TEACHING OF, PREPARATION OF TEACHERS
PREPARATION OF TEACHERS
Pamela L. Grossman
The teaching of the English language has a long history in U.S. education; the practice of teaching a native language can be traced to antiquity. In the Greek and Roman worlds, literacy was encouraged both to foster citizen participation in a democracy as advocated by Plato, Quintilian, and Cicero; much later it was fostered by the emergence of print and print cultures in western Europe.
The History of English in the Schools
In the American colonies, education in literacy was the essence of education, along with arithmetic. Literacy education followed patterns of instruction that could also trace their ancestry to Greek and Roman education, transmitted to the colonies via Great Britain. The tradition in early literacy instruction was one of formalism, which posits that knowledge of the forms of language (as identified in such studies as grammar, logic, rhetoric, and orthography) enables a learner to read and write successfully. Thus such seminal books as the New England Primer (1775) concentrated heavily on the basic elements of English: the alphabet, then words of one, two, and more syllables–a pattern of small to large language particles to whole meaning.
In a seminal book written in the late 1960s, Growth Through English, John Dixon described this formalist approach as characteristic of the first phase in the development of literacy: an era of basic skills. A second stage is one of enculturation, where the mastery of basic skills opens up a canon of "great books" to young learners. A third stage, Dixon asserted, is concerned with personal growth, where knowledge of culture through literacy allows the learner to move freely and flexibly through the full range of language to enhance his or her personal life, philosophy, and aesthetic.
In the United States, Dixon's first two stages can clearly be seen in the nineteenth century, when first grammar, then composition and literature, became standard features in the emerging curricula of the American elementary schools and, in particular, of that dramatic experiment in democracy: the free public high school. By the end of the nineteenth century, the tripod curriculum of language, literature, and composition was established, taught primarily from a formalist perspective.
In the 1960s and 1970s a shift of perspective away from basic skills and enculturation prompted educators to declare that a paradigm shift of major proportions was taking place, matching trends in American education away from formalism toward student- and child-centered education. Proclamation of this paradigm shift may have been premature, for in fact, English education has been and continues to be subject to contrary and contradictory influences and philosophies.
The alleged paradigm shift was toward a contrary (or possibly contradictory) curriculum that can be called naturalistic or experiential. Its roots can be found in the European philosophies of such educators as Johann Amos Comenius and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both of whom argued for engagement in learning practices as opposed to rote study. The experiential movement can also be labeled romantic, traceable to the humanistic and naturalistic philosophies of such writers as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the United States, John Dewey's Progressive education movement translated the experiential strand of educational thought into curriculum designs, reflected most prominently in two publications of the National Council of Teachers of English in the 1930s: one outlining the essentials of an "experience curriculum in English," the other advocating a "correlated curriculum," with language activities infused throughout the school curriculum in all disciplines.
Yet the formalist tradition persisted, setting the stage for conflict in the final quarter of the twentieth century between formalist and experiential schools of thought. For the general public and the legislators who represent them, the formalist strategy–teach the basics and move on to larger activities–makes common sense. Among English language arts educators, according to Rodger D. Sell, those favoring a formalist approach have become increasingly sophisticated in their understanding of language structures, arguing for teaching multiple discourse forms and an increasingly broad and inclusive literary canon.
Those from the experiential camp, such as Kenneth Goodman and Frank Smith, on the other hand, have developed philosophies of whole language–hotly contested in both convention halls and legislative chambers. The experiential school argues Dewey's theme that the formal structures of language are mastered, not by study of forms, but through engagement with a wide range of "real world" or purposeful discourse.
Consensus: The National Standards
In the 1990s concern about the quality of American education became centered–in English language arts as in other fields–on a quest for national standards in the subject fields. The concept of standards appears to be formalist; that is, it posits that by identifying discrete "learnings" that are to be required of all students, one can systematize curriculum and improve scores on standardized tests of literacy. The tests themselves tend to measure formalist rather than experiential "knowledges" and skills. Thus there has often been ideological conflict between, on the one hand, parents and legislators who favor a standards and testing approach, and, on the other, English teachers, who are moving toward an experiential curriculum.
