Date of Award

Winter 1999

Project Type


Program or Major

Reading and Writing Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Thomas R Newkirk


Over the last third of the twentieth century, best practice in America's public schools has evolved from a focus on the teacher's behavior in presenting material to a focus on whether and how students learn. Over that same period, writing composition pedagogy has focused on the emphasis on students' growth and development as they think reflectively, write drafts, and self-monitor. Integrating writing composition pedagogy in the education of preservice teachers, I use Exploring Teaching, a learner-centered introductory course in teacher education that I teach, as the specific context of my inquiry. As my students write Dear Classmates Letters, portfolio reflections, and self-evaluations, I seek to learn what teacher educators can do to effectively mentor students exploring teaching, challenge their assumptions about teaching, construct introductory courses in education, and create new courses in the program of study in teacher education to meet the individual needs of students as they explore teaching.

By examining the motivations of preservice teachers as they explore the teaching life, teacher educators can learn how to tailor their mentoring to the needs of individual students. By discerning whether the Exploring Teaching course changes preservice teachers' orientation to teaching, teacher educators can construct such introductory education classes to effectively mentor those in transformation; to appropriately challenge those preservice teachers who enter with preconceived assumptions about the teaching life so that their decisions to teach are well informed and realistic. By learning what preservice teachers understand about the roles of teachers, teacher educators can mentor individual students to respond to their existing images of teaching and clear up misconceptions; to construct classes that engage students in dialogue and discussion that challenge, critique, and/or further explore individual assumptions about teaching; to help students understand more clearly what teachers do; and, if warranted, address the construction of additional courses in the teacher education program of study to meet the individual needs of students.