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Toward Scholarship in Practice


by Marcy Singer-Gabella — 2012

Background/Context: Over the past decade, scholars of teaching and teacher education have concluded that the field lacks a common conceptual vocabulary to undergird systematic investigation of practice. Absent a shared language, we can neither articulate common questions nor establish common tools—essential elements for building knowledge and advancing practice. Thus, despite the failure of earlier attempts, scholars agree that the quest for a shared language and “grammar of practice” must be taken up anew if the field is to move forward.

Objective: In this article, I argue that succeeding in this quest requires not only refocused lines of research but also the cultivation of scholarship that makes visible the interplay of reasoning and action underlying skilled work of professional preparation. Such scholarship should provide well-articulated and examined models and tools to support the development of prospective and practicing teachers—resources that can be evaluated and built upon. Products of this work may well diverge in form from other, more conventional scholarly products and so may demand new mechanisms for peer review and dissemination. The goal of this article is to establish a conceptual framework to support such a system.

Research Design: Drawing on philosophical and empirical inquiries into the nature of practice and practical reasoning, as well as the efforts to expand definitions of scholarship spearheaded by Boyer, Shulman, and others at the Carnegie Foundation, I conceptualize this distinct form of work as “scholarship in practice.” I then posit a set of criteria by which scholarship in practice might be assessed, illustrating these through two extended examples and considering implications for peer review.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Advancing scholarship that capitalizes on the expertise and talent of faculty who not only understand but also skillfully enact the work of preparing teachers is vital to the progress of the field. Moving forward with this agenda requires that faculty in schools of education take the time to establish shared understandings of the nature and possibilities of this kind of scholarship, clear expectations regarding quality, and infrastructure to support development, review, and feedback. The enactment of a fair and systematic review process demands thoughtful discussion grounded in specific examples, within and across institutions.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 8, 2012, p. 1-30
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16531, Date Accessed: 9/18/2014 1:43:28 PM

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About the Author
  • Marcy Singer-Gabella
    Vanderbilt University
    MARCY SINGER-GABELLA is a professor of the practice of education and associate chair in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education. Her research focuses on the learning of teaching practice, particularly the practices of attending to and leveraging student reasoning; Ma, J. Y., & Singer-Gabella, M. (2011). Learning to teach in the figured world of reform mathematics: Negotiating new models of identity, Journal of Teacher Education, 62(1), 8–22.
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