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Ambitious Pedagogy by Novice Teachers: Who Benefits From Tool-Supported Collaborative Inquiry into Practice and Why?


by Mark Windschitl, Jessica Thompson & Melissa Braaten — 2011

Background/Context: The collegial analysis of student work artifacts has been effective in advancing the practice of experienced teachers; however, the use of such strategies as a centerpiece for induction has not been explored, nor has the development of tool systems to support such activity with novices.

Purpose/Objective: We tested the hypothesis that first-year teachers could take up forms of ambitious pedagogy under the following conditions: 1) that reform-based practices introduced in teacher preparation would be the focus of collaborative inquiry throughout the first year of teaching, 2) that participants use analyses of their students’ work as the basis of critique and change in practice, and 3) that special tools be employed that help participants hypothesize about relationships between instruction and student performance.

Participants: Eleven secondary science teachers engaged in tool-supported collegial analysis of their students’ work over two years, spanning pre-service and in-service contexts.

Research Design: We used a qualitative multi-case study approach, incorporating videotapes of collaborative inquiry (CFG) sessions, classroom observations, student-created artifacts, interviews, and field notes. The primary cases were of the CFG sessions themselves. Analysis entailed identifying patterns of participation across CFG sessions and changes in classroom practice during induction.

Findings: More than one third of the group developed elements of expert-like teaching, with the greatest gains made in pressing their students for evidence-based scientific explanations, a practice that was the focus of their regular examinations of student work. For a majority—those who initially held the most problematized images of the relationships between teaching and learning—the system of tools (rubrics and protocol) was critical in allowing deep analyses of students’ work and supporting a shared language that catalyzed conversations linking “what counts” as scientific explanation with the re-calibration of expectations for students. This, in turn, helped participants envision more specialized forms of scaffolding for learners.

Conclusions: Those who begin their careers with a problematized view of the relationships between teaching and learning are not only more likely to appropriate sophisticated practices early, but also to benefit from evidence-based collaborative inquiry into practice. This study also highlights the potentially powerful role of tools and tool-based routines, tailored to the needs of beginning teachers, in fostering ambitious pedagogy. This success, we believe, can support the design of more robust systems of tools for early career teachers’ collaborative inquiry and can inform theory around the implementation of these tools.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 7, 2011, p. 1311-1360
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16061, Date Accessed: 9/3/2014 3:04:25 AM

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About the Author
  • Mark Windschitl
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    MARK WINDSCHITL is a Professor of Science Teaching and Learning. His research interests deal with the early career development of science teachers. Current work includes a five-year project to develop and study a system of tools and tool-based practices for early career secondary science teachers that support transitions from novice to expert-like pedagogical reasoning and practice.
  • Jessica Thompson
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    JESSICA THOMPSON is a Research Assistant Professor with the University of Washington College of Education. Her areas of inquiry focus on engaging underserved girls in science and on helping science teachers work toward ambitious and equitable pedagogy.
  • Melissa Braaten
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    MELISSA BRAATEN is a research assistant in science education working with the team to develop the tools, videos, and coursework that are part of this project. As a 4th year doctoral student Melissa is researching the relationships between teachers' learning, teachers' classroom practice, and student learning.
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