagues in the field.
  • Actions to improve programs grow out of conversations with multiple constituencies (i.e., English faculty, secondary education faculty, and across other programs and departments).
  • Program faculty articulate the relations and interdependence among courses and experiences.

Further readings:

  • Applebee, A.N. (1996). Curriculum as conversation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Bruner, J. (1979). On knowing: Essays for the left hand. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Green, M. (1988). The dialectic of freedom. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Kutz, E. & Roskelly, H. (1997). An unquiet pedagogy: Transforming practice in the English classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
  • Miller, J.L. (2000). English education in-the-making. English Education, 33 (1), 34-50.
  • Smagorinsky, P., Cook, L. S., & Johnson, T. S. (2003). The twisting path of concept development in learning to teach. Teachers College Record, 105, 1399-1436.
  • Smagorinsky, P., & Whiting, M. E. (1995). How English teachers get taught: Methods of teaching the methods class. Urbana, IL: Conference on English Education and the National Council of Teachers of English.

2. English education programs create partnerships.

Students do not learn to teach in a vacuum or in any one location. Ideally, programs include partners in developing courses, field experiences, and other professional activities. Explicit conversations should take place among all participants including teacher education faculty, English department faculty, teacher candidates, secondary school personnel, parents, and students with an understanding that there will be multiple perspectives and that the conversation will be ongoing.

Possible implementations:

  • Develop collaborative projects, courses, research, grant applications, and other endeavors with multiple constituencies.
  • Co-conduct workshops with cooperating teachers that address issues of mentoring.
  • Invite secondary school administrators and teachers to discuss institutional structures that prevent or prohibit collaboration.

Further readings:

  • Bruffee, K. (1998). Collaborative learning: Higher education, interdependence, and authority of knowledge (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP.
  • Graham, P., Hudson-Ross, S., Adkins, S., McWhorter, P., and Stewart, J.M. (Eds.) (1999). Teacher/mentor: A dialogue for collaborative learning. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Robbins, S. & Cooper, M. (2003). Creating a shared space for English education: The history of a personal and professional collaboration. English Education, 35 (3), 223-243.
  • Roop, L. (2001). Surprising ourselves: Toward truly democratic literacies and methodologies. English Education, 33 (2), 115-125.
  • Roskelly, H. (2005). Still bridges to build: English education’s pragmatic agenda. English Education, 37 (4), 288-295.
  • Zeichner, K. M., & Gore, J. M. (1990). Teacher socialization. In W.R. Houston (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (pp.329-348). New York: Macmillan.

3. English education programs are attuned to contexts.

Although there are common guiding principles, each English education program demonstrates its unique signature. Programs develop projects, activities, course work, field experiences, and outreach work based on the specific characteristics of teacher candidates, local schools, communities, and other local partners and available resources. Programs encourage students to develop respect for and be attentive to the contexts in which they teach. Programs are sensitive to the various histories that have shaped and continue to shape education. Programs recruit students and faculty that reflect the gender, race, class and sexual identities of the broader population.

Possible implementations:

  • Engage students in community projects that benefit community and enrich candidates’ understanding of the worlds in which they teach.
  • Engage students and faculty in action research on local community issues.
  • Encourage students to attend school board meetings, do action research on education policy, and critique the media’s presentation of education.
  • Research historical issues that shape education policy and practice.
  • Include texts that address the history of education.
  • Create partnerships and relationships among those English educators in predominantly white and historically African American universities.
  • Provide financial support and scholarships to students from underrepresented groups.

Further reading:

