Preservice Teachers and Cognitive Literacy Skills

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  • This article was downloaded by: [The Aga Khan University]On: 09 December 2014, At: 01:12Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Journal of Research onTechnology in EducationPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ujrt20

    Preservice Teachers andCognitive Literacy SkillsJoyce Pittmanaa University of CincinnatiPublished online: 24 Feb 2014.

    To cite this article: Joyce Pittman (2002) Preservice Teachers and CognitiveLiteracy Skills, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34:4, 375-388, DOI:10.1080/15391523.2002.10782357

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2002.10782357

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Preservice Teachers and Cognitive Literacy Skills: Implications for

    Technology Pedagogy

    Joyce Pittman University of Cincinnati

    Abstract Technology in education is raising unprecedented levels of new concerns for educators. Per-haps one of the greatest challenges is building college students' advanced literacy and techni-cal skills, especially those ofpreservice teachers. In dealing with technology issues, educators and policy makers are foced with problematic decisions about how to attract, sustain, and prepare students for careers and living in an increasingly technological society (Prager, 1993 ). Educators need direction for retooling to restructure instructional approaches to help enter-ing students develop knowledge and skills they need to succeed in this ever-changing envi-ronment (Lieberman & Linn, 1991). Though educators embrace the emphasis on high-quality education, they may have justifiable concerns about teaching new and more challenging subject matter to students who need to develop advanced literacy skills to im-prove achievement (Palumbo & Reed, 1991). (Keywords: advanced literacy, teacher prepa-ration, technology and pedagogy.)

    Today's students are faced with a great challenge as the first generation ex-pected to have knowledge and skills to meet industry's demand for more high skilled and qualified workers (U.S. Department of Labor Secretary's Commis-sion on Achieving Necessary Skills [SCANS], 1991). Mathematics Equals Op-portunity (Riley, 1997) provided information about problems college students face when they do not take rigorous science and mathematics courses. Given the emphasis on advanced literacy skills in these courses and in technology pedagogy environments (teaching with technology), students, especially preser-vice teachers, may have serious gaps in advanced literacy and critical processing skills (Riley). These students risk having doors to colleges and new career op-portunities closed because they lack required advanced literacy and technical skills now in demand by our technological society. Advanced literacy skills are those that require students to demonstrate a high capacity to think, reason, solve complex problems, and communicate their ideas to others while continu-ing to learn basic skills. Ongoing support is especially important in environ-ments where pedagogy and technology are being interconnected. National stud-ies report that minority students continue to be less likely to have challenging academic courses in their secondary education experience and are most likely to need additional support to develop these skills (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 1996a).

    DEFINING COGNITIVE LITERACY

    Research on guidelines for preparing students to function in a 21st century workforce indicates that literacy is being redefined by technology integration in

    Journal of Research on Technology in Education 375

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  • education, and this presents new instructional challenges to teacher educators (National Council of Teachers of English, 1998-2001; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989). Because I believe the proposed new definition of literacy is rooted in cognitive science, I will use the term cognitive literacy. Cognitive literacy defines the process of demonstrating a high capacity to think, reason, solve complex problems, and communicate ideas while continuing to learn new basic skills.

    THE PROBLEM

    The International Society for Technology in Education's (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) project is leading the nation in making teachers and teacher educators more aware of the need to further de-velop their basic computer and technical skills (ISTE, 2000). During the past few years, reports from a number of experts on the skills and competencies of students entering college support findings that some college students lack the advanced literacy skills necessary to master more challenging subject matter (Levy & Murnane, 1996). Research shows that the highest concentration of students lacking rigorous academic skills may be education majors or those planning to enter the teaching profession (NCES, 199Gb, 1997). Too often, it appears that the problem may be more deeply rooted in the definition of what it means to be literate than in our students' ability to perform and learn chal-lenging subject matter.

    As new technologies continue to transform education, research suggests that our understanding of literacy is being reconstructed by cognitive learning theory. Sticht and Armstrong ( 1994) discuss concise and comprehensive re-search about literacy and assessment, which led me to reason that cognitive lit-eracy may be premised in cognitive science. These findings are reflected in my discussion about methods to instruct, assess, prepare, and improve students' cognitive literacy skills through new instructional strategies and ways of think-ing from a more prc..gmatic view. My primary assumptions are:

    Learning takes the form of both knowledge- and skill-based domains in tech-nology pedagogy.

    Human cognitive systems emphasize the role of knowledge in literacy along with the information processes involved in oral and written language use and reasoning with graphic tools of thought (flow charts, tables, etc.).

    Information processing views of learning emphasize the active, constructive nature of cognitive development (including literacy) in social contexts.

    The connections between these three concepts may provide new information for policy makers and educators to develop guidelines about the extent of stu-dents' needs and how to best meet these needs with programs and new instruc-tional approaches (Herman, Aschbacher, & Winters, 1992).