The task of creating national standards in English fell to the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association, whose members and their representatives agonized over the challenge of defining and describing what young people ought to be able to know and do with language. The resulting document, Standards for the English Language Arts, described a consensus view of what the English studies can, could, and should be. The fourteen standards outlined for K–12 classrooms emphasize growth and development of language use for personal, social, academic, and vocational purposes. The standards present a series of illustrative vignettes showing students who are engaged in extending the range of literature they read; developing increasing competence in a broadening range of forms and genres in speaking and writing; reading and writing for personal and aesthetic pleasure as well as public competence; and increasing their skill at using language within the purposeful settings. Perhaps disappointing to the public and legislators, the national standards did not spell out basic skills and knowledges in grammar, spelling, and the like; nor did they suggest a canon of books that all children should read. In short, the standards tended toward the Progressive/experiential model, while making a genuine effort to accommodate the interests and traditions of formalism. The authors of the standards note very clearly that theirs is a work in progress and that it would indeed be naive to suppose that any group of specialists can define and describe the parameters of language study for the unforeseeable future.
Current Issues in the English Language Arts
The national standards in the English language arts thus provide a platform for the development of curricula in the twenty-first century. Clearly, the coming years will produce new demands on literate people and call for new forms of literacy; in addition, research in human learning can be expected to increase educators' understanding of language acquisition and thus how to establish increasingly successful venues for offering language instruction. Ongoing issues, problems, concerns, and debates over the English language arts include the following topics.
Basic skills, testing, and accountability. The standards movement has been part of an ongoing call for accountability for English language arts teachers (and teachers in all fields). The general public wants concrete evidence that teachers are teaching well and that students are learning. In turn, this pressure has led to increased testing in all fields and disciplines, but in no field more than English, where students experience local or state progress testing virtually every year, standardized testing on nationally normed tests at regular intervals, state or district proficiency examinations for high school diplomas, and national measures such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Given pressures for students to perform well on these tests, teachers in the schools find themselves increasingly focusing the curriculum on test preparation or, more broadly, on teaching the kinds of formalist knowledge that is most frequently encountered on those tests.
Literacy and society. Beyond the immediate concerns of test scores, there remains considerable debate over the fundamental aims of literacy education. The English teaching profession is in general agreement with the notion that literacy instruction needs to go beyond the demands for practical skills and must include Dixon's category of language for personal and aesthetic growth. This is not to say that English teachers are committed to an elitist view of "art for art's sake" or falsely elevated notions of "taste" and "culture." Rather, from the experiential philosophy of language education, teachers generally believe that broad language education–teaching students to speak, read, and write articulately on a range of issues and problems–not only encompasses, but moves beyond simple mastery of basic English. The work of Paulo Freire has been especially influential in encouraging educators to consider the social and political implications of what they teach, exploring the possibility that narrow training in literacy fosters citizen subservience, while general literacy arguably leads to independent thinking.
However, such issues are also linked more broadly to issues and trends in education, specifically, the role that the general public perceives for the schools. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, an increasingly global economy and greater demands on the American economic system increased pressures on the schools to be a direct part of the economic engine. The accountability and testing movements, for example, are often linked to the goal of keeping the United States competitive in world markets. Although few would disagree with that expression of need, opinions differ dramatically in how it can be met. Some would have the schools focus primarily on job literacy (in both the immediate and long-range senses), which implies an English curriculum more like that advocated by the formalists. Others insist that schools must resist the push to become employment oriented and should return to the concept of general or liberal education, creating well-educated individuals who are equipped to adapt to changing conditions. Contemporary English theory and research lean in the direction of general/liberal education, but the outcome of this debate is more likely to be determined in the legislatures.
Multiple types of English. If there is a single unifying trend in English education, it is that what has been labeled the English language arts is becoming increasingly broad through what can be called the multiple English curriculum, including the following.