  • Applebee, A.N. (1974). Tradition and reform in the teaching of English. Urbana: National Council of Teachers.
  • Delpit, L. & Dowdy, J. (2002). The skin that we speak: Thoughts on language and culture in the classroom. New York: New Press.
  • DeStigter, T. (2001). Reflections of a citizen teacher: Literacy, democracy, and the forgotten students of Addison High. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
  • Fecho, B. (2004). “Is this English?”: Race, language, and culture in the classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Finders, P. (1996). Just girls: Hidden literacies and life in junior high. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Gonzalez, N., Moll, L., & Amanti, C. (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Heath, S.B. (1990). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hull, G. & Schultz, K. (2002). School’s Out: Bridging out-of-school literacies with classroom practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Michie, G. (1999). Holler if you hear me: The education of a teacher and his students. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Myers, M. (1996). Changing our minds: Negotiating English and literacy. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
  • Schaafsma, D. (1994). Eating on the Street: Teaching Literacy in a Multicultural Society. University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • Smith, M.W. & Wilhelm, J.D. (2002). “Reading don’t fix no chevy’s”: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Smitherman, G. (1986). Talking and testifying: The language of Black America. Detroit: Wayne State UP.
  • Taylor, J.M., Gilligan, C., and Sullivan, A.S. (1997). Between voice and silence: Women and girls, race and relationship. Cambridge: Harvard UP.
  • Trimmer, J. (1997). Narration as knowledge: Tales of the teaching life. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
  • Villanueva, V., Jr. (2003). Bootstraps: From an American academic of color. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English.

4. English education programs build professional communities.

English educations programs—students, faculty, and others involved in leadership roles—take part in the professional conversations that guide the teaching of English language arts and English education. This involvement includes active participation in local, regional and national organizations, active advocacy in literacy and professional issues, and active and in-depth understanding of key issues, theories, and practices in teaching English language arts. Building professional communities also includes the development of an active inquiry stance in teacher candidates and an understanding of the importance of participation in the larger field of English teaching and other learning communities.

Possible implementations:

  • Encourage/establish student organizations that connect to other professional organizations (e.g., NCTE student affiliate).
  • Establish book or study groups that involve multiple constituencies.
  • Encourage student reviews of professional books.
  • Develop collaborative writing projects.
  • Establish listservs and other venues for dialogue.
  • Support and encourage student presentations at state and local conferences.
  • Encourage reading of professional journals and student membership in professional organizations.

Further readings:

  • Brookline Teacher Researcher Seminar (2003). Regarding children’s words: Teacher research on language and literacy. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Buehler, J. (2005). The power of questions and the possibilities of inquiry in English education. English Education, 37 (4), 280-287.
  • Fecho, B. (2004). From Tununak to Beaufort: Taking a critical inquiry stance as a first year teacher. English Education, 36 (4), 263-288.
  • Fecho, B., Graham, P, & Hudson-Ross, S. (2005). Appreciating the wobble: Teacher research, professional development, and figured worlds. English Education, 37 (3), 174-199.
  • Lytle, S. & Cochran-Smith, M. (1993). Inside/outside: Teacher research and knowledge. Teachers College Press.
  • Ritchie, J.S. & Wilson, D.E. with R. Kupfer, C. MacDaniels, T. Siedel, & J. Skretta. (2000). Teacher narrative as critical inquiry: Rewriting the script. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Maclean, M. & Mohr, M. (1999). Teacher-researchers at work. Berkeley, CA: National Writing Project.
  • Singer, N.R. & Zeni, J. (2004). Building bridges: Creating an online conversation community for preservice teachers. English Education, 37 (1), 30-49.

Belief Statements on COURSEWORK

5. Instruction that addresses the teaching of English language arts infuses core principles of content, pedagogy, and professionalism and provides opportunities for practice, reflection, and growth.

An extensive body of research as well as many accounts of accomplished practice and statements of philosophy constitute what educators know about how students learn and about what students should learn in English language arts. Further, the profession of English language arts teaching has an approximately 100-year history in the U.S. Teacher candidates are exposed to this theory, practice, philosophy, and history and should be invited to query this information as well as consider how it can be applied to or modified for contemporary settings.

Possible implementations:

  • Texts for English language arts instruction, both historical and contemporary, should be varied, provocative, and instructionally and pedagogically sound.
  • Teacher candidates should read widely from these texts and have opportunities to question, apply, and implement ideas and strategies.

