Reading to Learn: Pre-service Secondary School Teachers' Understandings of Subject Area Literacy
This study explored the subject area literacy knowledge and beliefs of five pre-service secondary school teachers in a Bachelor of Education program at a university in Eastern Ontario. It explored the factors that informed the development of participants’ thinking about subject area literacy, including their conceptualizations of how to integrate literacy into their subject area classrooms, and their reactions to a text-based activity that used both a researcher-selected and a participant-selected text selection. Participants represented three teachable subject areas, including history, mathematics, and English. Subject area literacy is an important concept in adolescent literacy, as secondary school classes require advanced skills for successful completion. Each subject area has its own inherent structures and knowledge bases that one must understand to be successful in that area. These contribute to how successfully one interacts with subject area texts, but do not necessarily transfer between subject areas. Research posits that subject area teachers must explicitly instruct students in “reading to learn,” which was how this study conceptualized literacy. Participants completed semi-structured interviews that included a text-based activity. Participants were asked to engage with two subject area texts to explore how they believed students would interact with the text, and the support they anticipated students might need to “read to learn” from the text. These interviews resulted in data about pre-service secondary school teachers’ understandings about subject area literacy; how they would integrate literacy into their teaching; the factors that contributed to their thinking about subject-specific literacy; and their understandings about the use of text within their classrooms. These findings could have implications for teacher-education program instructors.