    376 Summer 2002: Volume 34 Number 4

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  • BACKGROUND

    The first years in college for new students can be the most critical of their educational experience. They will no doubt be a :?rimary determinant in whether a student remains or joins the open-door generation (those who leave without their desired credentials) (U.S. Department of Education [ED], 1999). When we consider the shortages projected for tea.chers in the next century, the potential lack of early success is a major concern. It becomes more of a concern when we reflect on the number of potential teacters lost during the beginning years, the time when students are considering the teaching profession or some other direction.

    The best way to prevent untimely departures from the halls of higher educa-tion is through early intervention strategies for high-risk students and new in-structional approaches. We must continue to explore learning and teaching con-ditions that may contribute to declining enrollments in preservice teacher education and graduate programs for inservice teachers. The intent is not to im-ply that teacher education is the only program aftected by students' inadequate literacy skills or that higher education faculty me=nbers are solely responsible for the resolution. However, historically, teacher education programs enroll more students who are less likely to enroll in programs that require more rigorous skill and preparation in the science and mathematics (ED, 1999).

    In addition, beginners who have poor basic skills often enter postsecondary education with misleading ideas of knowledge and the groundwork to acquire it (California Postsecondary Education Commission, 1997). Therefore, it is nec-essary to reflect on how these students have gained their traditional knowledge and how we can develop ways to harmonize the new cognitive literacy skills within existing higher education programs to improve student achievement and perceptions of learning, especially beginning students. In Student Perceptions of Information Systems Careers: Misconceptions and Declining Enrollments, Cale, Mawhinney, and Callaghan (1991) found that student enrollments in disci-plines related to information systems began to de~line i::1 1990. Students held misconceptions about work styles and conditions associated with preparation for such careers.

    Many beginning students have constructed their knowledge in environments favoring direct, teacher-led instruction that placed a high emphasis on right and wrong answers and mastery of skills (e.g., the three basic skills of reading, writ-ing, and arithmetic). Though these will likely remain the foundation skills for building more advanced cognitive literacy skills, the level of specificity and defi-nition of competency may be substantially altered by new technology environ-ments in both education and society. Thus, if we are preparing students and fu-ture teachers for new and more challenging subject matter using the new technologies, we must build and model these new instructional and learning ap-proaches in our programs (Herman et al., 1992).

    journal of Research on Technology in Education 377

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  • Many students can succeed if we work to identifY and infuse cognitive literacy instruction into not only general education but also specialized curricula. The next section reviews instructional approaches that are conceptualized to sur-mount the challenges inherent in educational institutions with highly diverse student populations.

    PURPOSE There is a need to examine the definition of cognitive literacy through tech-

    nology pedagogy perspectives and the most effective approach(es) for infusing new instructional strategies into general and specialized academia. These skills are being called the "new basics" (Wetzel, 1999). More important is how we de-termine which comes first: the knowledge building or the technology skills in connecting technology pedagogy. Are the two increasingly dependent on each other in new learning environments? The review discusses five issues centered on educators helping college students develop cognitive literacy:

    1. Cognitive Literacy in Education 2. Revisiting Literacy through Cognitive Literacy Perspectives 3. Implications for Restructuring Pedagogy by Focusing on Cognitive Literacy 4. Software for Building Cognitive Literacy Skills 5. Potential Impact on the Teaching Profession

    Connecting Technology Pedagogy and Epistemology The research evidence indicates that computers have a dynamic effect on

    what educators in higher education must come to understand about literacy and the relationship to academic and general education cultures. Through new information and understanding, educators must construct their own knowledge and understanding about how to help students improve cognitive literacy skills through instructional practice (pedagogy). For example, we should not think of technology as a replacement or substitute for students' development of basic skills requiring the use of paper-and-pencil activity. In fact, for solving more complex problems, it may be highly appropriate for students to gain firsthand experience with the information to understand the computer capabilities and the output before they can develop new knowledge and understanding (e.g., re-search, writing, and mathematics applications). By helping beginning college students through systemic and programmatic change, we can provide an envi-ronment to support new ways of knowing (epistemology) in a technological education environment. In doing so, we may extend general education, minor-ity, and low-income students' stays and completion of both general and aca-demic programs (Prager, 1993).

    In other words, we may need to rethink the pedagogy and epistemology of higher education curriculum and instruction. Olson and Astington (1993) sug-gest a need for more dialogue. Dialogue must be supported by policy makers in ways that encourage and support educators in talking more about what they think, know, expect, remember, wonder about, have decided, guessed, assumed, implied, and concluded to encourage students to expand their perceptions about learning.

    378 Summer 2002: Volume 34 Number 4

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  • Technology, Language, and Thought A nurrber of studies argue that we begin by exploring theories of mind that

    look at t~1.e relationship between thought and language (Groppo, Antonietti, Liverta-Sempio, & Marchetti, 1999). Traditionally, language is viewed as are-flection of personal experience and a symbolic expression of self and the world. In other words, through social context, students have learned how...

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