Further readings:

  • Alsup, J. & Bush, J. (2003). “But will it work with real students?”: Scenarios for teaching secondary English language arts. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
  • Applebee, A.N. (1974). Tradition and reform in the teaching of English. Urbana: National Council of Teachers.
  • Christenbury, L. (2000). Making the journey: Being and becoming a teacher of English language arts (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Elbow, P. (1990). What is English? New York: Modern Language Association and Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
  • Gere, A.R., Fairbanks, C., Howes, A., Roop, L., Schaafsma, D. (1992). Language and Reflection: An integrated approach to teaching English. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Mayher, J.S. (1990). Uncommon sense: Theoretical practice in language education. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
  • Milner, J. & Milner, L. (2003). Bridging English (3rd Ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
  • Moffett, J. (1987). Teaching the universe of discourse. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
  • Myers, M. (1996). Changing our minds: Negotiating English and literacy. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
  • Peel, R., Patterson, A.H., & Gerlach, J. (2000). Questions of English: Aesthetics, democracy, and the formation of subject. London: Routledge Falmer Press.
  • Smagorinsky, P. (2002). Teaching English through principled practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.
  • Tchudi, S.J. & Tchudi, S.N. (1999). The English language arts handbook. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
  • Yagelski, R. & Leonard, S. (2002). The relevance of English: Teaching that matters in students’ lives. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Note: Many useful articles appear in NCTE journals: English Education, English Journal, Voices from the Middle and Research in the Teaching of English.

6. Instruction that addresses the teaching of English language arts emphasizes that teaching and learning are social practices influenced by specific contexts.

Knowledge and literacy are created through human exchange and interaction. Therefore, teaching and learning are shaped by social interactions. Instruction concerning the teaching of English language arts uncovers and explores these interactions, which are influenced by social identities such as race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion, as well as by specific time and place.

Possible implementations:

  • Give teacher candidates opportunities to identify and explore their own sociocultural situations and positionalities (e.g., gender, class, race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, geographical region, etc.).
  • Hold critical conversations with teacher candidates regarding social practices and specific contexts.
  • Provide teaching candidates opportunities to experience varied instructional settings and to reflect, analyze, and discuss those observations and experiences.

Further readings:

  • Anyon, J. (1997). Ghetto Schooling: A political economy of urban educational reform. Teachers College Press.
  • Delpit, L. & Dowdy, J. (Eds.) (2002). The skin that we speak: Thoughts on language and culture in the classroom. New York: New Press.
  • Fecho, B. (2004). “Is this English?”: Race, language, and culture in the classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Finders, P. (1996). Just girls: Hidden literacies and life in junior high. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Finn, P.J. (1999). Literacy with at attitude: Teaching working class children in their own self interest. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Gonzalez, N., Moll, L., & Amanti, C. (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Heath, S.B. (1990). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Hull, G. & Schultz, K. (2002). School’s Out: Bridging out-of-school literacies with classroom practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Michie, G. (1999). Holler if you hear me: The education of a teacher and his students. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Schaafsma, D. (1994). Eating on the Street: Teaching Literacy in a Multicultural Society. University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • Smith, M.W. & Wilhelm, J.D. (2002). “Reading don’t fix no chevy’s”: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Smitherman, G. (1986). Talking and testifying: The language of Black America. Detroit: Wayne State UP.
  • Taylor, J.M., Gilligan, C., and Sullivan, A.S. (1997). Between voice and silence: Women and girls, race and relationship. Cambridge: Harvard UP.
  • Trimmer, J. (1997). Narration as knowledge: Tales of the teaching life. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
  • Villanueva, V., Jr. (2003). Bootstraps: From an American academic of color. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English.

7. Instruction that addresses the teaching of English language arts attends to diverse texts and literacy practices.

The cultural backgrounds and communities that students come from represent a wide range of languages, literacy histories, and values. They have multiple interests as well as ways of knowing and understanding. Teacher candidates need to reflect on and plan for instructional materials and strategies that recognize students’ diversity.

In addition, students interact with a broad range of texts. Teacher candidates explore ways that students can engage many different kinds of texts and guide them in understanding. Teacher candidates examine ways to develop students as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners who communicate for multiple purposes and to multiple audiences.

Possible implementations:

  • Expose teacher candidates to texts by multicultural authors as well as multimodal and multimedia texts.
  • Encourage teacher candidates to engage in multimodal literacy practices (e.g., creating a web site, writing a blog, creating an I-movie, reading various print materials and drama, etc.).

