Originally developed in July 2005, this statement, formerly known as What Do We Know and Believe about the Roles of Methods Courses and Field Experiences in English Education?, was updated in April 2020 by members of the ELATE Commission on Methods Teaching and Learning.
Methods courses within English language arts teacher education programs focus on the representation and teaching of English language arts content. Because of their focus on pedagogy, Methods courses often include a concurrent field experience. This Beliefs Statement presents key recommendations that guide the theoretical and practical purposes of Methods courses and their related field experiences in preparing teacher candidates to teach ELA at the secondary (US grades 9–12) and middle (US grades 6–8) school levels. While there is no “best” way to teach a Methods course, it is important to understand how context, content, disposition of the instructor, the course’s situation within a program, the demands of local schools, state requirements, student characteristics, and other factors affect instructors and students (Pasternak, Caughlan, Hallman, Renzi, & Rush, 2018; Smagorinsky & Whiting, 1995).
This Beliefs Statement focuses narrowly on the Methods of Teaching English course(s) and concomitant field experiences. Importantly, English Methods courses exist within, and must react to, a dynamic English teacher education ecosystem with influences from without (e.g., changing national and state accreditation standards) and within (e.g., candidates’ other courses in a specific teacher education program). Programs must help candidates make explicit connections between courses in English Methods, English content area, and the education major, as well as develop concepts of teaching and learning, content knowledge, content pedagogy, knowledge about learners and learning, and professional knowledge and skills. All to say, Methods courses cannot (and should not) do it all; however, they necessarily adapt to the programs in which they are delivered.
This Beliefs Statement articulates core recommendations for Methods courses and concomitant field experiences. These core recommendations represent what we know and believe based on research in the fields of English education and teacher education. Pasternak et al.’s (2018) study of English teacher education programs across the United States breaks new ground in our knowledge of Methods courses. They found that five “focal areas” (156) shape English teacher education programs today. These areas include (1) field experiences; (2) preparation for racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity; (3) new technologies; (4) content area literacy; and (5) K–12 content standards and assessments. These new areas of emphasis function as focal points within programs, thereby urging programs to innovate around them. With this research in mind, the goal of the Beliefs Statement is to be usefully general; that is, the core recommendations articulate principles and practices for designing excellent Methods courses (e.g., field experiences should be scaffolded based on candidate development) without insisting on a specific manner of delivery (e.g., a “rounds” model v. extended time in one classroom).
Dimension 1: Methods Coursework
English language arts Methods coursework plays an integral role in shaping both the landscape of our field and the professional lives of prospective English teachers. Coursework must support teacher candidates in developing deep understandings about not only what to teach in English language arts curricula, but also how to approach our work as English language arts teachers in our classrooms and as part of an engaged professional community. Further, English language arts Methods coursework must empower candidates to be teachers who work for social transformation because “preparing English teachers is part of the larger effort to imagine and create a more just and democratic society” (Alsup, Emig, Pradl, Tremmel, & Yagelski, 2006, p. 285). Current and foundational research in the field supports the following recommendations for teaching English language arts Methods courses.
- Methods coursework should examine the broad, evolving landscape of the field of English education. Coursework should provide candidates with opportunities to understand the historical, social, political, global, and economic influences that shape our work as English teachers.
- Methods coursework should explore the nature of teaching and learning. Instructors can do this, in part, by supporting teacher candidates to understand that teaching and learning are social practices that impact and are impacted by the communities in which they are situated.
- Methods coursework should emphasize the diversity of literacies, texts, and learners that constitute our field and our work as English language arts teachers. To do this, coursework must support teacher candidates in attending to the cultural backgrounds of students and choosing texts and learning opportunities that nurture students’ unique literacies.
- Methods coursework should prepare candidates to become engaged and effective teachers who can plan, implement, assess, and articulate rationales for pedagogical choices.
- Methods coursework should foster candidates’ professional identity development. Coursework should be designed to support teacher candidates in becoming critical, agentic, active, ethical, reflective, and socially just educators.
Dimension 2: Field Experiences
We define field experiences as any work required of English teacher candidates by their preparation programs that takes place outside of the college or university classroom. Common examples of field experiences are structured observation of a master teacher, facilitation of students’ small-group work, or enactment of a full lesson plan. English language arts Methods courses often have field experiences associated with them, but not all field experiences are connected to Methods courses. Field experiences are necessarily idiosyncratic (Zeichner & Conklin, 2008; Pasternak et al., 2018). For example, programs might prioritize a “rounds” model or extended time in one classroom. Ultimately, programs establish partnerships with local schools, communities, and families and design clinically rich field placement opportunities for candidates based on factors such as program structure and philosophy, local school contexts, and placement availability; however, current and foundational research in the field supports the following recommendations for Methods-based field experiences.
- Field experiences should begin as early as early possible in the program and should be designed such that candidates take on increasing responsibility as they gain pedagogical expertise and experience in the field. Traditionally, field experiences begin with active observation and culminate in the full assumption of teaching duties during the student teaching semester(s).
