Exploring the beliefs and practices of first year teachers of literacy in New Zealand primary schools
Carss, W. D. (2019). Exploring the beliefs and practices of first year teachers of literacy in New Zealand primary schools (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12421
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12421
The teaching of literacy presents ongoing and complex challenges for first-year teachers at the primary level as they strive to address the diverse social and cultural backgrounds of their students, the requirements of educational policy and the demands of national assessment regimes. This journey is further complicated by the need to develop pedagogy that promotes discerning use of complex multimodal texts, both print and digital, in order to prepare students for the multiliterate demands of current and future societies. This doctoral thesis provides an in-depth exploration of the journeys of nine beginning teachers as they develop and establish their teaching of literacy practices during their first year of teaching in New Zealand primary classrooms. The participants had all completed the same three-year Bachelor of Teaching degree and secured positions in a diverse range of New Zealand schools. They were fully responsible for the literacy learning of their students in relation to planning, teaching and assessment, while working towards full registration. The study sought to explore how the beliefs and practices of these beginning teachers of literacy changed over the year, and how these were influenced by their initial teacher education programme and the support they received from within the school community. Using interpretive case-study methodology, qualitative data were collected throughout the year, using a combination of semi-structured interviews, digital surveys and observations of guided reading. Video footage from the observations provided the foundation for subsequent participant theorising of their teaching. Participants discussed their beliefs and evolving literacy practices in relation to a range of factors including their pre-service preparation, the mentoring support provided within their schools, the demands of national standards assessment, the socio-cultural backgrounds of their students and the integration of digital technologies. Based on an analysis of the data, involving a co-construction of meaning between the words of the participants and researcher interpretation, I was able to gain an in-depth understanding of the beliefs and practices of each participant as these developed within his/her individual school context. My interpretation of these data was informed by my own background as an initial teacher education and former classroom teacher. Findings suggest that an effective theory-practice balance within initial teacher education programmes, and alignment between literacy education papers and classroom practice, eases the transition into the classroom and enables the successful establishment of initial literacy programmes. As the year progressed, participants’ teaching became more attuned to student needs and more explicit in nature. Professional conversations with more experienced others were found to be essential to facilitate a reflective stance and further developments in teaching. Findings also revealed that while participants were aware of the broad nature of literacy, their reflections on teaching focused predominantly on the teaching of reading and writing. There were strong indications that this was in part conditioned by the national assessment policy mandated at the time of the study. This study has implications for schools in relation to their selection of mentors for beginning teachers and their organisation of ongoing professional learning. The study recommends that both pre-service educators and schools place greater emphasis on literacy across the curriculum, and provide more support for working with the increasingly diverse range of text forms and using of critical literacy approaches.
The University of Waikato
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