Student teachers’ teaching of reading and their commitment to the public good
This study investigated the intersection between student teachers’ perspectives of the teaching of reading and their public good commitment. It explored the activities and practices which they saw as supporting their teaching of reading and it investigated the student teachers’ professional capabilities for public good, which underpin their teaching of reading. The teacher education facets which shaped the formation of their professional capabilities were investigated. Furthermore, their societal experiences which shaped the formation of their public good commitment and values were explored. This study investigated novice professionals who were about to enter the teaching profession. The teacher, as public-good professional in South African society, who continues to struggle with the legacies of apartheid, was a key concept in this study. Student teachers were selected for this study because these legacies place teacher education at the centre stage of transformation in South Africa, particularly the ways in which student teachers navigate the complexities of inequality in their roles as reading teachers. The starting point of this study was the view that learning to read is a political issue. Learning to teach reading is a political issue which should be underpinned by public good commitment and values. A central argument of this thesis is that teacher education is well poised to form student teachers’ professional capabilities for public good which could underpin their teaching of reading towards shaping a better South African society when they enter the teaching force after their undergraduate studies. This was a small-scale study which used a mixed methods approach. Data was collected at the beginning and the end of the student teachers’ teacher education program. Qualitative data was generated from focus group interviews and from a participatory dialogue. Quantitative data was generated from a questionnaire. Ten student teachers participated in the focus group interviews and 35 student teachers participated in the participatory dialogue and questionnaire. Amartya Sen’s (1999) and Martha Nussbaum’s (2000) Human Development Capabilities approach structured this research theoretically. Walker and McLean’s (2010) Professional Capabilities Index provided the framework for discussing and reasoning about capabilities. This study revealed that the student teachers’ perspectives of their reading teaching included 13 reading teaching activities and 20 reading teaching practices which were underpinned by eight professional capabilities for public good. Three main teacher education facets were found to be influential in the formation of the student teachers’ professional capabilities for public good: Teaching Practice sessions in diverse schools, Teacher Education coursework and Other Experiences in the teacher education program. This study found that the student teachers’ lived experiences prior to their teacher education influenced their public good commitment and values. These included disconcerting experiences as learners, grim experiences in the community, activist experiences with community engagement, non-teaching career experiences and a personal desire to enable human development.