Supporting Masters Students in Writing a Literature Review

A reflection on my summer online teaching:

This summer I am teaching my first fully online course. While I have taught teacher research and teacher inquiry previously, my experiences teaching this content have all occurred face-to-face and in tandem with students' access to classrooms. With preservice teachers, they were engaged in a field experience simultaneously and with inservice teachers, the course was taught during the school year. Teaching this course in the summer and for such a short period of time makes applying knowledge and skills they are learning difficult, and I have had to make adaptations to my teaching and to the design of the course becaue of those constraints. For instance, I wanted the students (inservice teachers in this particular course) to see examples of teacher research, so I added a module where the students read examples of teacher inquiry from the Penn State Inquiry Conference and from Networks (a journal that publishes teacher inquiry). I found this module to be incredibly helpful in scaffolding the students' understanding of inquiry and they also had an opportunity to practice an annotated bibliography, which is an important step in the literature review process. 

Part of this summer course requires the students to conduct a literature review. I know that reading can be time intensive, so I gave the students an extra week to complete this review. As I was grading their work, I noticed that only a few students were actually writing a literature review. Many of my students were actually writing annotated bibliographies but calling them literature reviews. After reaching out to some of them, I also realized that many of my students were new to the Masters Program and had little to no experience writing a literature review. This meant to me that they needed more scaffolding and support in the process, even though the purpose of the course is not specifically focused on writing literature reviews.

To help them with this process, I sought written permission from a student with a strong literature review. She consented to let me use her work as a sample. I used the comment function in Word to point to specific parts in the literature review. After all, Brunvand & Fishman (2006-2007) used a similar structure to help preservice teachers notice specific aspects of practice through video. I wondered if this approach would help support my students' in their ability to write a literature review. At this point, I have not received their revised versions (they are due in a few weeks), so the jury is out as to whether this approach was effective for me as a teacher educator.

I've attached the sample with the scaffolds as a reference for myself and for my future teaching. It may also be a benefit to others.



Brunvand, S., & Fishman, B. (2006-2007). Investigating the impact of the availability of scaffolds on preservice teacher noticing and learning from video. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 35(2), 151-174.