Multidisciplinary English. In the 1970s through the end of the twentieth century, parallel movements for writing across the curriculum and reading in the content areas moved English language arts outside the immediate confines of the language classroom. English educators proposed that reading and writing skills could not be expected to be developed if they are limited to practice inside the English classroom. Moreover, they claimed that by attending to language, teachers in other disciplines would find student learning improved; that is, by attending to the language skills and needs of their own disciplines, educators would find students improving in their understanding of the processes of inquiry and expression and thus of the discipline itself. These movements toward multidisciplinary English in every classroom have found limited success. Although the concept receives widespread general support, many disciplinary teachers do not feel they have the training to deal with language problems, especially with curricula that are already crowded with concepts, national standards, and parental expectations.
Multicultural English. Due in no small measure to the activism of minority and feminist groups, English language arts teachers have greatly broadened the cultural content of their field. Courses in literature by and about minorities and by about women have led to a realization that the traditional English canon of English and American literature, much of it written by white males, is both culturally biased and intellectually limited. Originally isolated in their own courses or units, these multicultural literatures are increasingly being found throughout the curriculum, and they include not only literatures written by people whose first language is not English, but also world literature translated into English. Like every other trend in English, this one is not without its detractors, particularly those who argue that cultural literacy begins at home, and that the canon of Anglo literatures, not world "Englishes," should be the substance of the curriculum.
Multilingual English. Immediately linked to multicultural teaching are questions concerning the use of multiple languages, both languages other than English (e.g., Spanish), and dialects other than standard English (e.g., African-American English). Much theory and research has argued for teaching methodologies based on the concept of bilingualism: that students should be provided with opportunities to develop and learn in their native language as they receive instruction in English. The counterposition to bilingualism argues for quick introduction into the structures of the target language and mainstreaming of bilingual students into classes where English is used exclusively. The latter position also reflects strong public interest in "English Only," a concept that would legislate English as the official national (or adopted state) language. Opponents of that movement note that the United States is rapidly becoming a bilingual country, that the evolution of language is natural, and that one cannot either limit or prescribe peoples' mastery of language.
Analogous arguments are offered in favor and in opposition to insistence on a single dialect of standard English instead of recognizing that all speakers operate in the a range of dialects. Particularly controversial was a decision in the Oakland, California, schools to include the understanding of "Ebonics," a dialect of African-American English, as a curriculum goal for both teachers and students.
Multigenre and multimedia English. Whether one supports the concept of English as practical in orientation–preparing students for the immediate demands of society, the workplace, and school–or more general and liberal in application, research and practice are responding to the rapidly broadening array of discourse forms and technologies. Computer literacy has been widely adopted as an aim of school curricula, with mastery of basic computer skills seen as necessary for any graduate of public education. For the English teacher, such literacy moves beyond the mechanical operation of machinery. In the twenty-first century, English/computer literacy will also include the critical analysis and evaluation of language and information sources as well as the ability to compose and create in new media forms. Thus as an extension of print literacy, many English classes now commonly include language experiences involving e-mail, chat and discussion groups, the Internet, presentation software, and even video and audio production. It is clear that the traditional English classroom centered on books, pencils, and papers will evolve considerably in the coming years.
Reflective Practice, Teacher Preparation, and In-Service Reeducation
Even as the public and legislators have expressed reservations about the performance of students in the English language, the English profession has made great strides in elaborating and rationalizing English programs. Considerable research in English education conducted since the early 1990s has led to widespread discussion of the research-based curriculum, where teachers operate from known principles of rhetoric, linguistics, psychology, and literary criticism rather than from teacher lore and tradition. Equally important is the concept of reflective practice, where teachers consciously articulate the reasons for their instruction and seek ways of assessing whether or not it is succeeding.
Particularly notable in English is the growth of portfolio assessment as an alternative to standardized testing, where students prepare collections of materials that demonstrate their best work and their competencies, engage in self-analysis, and discuss with teachers and community members the success of the work.
Also noteworthy is the great success of the National Writing Project (NWP) in promoting growth in English curricula through the sharing of practices among teachers. Founded in the 1970s in response to the "back to basics" crisis, the NWP has branches in every state and in several other countries. Its methodology features the sharing of best practices by teachers, reading and discussion of theory and research, and systematic in-service education.
