Promise and Possibility: Learning to Teach
by Frances Schoonmaker - 1998
This article discusses aspects of teacher preparation and reflective teaching.
Deciding to Teach
Kay decided to be a teacher sometime during her sophomore year at Cornell. In an autobiography (A, 1989), written prior at the beginning of her teacher education program, she commented, "It occurred to me that the jobs I had held as a summer camp counselor were the ones I enjoyed most and were the ones that never seemed like work; they were fun. I wanted to work with young children, and automatically teaching came to mind since my schooling was such a positive part of my life" (p. 1).
Like many academically able students who choose to enter teaching, Kay was advised to look for a profession that would be more economically rewarding and more intellectually challenging. But she was determined, "if I have all the intelligence [people] say that I do, then the children who will make the future deserve to get the benefit of this" (A, 1989, p. 6).
Despite what appear to be attractive alternative routes into teaching for college graduates, she chooses to enter the profession through a graduate level program. Her limited experience as a camp counselor for six-year-old boys had drawn on "all the patience and creativity I could muster" (A, 1989, p. 1), convincing Kay of the value of teacher education.
Having decided to teach, Kay looked for hands on experience to confirm her choice. While she completed her undergraduate studies, she took a position as group leader for 23 seven-year-olds in a community center in downtown Ithaca, New York. This was a decision which had a strong impact on her future choices. It was her first experience in an inner city setting, working with minority students and staff. She encountered the social and economic discrepancies between the lives of these children and her own upbringing in a suburban, upper middle class, largely Jewish community. "The children provided me a chance to see how different backgrounds can cause different reactions to experiences while at the same time turn out children with amazingly similar concerns and actions. By meeting the parents and inquiring about the children's home lives I really saw how different the childhood experience can be" (A, 1989, p. 3). Later, Kay became a Tutorial Supervisor in the after school program at the center. In this role, she had to develop the program "from scratch without anyone around with previous experience" (A, 1989, p. 4). Just getting the children to attend was an enormous challenge. Finding resources, given the low budget of the community program, presented another. But, getting children to do their homework was "the challenge which I found most discouraging" (A, 1989, p. 4). Like the teachers described by Michael S. Knapp in "high-poverty classrooms" (1995) she, too, wondered why it was so hard.
Already, both pre-existent and emergent theory about teaching and learning are evident. Kay discovered that "most children would rather play sports or do arts and crafts than something academic" (A, 1989, p. 4). Just as she wanted work for herself that did not "seem like work," she wanted children to enjoy themselves. She began to create games and contests to the get the children to come for tutoring and to keep them interested. During this period, she also formed a close relationship with three children from a family in the area. She found herself stopping by their home on her way to or from work when she could, learning about the need for teachers to understand and respect children's lives outside school.
Kay has discovered the importance of creating an environment that nurtures active learning. She believes learning should be fun. She shows an inclination to experiment. And she is learning that children's families and the social context in which schooling is situated have an impact on school experiences. She now wants to work in an urban school, and shows promise of becoming the kind of professional who will work to overcome the "pedagogy of poverty" described by Martin Haberman (1991) as characteristic of urban schools.
The Realities of Teacher Preparation
Given this hopeful beginning, what can we anticipate for Kay's future? The literature on teacher preparation has become robust in the past decade and while conclusions are not uniform, the literature informs us about prospective teachers in a number of important ways.
Facing the Expectations
First, we know that Kay's own preconceptions and implicit theories about teaching and learning will play a major part in her development as a teacher (Clark, 1988; Hollingsworth, 1989; Lortie, 1975; Zeichner & Liston, 1987). Kay's implicit theoretical perspective must be teased out of the statements that she makes about herself as teacher and about children and schools. These might be described as theoretical inclinations, and are precursors to theory. Theoretical inclinations are comprised of an assortment of beliefs. As Christopher Clark points out, "teachers' implicit theories tend to be eclectic aggregations of cause-effect propositions from many sources, rules of thumb, generalizations drawn from personal experience, beliefs, values, biases, and prejudices" (1988, p. 6).