Further readings:

  • Alvermann, D. E. (2002). Adolescents and literacies in a digital world. New York: Peter Lang.
  • Appleman, D. (2000). Critical encounters in high school English: Teaching literary theory to adolescents. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Beach, R. & Myers, J. (2001). Inquiry-based English instruction: Engaging students in life and literature. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Gordon, E., Vinz, R., Lundgren, B., LaMontagne, J., & Hamilton, G. (2000). Becoming (other)wise: Enhancing critical reading perspectives. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
  • Grabill, J. & Hicks, T. (2005). Multiliteracies meet methods: The case for digital writing in English education. English Education, 37 (4), 301-311.
  • Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2003). New Literacies: Changing knowledge and classroom learning. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.
  • National Council of Teachers of English (2003). NCTE position statement: On composing with nonprint media. Available at http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/114919.
  • New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66, 60-92.
  • Rabinowitz, D. (1998). Narrative conventions and the politics of interpretation. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.
  • Smagorinsky, P. (2001). If meaning is constructed, what is it made from? Toward a cultural theory of reading. Review of Educational Research, 71, 133-169.

8. Instruction that addresses the teaching of English language arts fosters understanding of the teacher candidate’s shift of role from student to teacher.

While teacher candidates have “consumed” anywhere from 16 to 18 years of classroom instruction in their own academic careers, often their transition from student to teacher is a difficult one. Teacher candidates need to become explicitly aware of teachers’ instructional choices, student needs and behavior, and the vagaries of the learning environment in a way which points them toward their new roles as instructional leaders rather than instructional consumers.

Possible implementations:

  • Write learning autobiographies.
  • Analyze cases and videotapes of real teachers in authentic instructional settings.
  • Work in field settings in increasingly more responsible roles.
  • Maintain a consistent reflective posture demonstrated in discussion.

Further readings:

  • Bickmore, S. T., Smagorinsky, P., & O‚Donnell-Allen, C. (2005). Tensions between traditions: The role of contexts in learning to teach. English Education, 38, 23-52.
  • Britzman, D. (2003). Practice makes practice: A critical study of learning to teach (revised ed.). Albany: SUNY Press.
  • Fox, D.L. (1995). From English major to English teacher: Two case studies. English Journal, 84 (2), 17-25.
  • Grossman, P. L. (1990). The making of a teacher: Teacher knowledge and teacher education. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Johnson, T. S., Smagorinsky, P., Thompson, L., & Fry, P. G. (2003). Learning to teach the five-paragraph theme. Research in the Teaching of English, 38, 136-176.
  • Smagorinsky, P., Lakly, A., & Johnson, T. S. (2002). Acquiescence, accommodation, and resistance in learning to teach within a prescribed curriculum. English Education, 34, 187-213.
  • Smagorinsky, P., Gibson, N., Moore, C., Bickmore, S., & Cook, L. (2004). Praxis shock: Making the transition from a student-centered university program to the corporate climate of schools. English Education, 36, 214-245.
  • Vinz, R. (1996). Composing a teaching life. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.

9. Instruction that addresses the teaching of English language arts prepares teacher candidates to choose appropriate materials, methods, and assessments which promote and enhance student learning.

When students draw from their previous learning experiences, they can synthesize new content with prior instruction. Teacher candidates understand approaches to curriculum and instruction that allow students to build on their prior learning, and make connections across genres and disciplines.

Possible implementations:

  • Give teacher candidates opportunities to assess their own and their students’ growth and learning in multiple ways.

Further readings:

  • Darling-Hammond, L., Ancess, J., & Falk, B. (1995). Authentic assessment in action: Studies of schools and students at work. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Tchudi, S. (Eds.) (1997). Alternatives to grading student writing. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

10. Instruction that addresses the teaching of English language arts enables teacher candidates to articulate rationales for pedagogical choices.

In addition to knowing theory and being able to apply it, teacher candidates articulate the rationale for pedagogical decisions, not only to their students but also to their colleagues, administrators, parents, and themselves.