The NWP is part of a broader movement toward teacher empowerment, which argues that curriculum decisions are best made by teachers themselves. This movement is understandably in opposition to other approaches, most notably the widespread belief that legislation, standards, accountability, and even "teacher-proof" materials can lead to educational reform. By contrast, some professionals, such as Denny T. Wolfe and Joe Antinarella, present the case that English language arts teachers themselves can and should be leaders in educational reform.
See also: CURRICULUM, SCHOOL; ENGLISH EDUCATION, subentry on PREPARATION OF TEACHERS; NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OF ENGLISH; SECONDARY EDUCATION, subentries on CURRENT TRENDS, HISTORY OF.
APPLEBEE, ARTHUR. 1974. Tradition and Reform in Teaching English. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
BLOOM, ALAN. 1988. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster.
COMENIUS, JOHANN AMOS. 1969. A Reformation of Schooles (1642), trans. Samuel Hartlib. Menston, Yorkshire, Eng.: Menston.
COURTS, PATRICK. 1997. Multicultural Literacies: Dialect, Discourse, and Diversity. New York: Lang.
DAVISON, JOHN, and MOSS, John, eds. 2000. Issues in English Teaching. LONDON AND NEW YORK: ROUTLEDGE.
DEWEY, JOHN. 1900. The School and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
DIXON, JOHN. 1967. Growth Through English, 1st edition. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
GARAY, MARY SUE, and BERNHARDT, STEPHEN, A., eds. 1998. Expanding Literacies: English and the New Workplace. Albany: State University of New York Press.
GELB, IGNACE J. 1963. A Study of Writing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
GLYER, DIANA, and WEEKS, DAVID L., eds. 1998. The Liberal Arts in Higher Education. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
GOODMAN, KENNETH. 1996. On Reading. Portsmouth, NH; Heinemann.
HAMILTON, EDITH, and CARIUS, HUNTINGTON, eds. 1961. Plato: The Collected Dialogues. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
HIRSCH, E. D. 1999. The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them. New York: Anchor/Doubleday.
MURPHY, JAMES, ed. 1987. Quintillian as the Teacher of Speaking and Writing. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OF ENGLISH. 1935. An Experience Curriculum in English. New York: Appleton-Century.
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OF ENGLISH. 1936. A Correlated Curriculum. New York: Appleton-Century.
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OF ENGLISH and the INTERNATIONAL READING ASSOCIATION.1996. Standards for the English Language Arts. Urbana, IL and Newark, DE: National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
ONG, WALTER J. 1982. Orality and Literacy. New York: Methuen.
PIAGET, JEAN. 1969. The Child's Conception of the World (1926), trans. Joan Tomlinson and Andrew Tomlinson. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams.
RAJU, NAMBURY S., et al., eds. 2000. Grading the Nation's Report Card: Research from the Evaluation of NAEP. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
ROBERTS, PETER. 2000. Education, Literacy, and Humanization: Exploring the Work of Paulo Freire. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey.
SELL, ROGER D. 2000. Literature as Communication. Philadelphia: Benjamin.
SMITH, FRANK. Reading Without Nonsense. New York: Teachers College Press.
WALDO, MARK. 1993. "Wordsworth's 'Preface to the Lyrical Ballads' as Preface to Romantic Rhetoric." Halcyon 15 (spring):199–211.
WARSCHAUER, MARK. 1999. Electronic Literacies: Language, Culture, and Power in Online Education. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
WOLFE, DENNY T., and ANTINARELLA, JOE. 1997. Deciding to Lead: The English Teacher as Reformer. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
The field of English education includes research and practice related to both the teaching and learning of English/language arts and the preparation of English teachers. As befits a broad and comprehensive subject matter, the field of English education includes a wide range of topics and lines of research. Under the umbrella of English education, one might find research on rhetoric and the teaching of writing, on the literature curriculum and different approaches to the teaching of literature, as well as a range of topics related to communication, visual literacy, drama, journalism, and language more broadly. In fact, one of the persistent challenges facing the field of English has been the difficulty of self-definition, as Peter Elbow (1990) plaintively inquires in the title of his book, What is English? Others have asked, equally plaintively, what important topics might not be considered the province of English teachers. This lack of self-definition leads to what Robert Protherough termed "a pervasive uncertainty about the nature of the discipline" (p. 1).
