Supervision and support: Student teachers and writing policy

Anne Marie Garth, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

It is well known that over the past two decades, writing has been subjected to various policies, initiatives, and requirements, as "test prep is the new order of the day" (Schultz & Fecho, 2005, p. 12). Student teachers are learning to teach writing in these conditions. Yet they are usually left alone to make sense of the relationships between what they learn in teacher education, and what they are permitted or encouraged to do in their placement schools. Little is known about how student teachers make sense of the rules and expectations around writing in their placement schools, and what professional judgment they believe they are allowed to exercise as they learn to teach writing. ^ Dominant policy structures can lead the next generation of teachers to maintain the status quo, replicating practices that often limit children's access to powerful literacy learning. To address this problem, this qualitative study examined how four student teachers, across elementary, middle and secondary schools, "read" the rules and expectations of their placement schools, and how they navigated the relationships of policy to practice in the teaching of writing. This study is also a practitioner inquiry into what role a first-time university supervisor played in student teachers' sense-making process, with the goal of constructivist writing pedagogy. ^ Drawing on socio-cultural literacy theories, reflective supervision literature, and critical policy research, this study found that student teachers' negotiation of the policies in their schools went through phases, and that unofficial policies and interpersonal relationships were important parts of the policy landscape for student teachers. Furthermore, conversations with the university supervisor framed student teachers' interrogation and understandings of the rules and traditions around them, as well as their thinking about themselves as teachers of writing. Suggesting a critical policy approach within literacy education, this study implies that student teachers can see themselves as agents for change, but that this is a difficult process. It also argues for a revised role of university supervisors in teacher education, including support for "reading" policy along with student teachers while deepening their own knowledge-of-practice (Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1999). ^

Subject Area

Education, Language and Literature|Education, Policy|Education, Teacher Training

Recommended Citation

Anne Marie Garth, "Supervision and support: Student teachers and writing policy" (January 1, 2012). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3530057.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3530057

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