In addition to using successful strategies, teacher candidates determine why they selected these strategies, how these strategies meet their objectives, how these strategies serve student needs, and how research informs these pedagogical choices.

Possible implementation:

  • Teacher candidates see themselves as active professionals by reading theory, discussing and critiquing instructional practices, conducting mini-lessons, writing rationales for lessons, participating in and viewing simulations, attending parent meetings, developing complete lesson plans, and reading professional readings including research.

Further readings:

  • Alsup, J. & Bush, J. (2003). “But will it work with real students?”: Scenarios for teaching secondary English language arts. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
  • Gallas, K. (2003). Imagination and literacy: A teacher’s search for the heart of learning. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Gere, A.R., Fairbanks, C., Howes, A., Roop, L., Schaafsma, D. (1992). Language and reflection: An integrated approach to teaching English. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Pope, C.A. (1999). Reflection and refraction: A reflexive look at an evolving model for methods instruction. English Education, 31 (3), 177-200.

11. Instruction that addresses the teaching of English language arts supports teacher candidates in becoming proactive in their own teaching and professional lives.

Teachers and teacher candidates are proactive rather than reactive in their teaching and professional lives. In this way, they will shape their teaching and professional lives in meaningful ways which reflect their beliefs about effective teaching and learning, as well as the profession as a whole.

Possible implementation:

  • Attend local, state, and national conferences; reading and producing professional journals and publications.
  • Conduct research; read resolutions and policy statements.
  • Join professional organizations and state affiliates as well as local school-based and community organizations such as parent-teacher organizations, school boards, and community activist groups.
  • Participate in listservs and teacher advocacy groups or unions where available.
  • Become informed and discuss local, state and national education issues.

Further readings:

  • Fleischer, C. (2000). Teachers organizing for change: Making literacy learning everybody’s business. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
  • Fox, D.L., & Fleischer, C. (Eds.). (2002). Themed issue: What’s really at stake here: High-stakes assessment of teachers. English Education, 34 (2).
  • Kohn, A. (1999). The case against standardized testing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Noll, E. & Zancanella, D. (Eds.). (2004). Themed issue: Teacher education in language arts and literacy in the era of “No Child Left Behind.” English Education, 36 (2).
  • Postman, N. & Weingartner, C. (1969). Teaching as subversive activity. New York: Delta.
  • Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.
  • Schon, D. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

12. Instruction that addresses the teaching of English language arts promotes reflective inquiry informed by first-hand experiences.

Recognizing that teaching and learning are recursive practices, both teachers and learners must reflect on “what” and “how” they have learned. Determining what “worked” and what did not both reinforces the learning and informs the practice. On the basis of this reflection, educators are able to modify, extend, hone, and personalize the learning. Reflective inquiry thus becomes the foundation for/of self-directed learning.

Possible implementation:

  • Use of reflective journals, discussion, observation, and field experiences.

Further readings:

  • Kaufman, J.E. (174). Language, inquiry, and the heart of learning: Reflection in an English methods course. English Education, 36 (3), 174-191.
  • Ladson-Billings, G. (2001). Crossing over to Canaan: The journey of new teachers in diverse classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Maclean, M. & Mohr, M. (1999). Teacher-researchers at work. Berkeley, CA: National Writing Project.
  • Palmer, P. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Philion, T. (2001). “Is it too late to get a program change?”: The role of oppositionality in secondary English education. English Education, 34 (1), 50-71.
  • Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.
  • Schon,D. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Wells, G. (1999). Dialogic inquiry: Toward a sociocultural practice and theory of education. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
  • Wells, G. (Ed.). (1999). Action, talk, and text: Learning and teaching through inquiry. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Vinz, R. (1996). Composing a teaching life. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.

Belief Statements on FIELD EXPERIENCES

Field experiences serve a number of purposes for teacher candidates. They provide a process through which candidates develop a new relationship to the classroom. They expose candidates to the widest possible variety of students, teachers, schools, and communities. They allow candidates to observe many different teaching styles, and to begin to develop their own teaching “voice” through active participation in the classrooms and other learning sites they visit. For all of these reasons, it is imperative that field experiences be planned and implemented in a careful and highly intentional way.

