Document Type


Department (Manual Entry)

Education Department


After taking a young adult literature course as part of my Secondary Education/ English program, I felt I had gained only a limited understanding of the importance of the genre to my future career. In the class, we read several popular young adult texts, learned about their authors, identified censorship issues, and mentioned a few strategies related to the teaching of the texts. Much of the “understanding” related only to future applications in imagined classrooms, which left no room for critical reflection about what we might learn from reading the texts about ourselves as students and teachers. A sense of teacher identity based on theoretical beliefs, however, has been shown to increase the likelihood of teachers remaining in the profession (Chong, et al., 2011). Much of the research related to young adult literature maintains a highly strategydriven, short-term focus, leading to a division between theory and practice (Hayn, et al., 2011). Both are important, but not at the expense of one over the other. Amidst competing claims about teacher education, teacher certification, and student performance, it is important to understand the practical and theoretical opportunities that reading young adult literature provides for teacher candidates and teachers, whether specializing in the English content area or not.

As I moved through the education program, I noticed the reading and discussion of young adult literature in other teacher preparation courses, and thus began to observe and interview the pre-service teachers, in-service teachers, and professors in those classes. I noticed that critical conversations about the relationship of young adult literature to the development of teacher identity can, and do, occur. In a class blog, Becky, a Master’s of Arts in Teaching for Secondary Education/English student wrote, “I was reading it [the adolescent text All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall] as a reader and as a future-teacher, which affected the experience. It wasn't just about "What did I think?" but "What would students think?" and "How might I use this?" This metacognitive moment, among others, reveals the pre-service and in-service teachers’ critical thought not only about what to teach, but how and why. These rich interactions differed from my own experience of reading YAL in the Adolescent Literature course where lists of popular texts and authors dominated my teacher’s lectures.

Recognizing the college environment where these stories of pre-service and inservice teachers’ thoughts emerged, this research aims to follow the tradition of “schoolbased narrative inquiry” in which “the concepts and methods . . . are driven by practice and by a theoretical idea of the practical” (Xu & Connelly, 2010, p. 354). The questions framing this research include: What does reading young adult literature in a teacher education program provide candidates? What connections do teacher candidates make to their content areas? And, how does reading young adult literature affect the development of teacher identity? This research raises thought-provoking questions about the place of young adult literature in teacher education programs, questions that are relevant to teacher candidates, teacher educators, and those interested in exploring the competing claims in the field of education.