Supporting pre-service teacher writing during teacher training : perceptions of seven interviewees compared with themes in current research
Mohr, Virginia Louise
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While studies have explored the writing identity formation and compositional self-efficacy of pre-service teachers, little research has been published on writing skill and task competencies important for emphasis during teacher training. In order to help fill this gap in current research, seven pre-service teachers contributed interview data by answering eleven open-ended questions about which compositional skill and task proficiencies they considered most crucial during their preparation for an in-service career. This data was then compared to other current studies exploring writing skill and task competencies for pre-service and in-service teachers. Because this information was so scarce, data was also included from college-prep, college-remedial, and general college-level writing research as well as from study results from four university career preparation programs: psychology, business, history, and fundamental and applied sciences. Convergent and divergent themes were generated and analyzed. During the course of the interviews, pre-service teachers identified writing skill proficiencies that comprised mechanical, organizational, social, and cognitive aspects. Task competencies included professional, communicative, instructional, and personal compositional types. Compared to research literature, pre-service teachers exhibited a heightened concern with mechanical skills while underemphasizing cognitive writing proficiencies. This was also reflected in their task emphases; concern for correct mechanics when writing for colleagues, sending letters to parents, and modeling for students were frequently mentioned themes. Personal task proficiencies were also more highly regarded in some research literature than by the seven interviewees. Additionally, pre-service teachers agreed strongly with current studies suggesting that a single freshman writing course was insufficient writing preparation for career-oriented training in composition. Conclusions reached by this study emphasized meeting currently expressed pre-service teacher needs for mechanical instruction while also nurturing awareness of cognitive writing competencies. Support for social and organizational proficiencies should also continue throughout teacher training. It was suggested that desired skill proficiencies could best be developed by practicing authentic, career-specific writing tasks accompanied by instruction and positive, yet clear, feedback. Both skill and task competency development should be supported consistently over the entire course of the teacher training program, according to the interviewees and current research data.