Reflective Practices That Scaffold Teacher Knowledge, Decision Making, and Literacy Leadership

Reflective Practices That Scaffold Teacher Knowledge, Decision Making, and Literacy Leadership

Susan King Fullerton (Clemson University, USA) and Lisa D. Aker (Clemson University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0206-8.ch010


The roles of literacy professionals are organized and contextualized in school settings and are quite varied; university coursework must prepare teachers to serve in literacy teacher, reading specialist, interventionist, and coaching roles. In this chapter, the authors describe two Literacy M.Ed. mid-program practicums that (1) focus on literacy small-group instruction such as guided reading and (2) individual instruction of learners having difficulty with reading. They discuss evidence-based practices primarily focused on reflection—reflections of lessons, including videotaped lessons and peer coaching, online discussions and reflections. Based on the analyses of such practices, insights and implications for program improvement are suggested.
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Literacy professionals have numerous responsibilities and roles within schools. While prioritization of roles may differ, most literacy specialists/professionals engage in teaching, supporting and advocating for less proficient readers, educating teachers, coaching, and leading school literacy programs (International Literacy Association, 2015). Given these myriad roles, the goal, as teacher educators and online course designers, is to offer a Literacy M.Ed. online program that provides experiences representative of varied roles—as an expert literacy teacher, literacy interventionist, literacy specialist, and/or literacy coach. Program design originates from studies of teacher development examining teacher beliefs, literacy knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and reflective reasoning. (See Risko, Roller, Cummins, Bean, Block … Flood, 2008.) Teachers must conceptualize teaching as process-oriented, “a learning-based rather than activity-based way of teaching, and thus, teachers must understand it at a deeper level” (Anderson & Roit, 1993, p. 133).

This chapter focuses on evidence-based practices within two consecutive mid-program practicum courses. (These courses were fully online.) Mid-program placement was intentional as the courses focused on small-group and individualized literacy lessons, foundational to the development of expertise in a variety of contexts (classroom, interventionist/specialist and coaching). An equally important rationale was the integral focus on becoming more skillful in providing instruction to learners having literacy difficulties.

In the first online practicum, teachers studied a comprehensive literacy framework (Biancarosa, Bryk, & Dexter, 2010; Fountas & Pinnell, 2006), videotaped an interactive read-aloud lesson, and provided small-group guided reading instruction (Pinnell, 2002; Schwartz, 2005) to readers having difficulty. In the second mid-program online practicum, teachers partnered with a course colleague (a teacher who worked at the same school or a nearby school) to provide after-school tutoring to a student having literacy difficulties. Lesson plans and reflections, along with two videotaped lessons, were submitted by each teacher. Lesson plans incorporated an adaptation of Afflerbach’s (1993) STAIR framework (System for Teaching and Assessing Interactively and Reflectively) to support teachers in using assessment data to plan instruction, establishing goals and objectives within the learner’s ZPD, developing processes for selecting texts and materials, and determining individualized instruction as evidenced by data, observations, and teaching reflections. The tutoring format was adapted from Clay’s (2005/2016) and Vellutino & Scanlon’s (2002) interventions.

In this second practicum, each teacher/tutor provided instructional sessions for two consecutive days while the observing partner took notes on the student’s responses to instruction (active engagement indicators, critical points of understanding or confusion, strategic behaviors, and interactive responses), and then served as a peer coach during the lesson debriefing. Then, for the next two days, teachers switched roles. While one tutored, the other partner observed and took notes for two sessions, again focusing on student responses. Together, the two tutors reflected upon the lesson, as lesson study partners (Aker, 2018; Lenski, Caskey, & Anfara, 2009) with the observer/peer coach sharing additional insights to develop next steps/plans. An electronically shared peer-coaching journal included each teacher’s reflections and insights about student progress, instructional interactions, and peer coaching feedback. In both practicums, teachers analyzed and reflected upon videotaped lessons using a guide that structured lessons as well as reflections. Such video analyses, while time-consuming, served as valuable tools for teacher development (McVee, Shanahan, Pearson, & Rinker, 2015; Shanahan, Tochelli-Ward & Rinker, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Video Reflection: The practice of teachers reviewing videos of their instruction and then completing written reflections focusing on the observations using specific reflective protocols.

Tutoring Sessions: Weekly sessions where two M.Ed. Literacy teachers were alternately working with one student to provide intervention so one could provide instruction and the other could observe.

Peer Coaching Journals: Collaborative journals, including each teacher’s analyses and reflections and insights about student progress, instructional interactions, and peer coaching feedback.

Peer Coaching: A course required one-to-one teaching experience with one teacher providing intervention instruction and another observing the same lesson to provide peer feedback and coaching based on the shared tutoring experience.

Lesson Study Cycles: Cycles of teachers co-planning, teaching, observing, videoing, reflecting, and debriefing around a specific student receiving a literacy intervention.

Online Discussions: Weekly discussions within an online course framework designed to encourage teachers to reflect collaboratively, connecting research and theory to teaching practices.

Reflection: Thoughtful consideration of teaching practices and lesson planning to impact instruction and student learning.

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