Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. Amy Seely Flint

Second Advisor

Dr. Gertrude Tinker Sachs

Third Advisor

Dr. Janice Fournillier

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Joyce E. Many


This qualitative case study explores ways in which English as a Second Language (ESOL) preservice teachers’ conceptions of literacy are initially developed and how these understandings impact their emerging identities as ESOL teachers. Diaz-Rico (2008) posits that teaching of English Learners (ELs) is one of the fastest-growing professions which increases the need to prepare preservice teachers to serve the growing immigrant population. Similar to other teacher education programs, pre service teachers in ESOL focused programs often experience tensions as they embark on student teaching. There appears to be limited research-studies of ESOL preservice teachers· perceptions of their preparation and efficacy in teaching literacy to ELs in the U.S. Trier (2006) underscores that preservice teachers· understanding of literacy will be the most crucial aspect of their learning. The research questions informing this study are: (1) How are ESOL pre-service teachers· beliefs and understandings of literacy development in language teaching shaped and revised as a result of participation in an ESOL teacher certification program? and (2) How do ESOL preservice teachers' identities shift as they experience course work and practicum?

The theoretical lenses guiding this study are Vygotsky’s (1986) sociocultural perspective, situated learning theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991), identity theory (Danielewicz, 2001), and Bandura' s (1982) efficacy theory. Three preservice teachers in a master s level teacher certification program at a local university in the southeastern region of the U.S. participated in the study. Data sources include interviews, observations, reflections, and lesson plans. Constant comparison method (Srauss & Corbin, 1990) was used to analyze the data. Findings indicate that these pre service teachers adopted a multifaceted view of literacy that included both critical and socio-cultural perspectives. The importance of meaning-making, family, and culture in literacy instruction was reinforced for these teachers. Additionally, preservice teachers continuously theorize as they navigate teacher education. They are not only concerned about knowing what to teach, but how to effectively teach students. A significant implication from the study is that teacher educators need to consider the individuality of preservice teachers and provide differentiated instruction within their teacher education programs.