By Amy K. Conley

What do K-12 administrators, literacy instructors, and literacy researchers think should be included in literacy coursework?

I have taught the CSU Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC) for more than a decade, but I didn’t expect my experience as an ERWC teacher and facilitator to be so relevant in my recent EdD dissertation. I surveyed 233 California K-12 administrators, literacy instructors of preservice teachers, and literacy researchers to ask what should be included in literacy coursework to eventually replace the Reading Instruction Competency Assessment required for new elementary and special education teachers.

After the survey, I used focus groups to really delve into what participants thought should be included in literacy coursework for preservice teachers.

I was surprised when the three big takeaways about the needs in preservice literacy instruction also resonated with what teachers have told me in ERWC certification workshops. Preservice teachers need less standardized testing and more instruction in these areas:

  1. Culturally sustaining pedagogy for both methods and materials
  2. Supporting foundational literacy, especially for older readers, based upon a focus on phonemic awareness, phonics, morphology, and writing
  3. All teachers need more support in teaching writing. Being able to write is not the same as being able to teach writing.

In the ERWC community, we discuss the recursive nature of reading and writing, but that research-based idea holds true for every level of reader and writer. To grow reading, students need to use the language to write, whether we call those related ideas orthographic mapping, reflective writing, or revising rhetorically. To grow writing, students need to decode independently, get a chance to acquire academic language, and learn to read rhetorically.

There is also a growing realization in all levels of education that everything we do must be culturally sustaining. It must be the sea in which our students swim, not an add-on. ERWC has long tried to create modules with engaging topics, with support for emergent bilinguals, but is now actively considering how best to incorporate home languages, empowering topics, translanguaging, and diverse authors into its profusion of modules for teachers to choose from to meet student needs.

ERWC has long been a professional development model to support high school teachers and students. It’s interesting to see how it could translate to work with preservice high school and middle school teachers.

You can read in more detail what stakeholders think should be included in literacy preservice coursework in the executive summary. Please see the updated “Theoretical Foundations for Reading and Writing Rhetorically” for more information on ERWC’s efforts to create more inclusive and representative learning experiences.

Amy K. Conley is a lecturer and supervisor at Cal Poly Humboldt in literacy in the education department. She served as a high school English teacher for 20 years, where she worked to promote educational programs that foster excellence in service-learning, literacy, and equity. Her dissertation for her doctorate in educational leadership from CSU, Fresno examined what stakeholders believe should be included in a coursework replacement to the Reading Instructional Competency Assessment.

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