Teaching literacy requires accurate and current knowledge in the field (Commonwealth of Australia, 2005). There have been persistent inquiries into what constitutes specialist knowledge and skills for teaching students to be literate. Preservice teacher education is fundamental to literacy development, which includes the approaches universities employ to prepare graduates for teaching literacy. Indeed, preservice teacher programs and literacy education also elicit insatiable media coverage. There is a continued push to improve literacy outcomes for school students across the nation and prepare the literacy knowledge and skills of Australian teachers. This study mainly focuses on 10 final-year preservice teachers attending a regional university campus who volunteered for further experiences to teach students to read traditional texts. These preservice teachers completed three university literacy units before commencing with practical applications. A literacy program, titled Reading Squadron, was developed in partnership between a local primary school and the university. Primary students were identified by the school as requiring literacy support. Preservice teachers attended a whole day training session run by school staff at the university and then visited the school for two one-hour sessions each week over a six-week period. Each preservice teacher was assigned two students and worked with each student for half an hour twice a week. The aim of this small-scale qualitative study was to investigate the perceptions of the preservice teachers and school staff as a result of their involvement in the Reading Squadron program. The preservice teachers completed a questionnaire to determine their views of the program and ascertain how it assisted their development. Further data were gathered from the preservice teachers through individual face-to-face interviews. Three school staff involved in the program also completed a questionnaire to determine the value of the program. Results indicated that the preservice teachers made links between theory and practice, and felt they gained knowledge about teaching reading. Three preservice teachers noted it was difficult to work around timetable commitments but gained from the experience and suggested embedding such experiences into university literacy units. Data gathered from school staff indicated that six-weeks was not sufficient time to measure improvements in the school students, however, they were supportive of such a program, particularly for its continuation. Collaborations between schools and universities can provide opportunities for preservice teachers to use theoretical knowledge gained from core university subjects with application to assist primary students’ literacy development in schools. Teachers in this study were supportive of the Reading Squadron program, however, more data needed to be collected to understand the literacy improvement of students. Longitudinal studies are required to ascertain specific knowledge and skills gained by preservice teachers to teach reading and how these programs enhance students’ literacy levels.
Hudson, S, Dossel, K & Hudson, P 2009, 'Reading squadron: crossing borders in literacy experiences for preservice teachers', in JA Reid (ed.), Australian Teacher Education Conference Proceedings 2009: Teacher Education Crossing Borders: Cultures, Contexts, Communities, Curriculum, Albury, NSW, 28 June- 1 July, Australian Teacher Education Association, Bathurst, NSW. ISBN: 9780975232446