13. Teacher candidates should complete multiple supervised field experiences in a range of settings with diverse student populations.

Because teacher candidates need to be well prepared to teach English language arts in multiple contexts, it is crucial that they have experiences in a range of settings. This variety allows teacher candidates to expand their understanding of the diversity of communities and of schooling experiences in our country.

Since we live in an economically, culturally and linguistically diverse society, teacher candidates need to have experiences with a range of students both in classrooms as well as in out-of-school learning environments. Teacher candidates need to discover the kinds of community resources and partners with whom they might collaborate.

Possible implementation (experiences may include placements in the following settings):

  • different grade levels within the range of certification
  • urban/suburban/rural schools
  • large and small schools
  • traditional and nontraditional schools
  • schools with culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse student populations
  • out-of-school placements such as community literacy and arts programs, home-based tutoring, etc.

Further readings:

  • Ballenger, C. (1998). Teaching other people’s children: Literacy and learning in a bilingual classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Delpit, L. (1995). Other people’s children: Culture conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press.
  • Heath, S.B. & McLaughlin, M.W. (Eds.). (1993). Identity and inner-city youth: Beyond ethnicity and gender. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Purcell-Gates, V. (1995). Other people’s words: The cycle of low literacy. Cambridge: Harvard College Press.
  • Rosen, L.M. & Abt-Perkins, D. (2000). Preparing English teachers to teach diverse student populations: Beliefs, challenges, proposals for change. English Education, 32 (4), 251-266.
  • Vinz, R. & Schaafsma, D. (Eds.) (2000). Themed issue: Preparing English teachers to teach diverse student populations. English Education, 32 (4).

14. Field experiences should occur throughout the teacher education program and should be explicitly interrelated and intentionally organized so that each experience builds on and extends the previous one.

Candidates need to begin their field experiences as early in the English education program as possible, and should continue to have these experiences throughout their program, culminating in the student teaching/internship placement. Program faculty, administrators, and mentor teachers should be purposeful in scaffolding these experiences so that candidates are participating in their field sites in ways that are appropriate to their current level of experience and expertise. Throughout this sequence it is important that the nature and degree of support from cooperating teachers and college/university supervisors match the level of responsibility assumed by the teacher candidate.

Areas of sequencing may include:

  • Levels of student contact. Teacher candidates start out with experiences that are primarily observational, then move into one-on-one interaction with students, then to small-group work, and finally to whole-class activities.
  • Scope of instructional activity. In their earliest placements, teacher candidates help students with individual assignments. They move on to facilitating group work, then to presenting individual lessons, then to team-teaching with the mentor teacher, and finally to assume lead teacher responsibilities by designing, implementing, and assessing their own teaching plans.
  • Nature and degree of support for teacher candidate. In early field experiences, teacher candidates may require support in focusing their observation and initial interactions with students. As they begin to assume more instructional responsibility, candidates will need active support and meaningful feedback. The goal becomes increased autonomy for the candidate, as warranted.

In order for teacher candidates to develop a deep understanding of the scholarship and research in English language arts, they need to be able to relate this work to actual classrooms and students. English education programs should instill in candidates an understanding of the ongoing, reciprocal relationship between classroom practice and educational/adolescent literacy scholarship. Therefore, course readings and assignments reflect and extend the issues raised by specific field placements. Candidates are encouraged to relate their field experiences to their developing pedagogical and content knowledge.

Possible implementation:

  • If teacher candidates are participating in field experiences at the middle school level, for example, accompanying college/university courses include examinations of the psychological and social development of early adolescence, extended attention to middle grades literature, etc.
  • Assignments in college/university teacher education courses encourage primary research into the social/linguistic/cultural contexts of candidates’ specific field sites.
  • Candidates include the voices of students, teachers, and community members from their field sites in their college/university course assignments.
  • Teacher candidates engage in focused case studies of diverse learners in their field sites.

Further readings:

  • Graham, P., Hudson-Ross, S., Adkins, S., McWhorter, P., and Stewart, J.M. (Eds.) (1999). Teacher/mentor: A dialogue for collaborative learning. New York: Teachers College Press.