We can postulate that as Kay's beliefs become more known to us contradictions within her own "eclectic aggregation" will emerge. Furthermore, while the views articulated in her autobiography seem compatible with constructivist theory, it is likely that her understanding is restricted and focused on a few specific kinds of activity, such as the experiences she describes in her tutoring program (see Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Kagan, 1992). While she may be predisposed to act in particular ways, as Alberto J. Rodriguez observed, "a disposition to act is not the same thing as acting on a disposition" (1993, p. 212). Like most teachers, Kay is likely to become so involved in the rapidly paced life of the classroom that she will give little time to the kind of deliberation envisioned by reformers of teacher education and schools and her actions will often be inconsistent with her professed beliefs.
Most of Kay's elementary and secondary education was in traditional classrooms—and she loved school. Contradictory images of teaching and learning drawn from this experience will reside along with Kay's nascent constructivist theory. In fact, judging from the literature, we can expect that Kay's prior experiences in school, or what Daniel Lortie (1975) called the "apprenticeship of observation," will be more powerful than her teacher preparation program. If Kay's teacher education program is typical, influence of this prior "apprenticeship" will persist, contributing to her development of the very authoritarian teaching practices eschewed in her autobiography (Britzman, 1986; Goodman, 1988; McNeil, 1986; Tabachnick & Zeichner, 1984; Wubbles, Zeichner & Gore, 1990; Zeichner & Tabachnick, 1981).
Secondly, the literature tells us that if Kay's development as a teacher is typical, she will leave the university with the conviction that theory is abstract and unrelated to the realities of teaching. Kay will perpetuate the common notion that theory and practice are largely unrelated. She will be convinced that it is in the classroom where one "really learns" to teach, and her student teaching experience will be seen as the most powerful part of her preparation (Britzman, 1986; Lortie, 1975). Kay will probably "internalize the pervasive cultural belief that experience makes the teacher" (Britzman, 1986, p. 447). More than likely, her student teaching experience will negate course work at the university leading her to set it aside for practical activities, reinforcing her prior experience and a utilitarian perspective, even if the university program promotes reflective practice (Zeichner, 1980, 1984). She is unlikely to contribute in any significant way to school reform because her student teaching will serve to further entrench present practices. Kay will learn to do what her cooperating teacher does (Goodlad, 1991) and this will more likely than not, be conservative.
Thirdly, despite Kay's motivation to be a caring teacher in the nation's most challenging schools, she will become more concerned about control than about issues of teaching and learning. Her "natural inclinations to be rational and caring" will "give way to teaching methods that are authoritative and promote competition" (Arnstine, 1990, p. 240), in effect, maintaining and reproducing cultural myths related to domination and social control in schooling (Britzman, 1986). Her initial readiness to become a teacher who continues to be a student of teaching will give way to an unreflective emphasis on doing what works.
Given the bleak picture painted for Kay's fate in the hands of teacher education institutions, one can understand why alternative routes into teaching have such wide appeal. According to Karen Zumwalt and Gary Natriello (1992), alternative routes "usually involve new arrangements for the education of teachers—arrangements which generally shift the context for the preparation of teachers from colleges and universities to local schools and school districts" (p. 59). These programs have emerged in response to criticism of teacher preparation, interest in teacher professionalism, and teacher shortages in critical subject areas and among critical student populations. But, whether or not alternative routes address issues delineated in the literature and/or fulfill their promises, they, as all routes, lead to the schools.
Fourthly, the goals of reflective teacher preparation are incompatible with most schools. What if Kay's program were to "beat the odds" by helping her to penetrate and reconstruct prior images, by enabling her to be a critical, reflective participant in her student teaching experience, and by allowing her to develop an understanding of the social and political realities of schools? She would still be unprepared to deal with the realities of schooling because in most schools where she is likely to begin her career, the goals of education and schooling would be incompatible with her preparation. As Haberman argues, "there is a pervasive, fundamental, irreconcilable difference between the motivation of those who select themselves to become teachers and the demands of urban teaching" (1991, p.291).
Wildman and Niles point out:
expectations inherent in teacher reflection are difficult to justify, given the demands of schools, because they are counter to a world in which (a) the goals of schooling can be narrowly defined in terms of basic academic skills and achievement scores, (b) the means to obtain those goals can be clearly specified from research, and (c) the teachers can be collected in large groups to hear about the procedures they will be expected to follow. (1987, p. 30)
For Haberman (1991), the tendency of schools to focus narrowly is connected to the "pedagogy of poverty," which "requires that teachers who began their careers intending to be helpers, models, guides, stimulators, and caring sources of encouragement transform themselves into directive authoritarians in order to function in urban schools" (p.291).
