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Secondary English Teacher Education in the United States

reviewed by Rebecca Flores & Ashley Cartun

coverTitle: Secondary English Teacher Education in the United States
Author(s): Donna L. Pasternak, Samantha Caughlan, Heidi L. Hallman, Laura Renzi, & Leslie S. Rush
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic, London
ISBN: 1350032018, Pages: 232, Year: 2017
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The educational landscape is changing rapidly within higher education institutions, and teacher education programs are attempting to keep up with the technological, cultural, linguistic, and political shifts of today’s K-12 classrooms. Secondary English Teacher Education in the United States seeks to understand how these factors affect teacher education by researching how current teacher education programs across the United States are addressing these challenges and preparing future secondary English teachers.

The authors organize their book into two major sections. In the first half, they focus on English teacher education in the United States, then transition into the challenges and changes in English teacher education. The authors begin by guiding the reader through the evolution of English teacher pedagogy and English as a school subject in the United States from the late 1800s until the present day, highlighting key shifts in the field such as the emergence of English teacher education as a university course of study in the 1960s and the standards and accountability movement in the 1990s. The authors then go on to describe the present state of secondary English teacher education, drawing on Smagorinsky and Whiting’s (1995) national study of English teachers’ preparation to contextualize their own study and highlight the need to better understand English teachers’ preparation in today's educational landscape.

The authors then discuss their study by providing a brief overview of their methods, data collection, and conclusions. Through questionnaires, syllabi analysis, and focus group interviews, the authors were able to capture a more generative review of teacher education programs than in Smagorinsky and Whiting’s (1995) study. By triangulating all three data sets and examining the rich data that emerged from the focus groups, the researchers were able to gain a much deeper understanding of the design, objectives, and content of the programs. The dialogic aspect of the focus groups were particularly supportive to these understandings; not only did teacher educators’ voices provide a candid and rich portrayal of the strengths and pitfalls of individual programs, they highlighted the importance of communication among teacher educators from different programs.

The authors use their findings from this study to provide readers with a contextual overview and description of English teacher education programs in the United States. Most importantly, they illustrate the variances and tensions that exist in English teacher education programs, such as programmatic and structural components of English methods courses and the inclusion and duration of field-based experiences.

The authors devote their subsequent chapters to understanding how teacher education programs experience and tackle these tensions. In Chapter Three, for example, the authors focus their attention exclusively on field placements and how these placements are designed and situated within English methods courses. By drawing on data from focus group interviews and English methods course syllabi, they shed light on a number of issues that exist regarding the connection of English methods courses and field-based experiences. For instance, they highlight the disconnect between English methods courses and field-based experiences as “a dichotomy of awareness of issues related to effective teaching practices versus application of concepts into a teacher candidate’s instruction” (p. 45). In their findings from questionnaires, the authors gleaned that teacher educators perceived that students’ awareness of issues stemmed from coursework, whereas their ability to apply concepts stemmed from field placements. However, student responses indicated that teacher candidates did not always have opportunities to apply their knowledge in the field, illustrating a disconnect or an assumption that the application of knowledge was occurring when in fact there was no evidence to support this.

One of the major strengths of this book is the way in which it draws on descriptive case studies of English methods courses and connects them to particular foci in teacher education: standards and assessments, the integration of reading and writing in methods courses, teaching culturally and linguistically diverse learners, and integrating technology into the classroom. These exemplar case studies illuminate the various ways in which current teacher education programs are attempting to infuse these important focus areas into English methods courses. For example, in Chapter Six, “Teaching Diverse Learners: Methods to Address Cultural and Linguistic Diversity,” the authors highlight Belleview College in New York City, describing how it prepares educators to be culturally and linguistically responsive through various measures such as connecting the English methods course to a 50-hour practicum in diverse city schools, having candidates design their lesson and unit plans specifically for urban and diverse youth, and setting clear goals in the methods course to “build a repertoire of strategies for working with culturally and linguistically diverse students” (p. 110). In this case study, the authors also highlight how English teacher educators at Belleview partner with the TESOL department to further their efforts to prepare culturally and linguistically responsive teachers. It is important to note, however, that these exemplars were not without tensions, and the authors’ analyses and critiques of each case study further illustrate the complexities within English teacher education while also providing practical considerations and recommendations for teacher education programs.

The authors conclude by discussing the multitude of ways in which English teacher education programs prepare future English teachers, and how variances across programs reflect the tensions that the study examined. We hear once more from current teacher educators as the authors draw upon their voices to reiterate the challenges they face in the field. The authors then close with recommendations for teacher education programs. These recommendations include a deeper and more thoughtful integration of the aforementioned focal areas into English methods courses and for teacher education programs to examine and strengthen their core philosophies. The authors advise teacher education programs to be introspective, and to examine their needs, contexts, and commitments in order to create programmatic alignments that embody their strengthened philosophies.

The authors’ detailed and comprehensive overview of the challenges faced by teacher education programs will give current English teacher educators much to reflect upon. Tensions in the field such as integrating standards and technology and teaching linguistically diverse students are pertinent issues that teacher educators and program directors must deeply examine and discuss collaboratively. This study captures this dialogic spirit and gives insights into how teacher education programs across the nation are tackling these issues. This book provides teacher educators and those working at the programmatic level with insights and recommendations for how to integrate these focal areas into English methods courses and align these courses with meaningful field experiences that more thoroughly prepare English teacher candidates.


Smagorinsky, P. & Whiting, M. (1995). How English teachers get taught: Methods of teaching the methods class. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, 2018, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22559, Date Accessed: 11/20/2018 11:51:15 PM

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