Michelle Johnson, Ed ’12, and Laura Weber, Ed ’12, (foreground) join Hartman Center students for a literacy recognition event.
GIVING UNDERGRADUATE TEACHERS A BIG HEAD START IN LITERACY EDUCATION Photos by Ben Scmidt
Though students such as Markesha Harris certainly benefit from their time at the Hartman Center, Marquette’s student teachers share deeply in the program’s benefits as well. According to the program’s director, associate professor Dr. Kathleen Clark, the Hartman Center offers undergraduates an exceptional environment for learning how to teach reading and gives them key opportunities they may not get at other institutions — specifically the opportunity to assume the responsibilities of a teacher in their own Hartman Center classrooms and work extensively with students who experience difficulty learning to read. “The (pre-service) teachers must design and implement reading instruction that meets their specific students’ word recognition, comprehension and fluency needs,” Clark explains. Daily monitoring of student progress is another responsibility. “If children are not making sufficient gains, the teachers must change the instruction. … ” Hartman’s undergraduate teachers receive considerable supervision from university faculty members and course supervisors, who are practicing teachers and reading specialists, but are recognizably “the teachers in their own classrooms,” says Clark. “I think this makes a huge difference in terms of their professional development as teachers, as opposed to being a guest in someone else’s classroom.” In working with elementary school students at the Hartman Center, Marquette undergraduates are taught specific
instructional routines focusing on high-frequency words, decoding by analogy and explicit comprehension instruction. Undergraduate teachers at the Hartman Center also gain invaluable problem-solving experience. “The children who come to the Hartman Center are reading a year or more below their grade placement in school,” explains Clark. “When you’re working with children who struggle, you really must focus on what each specific child needs to become a more proficient reader and provide it. You can’t just think about moving through curriculum materials.” Whether it’s the proven instructional methods, the personalized attention or both, the results are impressive. In the past six 10-week program sessions, 68 percent of children enrolled at the center made gains of one or more levels (e.g., grade two to grade three) in word recognition, comprehension or both on the Qualitative Reading Inventory, the highly regarded instrument (developed by Dr. Lauren Leslie of Marquette and Dr. JoAnne Schudt Caldwell of Cardinal Stritch University) used to place children in the program and monitor progress. In the end, the unique context of the Hartman Center leaves Marquette teachers in training better equipped and prepared to teach in their own schools. “All teachers will work with children who struggle at some point in their careers. Our students just get to do it in a concentrated, fairly lengthy and well-supervised environment as pre-service teachers. So the context enables Marquette students to really learn to think in ways that you don’t often get to as undergraduates,” says Clark. “Most of what we hear is this is the course that really taught them how to teach.”