15. Reflective practice is fostered throughout field experiences.

In order for teacher candidates to benefit from the field experience component of their English teacher preparation program, they engage in guided purposeful reflections about their experience. Reflection occurs often and focuses on a range of issues and ideas.

Possible implementation - both within and across field experiences and semesters, teacher candidates’ written reflections on field experiences focus on the following:

  • community context
  • school culture
  • classroom environment
  • teacher-student engagements
  • student interactions
  • collaborative and cooperative learning
  • depth and breadth of ELA standards addressed
  • use of language
  • student literacy practices.

Further readings:

  • Pope, C.A. (1999). Reflection and refraction: A reflexive look at an evolving model for methods instruction. English Education, 31 (3), 177-200.
  • VanDeWeghe, R & Reid, L. (2000). Reading the classroom as text: A heuristic for classroom inquiry. English Education, 32 (2), 127-140.

16. School-based and college/university-based partners should share responsibility for field experiences.

Teacher candidates need the support and guidance of more experienced teachers. Both the mentor teacher and the college/university partner provide the candidate with observational feedback and constructive criticism as a basis for their reflective conversations. As a result, careful selection of the college/university partner and classroom teacher is critical to a candidate’s learning from the field experience. The university partner must remain in regular contact with the candidate and mentor teacher to negotiate expectations and to mediate possible tensions.

Everyone involved in the field experience partnership benefits from the relationship. Mentor teachers and their students benefit from the presence of another adult in their classroom. Just as school-based partners and settings are resources for the college/university program, college/university partners need to share resources with classroom teachers to enhance their work. In out-of- school field experiences, a similar relationship among teacher candidate, university partner and field site partner must exist.

Possible implementation:

  • Establish communication systems among all partners (listserv, class letter, WebCT, chat room, bulletin board, dialogue journals).
  • Offer college/university library privileges for classroom teachers.
  • Plan joint professional development opportunities.
  • Team teach across sites.
  • Establish lending libraries for partners.
  • Design and carry out joint research.
  • Provide opportunities for school-based partners to take coursework at the college/university through feel waivers provided as compensation for mentoring student teachers.

Further readings:

  • Franzak, J.K. (2002). Developing a teacher identity: The impact of critical friends practice on the student teacher. English Education, 34 (4), 258-280.
  • Hudson-Ross, S., Graham, P., & McWhorter, P. with S. Burns, G. Speaks James, F. Bullock, & J. Anderson. (1997). Building nets: Evolution of a collaborative inquiry community within a high school English teacher education program. English Education, 29 (2), 91-129.
  • Moore, R. (2003). Reexamining the fieldwork of preservice teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 54 (1) 31-42.
  • Posner, G.J. (1999). Field experiences: A guide to reflective teaching (5th ed). New York: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Wiseman, D. (2005). Learning to teach language arts in a field based setting. Scottsdale, AZ: Holcomb Hathaway.
  • Zeichner, K. M. & Liston, D. P. (1996). Reflective teaching: An introduction. Mahwah, N.J: Erlbaum.

This document was created in part as a result of the 2005 Conference on English Education Leadership and Policy Summit, Suzanne Miller, CEE Chair, and Dana L. Fox, CEE Leadership and Policy Summit Chair.

Participants and authors in the “Methods Courses and Field Experiences” thematic strand group of the CEE Summit included:

  • Co-Conveners: Peg Graham and Ruth Vinz
  • Jonathan Bush, Western Michigan University
  • Leila Christenbury, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Bobby Cummings, Central Washington University
  • Randi Dickson, Queens College, City University of New York
  • Marshall George, Fordham University
  • Peg Graham, University of Georgia
  • Pamela Hartman, Ball State University
  • Carmen Kynard, New York University
  • Hephzibah Roskelly, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Peter Smagorinsky, University of Georgia
  • Susan Steffel, Central Michigan University
  • Donna Lester Taylor, Georgia State University
  • Ruth Vinz, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Sue Weinstein, Louisiana State University

If you wish to send a response to this CEE belief statement, please email cee@ncte.org and specify which statement you are commenting on in the Subject of your email.

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