What I'm doing is really working in the language arts with the kids, teacher knowledge, teacher change, and the construction of teaching practice for reading and writing

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Atkinson, Laura Elizabeth
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The educational change that makes the most difference to student outcomes is the instructional change that occurs in the practice of the classroom teacher. New ideas in education influence innovative practice and new curricular methods before they are implemented in classrooms. This study examined how such curricular changes have made their way into the teaching of reading and writing in upper elementary classrooms--grades three to six--by a retrospective examination of the teaching histories, the thinking, and reflections on change, of twelve long-service teachers (and one first-year teacher) and their current responses to demands for change. Two eras of instructional change in the language arts in Manitoba were of interest: the move to whole language instruction in reading from the late 1970's to the late 1980's; and the move to process writing methods from the late 1980's to the mid 1990's. Teacher interviews were audiotaped and the transcripts of interviews analyzed for several themes: the nature of teacher knowledge and its acquisition; the influence of personal reading and writing experiences on teachers' practice; underlying theories of literacy acquisition; beliefs about literacy learning and instruction; and the testing and adoption of new instructional ideas. Analysis of the interview data yielded the following conclusions: (1) The teachers' valued practical methods o er theory in relation to their practice in teaching reading and writing. (2) The teachers valued practical knowledge that they had gained through classroom teaching experience. (3) These teachers' own, widely varying experiences as readers and writers were the greatest influences in shaping their teaching practices in reading and writing. (4) The teachers' beliefs about reading and writing acquisition were approaching current ideas in the field. They have adopted some but not all of the essential practices in whole language and process writing instruction. (5) The teachers did not describe recent changes in theories of language and literacy and relate them to reading and writing instruction. They described changes that they have implemented in methods of instruction. (6) They have made changes where they have been able to make practical trials of new methods that they thought likely to succeed. (7) Their preferred source of ideas for change was their own experience and some practical trials in collaboration with colleagues and students. Implications for teacher education and professional development are also explored.