The sheer scope of the subject matter and its blurry definition have its roots in the history of the subject matter. In a definitive history of the field, Arthur Applebee demonstrated the various ways in which the subject has been defined over time, from its first emergence as a major school subject in the 1890s. While earlier battles focused more on the relative centrality of classical versus vernacular texts, more recent skirmishes have tackled the role of literature–and the type of literature–in the English classroom. One of the enduring themes in the history of English education has been the search for a way to unify the subject.
In addition to breadth and lack of clear definition, English education is characterized by a multiplicity of theoretical perspectives regarding the subject. Different versions of English to be found in classrooms might include a basic skills approach, an approach that privileges cultural heritage, a personal growth approach, an apprenticeship into the discipline, and an approach that advocates critical or transformative literacy. Each of these versions implies a different set of assumptions regarding the goals for teaching English, posits a different curriculum, and advocates distinctive approaches to teaching.
Preparation of English Teachers
These features of the subject matter pose challenges to the preparation of English teachers. The sheer breadth of the subject raises questions about how to assure that prospective teachers develop a deep understanding of the field. The existence of multiple, and often competing, versions of English suggests that pre-service teachers will encounter quite different practices during their own experiences in schools. Finally, the inherent complexity of the subject, with its separate domains and subcomponents, offers teachers greater autonomy in developing curriculum. For beginning teachers, however, such autonomy can be daunting as they struggle to decide what exactly to teach.
One critical question concerning the preparation of English teachers has to do with how well prepared they are within the subject matter itself. According to a national survey conducted by Applebee in the early 1990s, approximately 95 percent of English teachers received degrees in English or a related major. However, Richard Ingersoll's 1998 study of out-of-field teaching found that nearly one-fourth of teachers who teach English have neither a major nor a minor in English or related fields. While a major in English does not guarantee the depth of subject matter knowledge required for teaching, the fact that people without English majors are teaching the subject is certainly cause for concern.
English teachers in the United States receive their professional preparation in a wide variety of programs, from undergraduate programs lasting four or five years, to fifth-year programs in which teachers have one year of professional preparation following completion of an undergraduate degree, to alternative route programs. In the early twenty-first century, research has only begun to chart how differences among programs affect the quality of teacher preparation. Michael Andrew's 1990 study, for example, found that graduates of five-year programs reported greater satisfaction with both their teacher preparation and chosen career and were more likely to remain in teaching than graduates of four-year programs. However, much more work needs to explore how structural differences among preparation programs affect the quality of their graduates.
Relatively few studies have looked systematically at teacher education within the field of English. Studies on the preparation of English teachers have focused primarily on teachers' knowledge and beliefs about the subject matter, and on how teachers develop their understandings of how to teach English. A growing body of research suggests that what English teachers know and believe about literature influences both their curricular and instructional choices. How teachers choose to teach a literary text reflects their own understanding of literature and its interpretation. Similarly, teachers' knowledge of the complexity of the writing process affects their approaches to the teaching of writing. The teaching of writing requires knowledge of how the demands of writing vary depending upon the nature of the task, audience, and genre, among other factors. Lack of this knowledge among teachers may help explain why writing instruction too often reduces the writing process to a lock-step series of discrete stages.
