Top-Level Structuring and Teacher Education: A Case Study of Four Early Childhood Student Teachers
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A central tenet of this study is the notion that a reader's metacognition affects understanding. Identifying the organisational structure of text is a valuable tool for comprehending and recalling the writer's message. In this study, participants learned to identify text structure and to direct use of that knowledge toward facilitating their academic work. The research is about students acquiring a new strategy and adjusting it to meet the academic requirements of authentic tasks in their real life context. Theoretical bases for this research included metacognition, strategy acquisition, and top-level structure strategy. A review of the literature was conducted into teacher education, lifelong literacy, and top-level structure strategy. It uncovered limited data on strategic behaviour involving the target strategy in authentic contexts. Using case study method I examined if and how student teachers developed learning behaviour using top-level structure strategy (TLS) as the target strategy. This provided a theorization of the process by which each participant became a strategist. The theory describes and predicts that some learners adopt a strategy and find it useful, some adopt a strategy and then adapt it to suit perceived needs and complement existing strategies, and others try the target strategy, decide it is not effective, and reject it. The theory, while attractive, needs to be tested beyond limitations of the method used here, and warrants replication studies, particularly broader research using quantitative methods. A qualitative, case study design was used to examine and describe the effects of strategic instructional intervention. The study was conducted in the school of early childhood teacher education in which the researcher works as lecturer and Year 1 Dean. Ethical consideration was given to the recruitment process to ensure participants' well-being and volunteers were sought from among Year 2 students. Four women participated in the study, three enrolled full-time, and one enrolled part-time. Data were gathered from pre- and post-intervention tasks and questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and written journals. They were analysed using thematic methods of analysis. A final member-check with participants was conducted eight months after the end of intervention and data collection. Study findings provided insights into students' academic experiences. Prior to an instructional intervention, participants used a range of study strategies in academic work with limited metacognitive awareness. Instruction about top-level strategy benefited them in direct ways by providing a top-level structuring technique for completing academic tasks, and in indirect ways by providing a metalanguage for thinking about strategic behaviour, evaluating it, and customizing their technique. Comparison of task performance and questionnaire responses demonstrated qualitative changes in participants' approaches to reading text after instruction. Findings provided the basis for theorizing about participants' metacognitive development across the intervention. Interviews and focus groups provided additional information regarding participants' cognitive self-awareness, active engagement in learning, and application and adaptation of target strategy. Journal entries exemplified participants' authentic applications of the strategy and provided descriptions of their strategic behaviour. The instructional intervention affected participants' perceptions of the academic experience. They became more overtly reflective about how they read and wrote, particularly in relation to assessment items, and more expressive about the nature of their own learning. Study findings based on four participants in one particular context are sufficiently robust as case study research to warrant a broader quantitative study to test their generalization. Such an extension would provide guidance for teacher educators with decisions of policy and practice that might influence explicit attention to how student teachers in early childhood education learn about learning as part of their preparation for the profession.
Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Doctor of Education (EdD)
School of Cognition, Language and Special Education
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top-level structure strategy