How well prepared are Australian preservice teachers to teach beginning reading skills?
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 10:45 authored by Linda Meeks
A series of related papers examining the knowledge of final-year preservice early childhood and primary teachers in the area of beginning reading, and an investigation into the content of literacy units offered in early childhood and primary teacher preparation programs, are presented in this thesis by publication. The primary aim of this program of research was to investigate the perceived and actual subject-specific content and pedagogical knowledge of final-year preservice early childhood and primary teachers of the teaching of early literacy, with a specific focus on beginning reading instruction. A secondary aim was to examine the content and characteristics of early literacy units offered in Australian teacher preparation programs.Over the past fifteen years, results from national and international assessments of literacy have shown a continual decline in the literacy competence of Australian primary and secondary students. Although scientific research has identified the essential contributing components of beginning reading instruction, it would appear that this information may not be reaching classroom teachers. A systematic literature review, therefore, was conducted in order to locate evidence regarding preservice teachers' knowledge of the subject-specific content for literacy instruction. Although only a limited amount of research was available, there appeared to be inadequate preservice teacher knowledge in the countries in which the research was implemented and this included Australia.To extend the small Australian research base, an online survey similar in construction to those included in the literature review was conducted. Surveys were distributed by 16 institutions, making this the first Australian survey to include preservice teachers from more than one institution. Preservice early childhood and primary teachers' perceptions of preparedness and ability to teach, and content knowledge of, beginning reading and spelling skills were examined.Although the preservice teachers generally rated themselves as prepared to teach early reading, most demonstrated minimal to very poor knowledge of the phonological awareness, phonemic awareness and phonics components of beginning reading and spelling instruction. Three original questions were also included in the survey in order to gauge preservice teachers' knowledge of the early literacy components and pedagogical practices supported by the current scientific research. The results indicated that Australian preservice teachers have an incomplete understanding of early reading terms and concepts and are limited in their knowledge of the research-based recommendations for best instructional practices. In order to explore the responses to four of the questions included in the online survey in more depth, eleven telephone interviews were conducted. Recently graduated teachers' perceptions of their preparedness and ability to teach beginning reading and spelling, their early reading content knowledge, and their views of the quality of their teacher preparation were canvassed. This was the first time that recently graduated teacher interviews had been conducted across multiple institutions and Australian states. The results mirrored those reported in the survey paper, raising questions about the effectiveness of preservice preparation of beginning reading instruction offered in tertiary institutions.A combination of the findings from the systematic literature review, the online survey and the interview study raised concerns regarding the content of literacy units provided in preservice primary and early childhood tertiary programs. A detailed examination of unit outcomes, unit guides, assessment tasks, prescribed texts, and the qualifications and expertise of unit coordinators of relevant literacy units, the first study of this type to be conducted in Australia, was undertaken. A need for an increased focus on research-based beginning reading instruction and subject content pedagogy in literacy units was identified.