Another body of research has focused on the development of pedagogical content knowledge–the knowledge of how to teach English to a wide range of students. A number of studies have looked at how teachers transform their knowledge of the subject, per se, to knowledge of how to teach the subject to diverse learners. In looking at this transformation, a number of studies have focused on the importance of subject-specific methods courses. This line of research suggests that prospective teachers begin the task of rethinking their subject matter from a pedagogical perspective within the context of English methods courses. Such courses often require prospective teachers to confront their implicit assumptions about the subject matter, through assignments such as literacy autobiographies or the examination of personal metaphors for teaching. Methods courses also provide opportunities to learn more about how students learn to read and write, and some of the predictable struggles they may face. The potential of methods classes to shape prospective teachers' classroom practice is mediated by their experiences in actual classrooms. When they do not have opportunities to observe or try out the practices they are studying in methods classes, they may begin to doubt their feasibility.
Learning to teach English takes longer than the brief period allotted for teacher education. Research conducted by Pamela Grossman and colleagues in 2001 suggests that new teachers are still in the process of learning to teach when they enter the classroom. Given the importance of the first few years of teaching, many districts provide support to beginning teachers through mentoring programs. This also suggests the need for more longitudinal studies of learning to teach, that span teacher education and the first few years of teaching.
Perhaps the best-known professional development opportunities for English teachers are the workshops offered by the National Writing Project (NWP) and its affiliates. The NWP is a national network that began in 1974 at the University of California, Berkeley. Its goal is the improvement of the teaching of writing and the quality of student writing. The NWP has served more than 2 million teachers, across all grades and subjects, since it first came into existence. Some of the basic tenets of the NWP model include the need for writing teachers to become writers themselves; the importance of teacher knowledge and expertise in the teaching of writing; and the value of teachers teaching other teachers. Although relatively little systematic research has investigated the influence of teachers' participation in NWP activities on classroom practice, teachers are generally enthusiastic about their experiences and value the sense of community and professionalism engendered by the writing project activities.
No equivalent large-scale professional development model exists for the teaching of literature or language. The closest equivalents are teachers' book clubs, in which teachers read literature, including memoirs, fiction, and other genres, as way of learning both about their students or about literature and how to teach it. However, these are primarily local innovations. Other models that exist are summer institutes for teachers, run by organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Bread Loaf School of English, in which teachers have the opportunity to learn more about the subject matter.
The most common form of professional development for English teachers, however, continues to be the district in-service day. By their very structure, in-service days are generally dedicated to technical issues important to the district, such as learning new assessment schemes, writing objectives for student learning, or implementing a new curriculum or textbook series. Because district in-service programs are designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of teachers, they are generally unlikely to address subject-specific concerns.
If English teachers are to benefit from the growing body of knowledge about effective professional development, those responsible for teacher learning will need to invest more strategically in school-based structures that support ongoing teacher learning, collegial interaction, and experimentation. Critiques of the NWP have suggested that without strong support at the school site and without opportunities to get ongoing help in developing new practices, teachers find it difficult to implement the ideas they encountered in summer workshops. Another body of work suggests that departments may be the locus for professional community and provide the impetus and opportunity for continued learning.
English continues to be a contested field of study. Although recent debates have focused on what literature should be taught in schools, others have questioned whether literature should even continue to occupy the center of the subject. The range of literacy required of students, from print literacy to visual and technological literacy, has again expanded the scope of the English curriculum. Such expansions to the curriculum inevitably pose challenges for the education of teachers, as both teacher education and professional development must prepare teachers to incorporate new content and skills into their teaching. Given the features of the subject matter that make such redefinitions inevitable, prospective English teachers will need opportunities to grapple with the multiple purposes envisioned for the teaching of English and to explore ways of bringing coherence to students' experiences in English classes.
See also: LANGUAGE ARTS, TEACHING OF; MENTORING; TEACHER EDUCATION.
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BARNES, DOUGLAS; BARNES, DOROTHY; and CLARKE, STEPHEN. 1984. Versions of English. London: Heinemann.
CLIFT, RENEE. 1991. "Learning to Teach English-Maybe: A Study of Knowledge Development." Journal of Teacher Education 42:357–372.
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FLORIO-RUANE, SUSAN. 1994. "The Future Teachers' Autobiography Club: Preparing Educators to Support Literacy Learning in Culturally Diverse Classrooms." English Education 26:52–66.
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PAMELA L. GROSSMAN
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