Fostering pre-service teachers' inquiry as they learn about and tutor struggling readers

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Mast, Margie A.

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This study explores the nature of six pre-service teachers’ inquiry (sense-making and wondering) as they worked with an elementary school age struggling reader in the context of a twice a week tutoring clinic for nine weeks, a component of a reading methods course for which I was the instructor. Data sources included three participant interviews, weekly dialog journal entries, and weekly lesson plans/reflections. Identification and analysis of instances of preservice teachers’ thinking, wondering, and sense-making inquiries fell into four categories: 1) Inquiring about Assessment, 2) Inquiring about Students, 3) Inquiring about Relationships, and 4) Inquiring about Teaching. Cross case analysis of participants’ inquiries revealed that 1) an inquiring stance assisted preservice teachers in their professional identity development, 2) interviews between the professor and the participant generated the greatest number of instances of inquiry and scaffolded participants’ inquiry in a way that the other sources did not suggesting the need for one-on-one, professor/student interactions in methods courses, 3) the data sources invited different expressions of inquiry illustrating how the participants’ perception of the use of the data source helped determine their expression of inquiry. Case studies of four of the participants revealed the uniqueness of each participant’s inquiry style, as well as the range of topics their inquiries explored. This study found that the context and the format in which we invite pre-service teachers to inquiry is key to the development of inquiry as an orientation and recommends that scaffolded one-on-one interactions between professors and students is significant to the process.