- Field experiences must prepare English teacher candidates for many and diverse contexts and with awareness of the richness and variety of the profession as a whole; therefore, field experiences should connect candidates to the widest available variety of students, teachers, schools, and communities (e.g., middle and high school, more and less visible community diversity). That said, field placements should, ideally, also offer field experience in a context resonant with likely first teaching jobs.
- Field experiences require that cooperating teachers function in many roles: they model effective teaching; they instruct candidates in the planning, delivery, and assessment of English language arts curricula; they evaluate candidates’ developing pedagogical skill and professional dispositions; they mentor candidates into the professional community of English teachers. It is crucial to recruit, professionally develop, and compensate excellent cooperating teachers.
- Field experiences require that field instructors observe, cocreate knowledge with, and assess candidates. Field instructors should create opportunities for structured conversation and reflection that connects candidates’ college or university coursework with their field experiences.
- English teacher education programs should structure opportunities for candidates to reflect on, unpack, and learn from their field experiences. Examples of such opportunities are field experience seminars, guided debriefing sessions with field instructors and/or cooperating teachers, and/or professional learning community meetings.
NCTE Statements Informing This Document
Conference on English Education. (2005). What do we know and believe about the roles of methods courses and field experiences in English education? Retrieved from http://www2.ncte.org/statement/roleofmethodsinee/
National Council of Teachers of English/Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation. (2012). NCTE/NCATE standards for initial preparation of teachers of secondary English language arts, grades 7–12. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/ cee/caep
National Council of Teachers of English/International Reading Association. (1996). Standards for the English language arts. National Council of Teachers of English; International Reading Association.
Research Supporting This Statement
Alsup, J., Emig, J., Pradl, G., Tremmel, R., & Yagelski, R. (2006). The state of English education and a vision for its future: A call to arms. English Education, 38(4), 278–94.
Anagnostopoulos, D., Smith, E., and Basmadjian, K. G. (2007). Bridging the university-school divide: Horizontal expertise and the “two-worlds pitfall.” Journal of Teacher Education, 58(2), 138–52.
Bain, R. B., & Moje, E. B. (2012). Mapping the teacher education terrain for novices. Phi Delta Kappan, 93(5), 62–65.
Beach, R., Appleman, D., Fecho, B., & Simon, R. (2016). Teaching literature to adolescents (3rd ed.). Routledge.
Brass, J., & Webb, A. (Eds.). (2015). Reclaiming English language arts methods courses: Critical issues and challenges for teacher educators in top-down times. Routledge.
Cercone, J. (2015). Communities of practice: Bridging the gap between methods courses and secondary schools. In J. Brass & A. Webb (Eds.), Reclaiming English language arts methods courses: Critical issues and challenges for teacher educators in top-down times (pp. 109–22). Routledge.
Goldhaber, D., Krieg, J. M., & Theobald, R. (2017). Does the match matter? Exploring whether student teaching experiences affect teacher effectiveness. American Educational Research Journal, 54(2), 325–59.
Grossman, P., Ronfeldt, M., & Cohen, J. (2011). The power of setting: The role of field experience in learning to teach. In K. Harris, S. Graham, T. Urdan, A. Bus, S. Major, & H. L. Swanson (Eds.), American Psychological Association (APA) educational psychology handbook, Vol. 3: Applications to teaching and learning (pp. 311–34). American Psychological Association.
Morgan, D. N., & Pytash, K. E. (2014). Preparing preservice teachers to become teachers of writing: A 20-year review of the research literature. English Education, 47(1), 6–37.
Roskelly, H. (2005). Still bridges to build: English education’s pragmatic agenda. English Education, 37(4), 288–95.
Paris, D., & Alim, S. (2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and learning for justice in a changing world. Teachers College Press.
Pasternak, D. L., Caughlan, S., Hallman, H. L., Renzi, L., & Rush, L. S. (2018). Secondary English teacher education in the United States. Bloomsbury Academic.
Ronfeldt, M. (2015). Field placement schools and instructional effectiveness. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(4), 304–20.
Ronfeldt, M., Brockman, S. L., & Campbell, H. L. (2018). Does cooperating teachers’ instructional effectiveness improve preservice teachers’ future performance? Educational Researcher, 47(7), 405–18.
Smagorinsky, P., Rhym, D., & Moore, C. P. (2013). Competing centers of gravity: A beginning English teacher’s socialization process within conflictual settings. English Education, 45(2),147–82.
Smagorinsky, P., & Whiting, M. E. (1995). How English teachers get taught: Methods of teaching the methods class. National Council of Teachers of English.
Zancanella, D., & Alsup, J. (2010). English education program assessment: Creating standards and guidelines to advance English teacher preparation. English Education, 43(1), 65–71.
Zeichner, K., & Conklin, H. (2008). Teacher education programs as sites for teacher preparation. In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Feiman-Nesmer, D. J. McIntyre, & K. E. Demers (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education (3rd ed., pp. 269–89). Routledge.
Jessica Gallo, University of Nevada, Reno
Heidi L. Hallman, University of Kansas
Christopher Parsons, Keene State College
Kristen Pastore-Capuana, Buffalo State College
Sue Ringler Pet, Independent Scholar
Lara Searcy, Northeastern State University
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