Teacher educators might be reasonably expected, then, to concentrate on school reform efforts. But, reform efforts that would make schools hospitable places for reflective practice apparently require rethinking teaching, learning, and schools (Lieberman, 1995). Should teacher educators, already beleaguered by the demands of one of education's most labor intensive roles, take on school reform, they would still have no guarantees that their graduates would find environments conducive to reflective practice. As John Goodlad points out, "Ironically, reform eras, whatever their initial moral intentions, soon fixate on outcomes (outputs) and ways to improve them (inputs)" (1996).
Speaking along similar lines, Linda Darling Hammond observes,
As in earlier eras of reform, many schools and classrooms are beginning to display the inevitable dilution and misapplication of ideas that are poorly understood by those asked to enact them. . . .In particular, teachers and administrators often find it difficult to develop settings that are both learning-centered—that is, focused on challenging curriculum goals for all students—and learner-centered, that is attentive to the needs and interests of individual learners. They often tend to lose one in the course of pursuing the other. (1996, p. 1 5)
Finally, academically able students tend to leave teaching within the first five years of teaching. Suppose that Kay does survive all the hurdles of teacher preparation, enters teaching in the urban school setting where she desires to teach, and manages to counteract the "pedagogy of poverty," and the vagaries and vicissitudes of school reform. Will she survive as a career teacher? Unfortunately, the odds are still against her staying with teaching. Academically able students are less likely to choose teaching as a career, take teaching jobs if they do complete a preparation program, and stay with teaching as a career for more than five years if they actually enter the profession (Murnane, 1991). Though there is some evidence that students who select fifth year teacher preparation programs are more likely to survive in the profession, the picture is still unclear. We know little about what such programs have in common that might account for their apparent success.
A Precious "Resource"
Kay's "survival" in teacher preparation and as a new teacher takes on importance both for its own sake, as she strives to achieve a personal goal, and more widely because she is representative of those we most want and seem to be least able to recruit and retain in the profession. As a case, she represents a precious resource. Today, she is a veteran teacher, well into her seventh year in the classroom. She had the benefit of what Gary Griffin (1986) refers to as a broadly conceived program of preparation. For Kay, this not only included a graduate level preservice education which emphasized deliberative teacher leadership,1 but a full year as an Intern in a Professional Development School (PDS) during its pilot year. Still involved in a PDS effort, Kay is now serving as Clinical Instructor in the preparation program from which she graduated. Her colleagues describe her as "solid." And she has already mentored new student teachers and beginning teachers in her school and has been deeply involved in PDS action research on the role of the Cooperating Teacher. What are we to make of Kay's survival and success in the profession given the backdrop of discouraging expectations for candidates who match her profile?
Griffin has argued that while many studies claim that formal teacher preparation has little impact on the powerful influence of prior experience, this conclusion "probably rests upon the inadequacy of particular teacher education programs of study," (1986, p. 2). By looking closely at Kay's experience as a student in a "broadly conceived" program, perhaps we can learn more about how to overcome the impact of prior images and other negative factors that have been delineated in the literature.2 Furthermore, as a six-year veteran teacher she demonstrates capability of deliberative teacher leadership, a primary goal of the Teachers College Preservice Program in Childhood Education (Preservice Program/Program). Although she was a strong student and successful student teacher, Kay did not strike program faculty as unusually inclined to reflection. A student who was capable of academic rigor, Kay still grumbled about too many assignments when there was so much more to be learned in her field placement. Finally, Kay student taught and did an internship in a PDS; as more attention is given to Professional Development Schools it is important to consider their impact on teachers in preparation. The PDS effort was in its pilot year and Kay was among the first chosen to student teach with view to becoming interns the following year. She was daily witness to the conflict which occurred between and among constituents in implementation of the PDS.3. For the most part, teachers at this particular PDS site were very practical in their orientation and openly critical of Teachers College's (TC) requirements, creating what appeared to be a powerful climate of support for Kay's resistance to "academic" assignments. So, while her program was attempting to shape her along lines that integrate theory, reflection, and action, the school context was one of resistance to program requirements and which emphasized practical on the job learning.
Challenging the Expected
In an interview six years after graduation from the Program, Kay explored her own development as a teacher. Commenting on the relationship between theory and practice, Kay said, "I don't know how you can say whether . . . [pause] . . . if I would be able to label my teaching as theoretical or practical" (I, 5/96). She spoke of her first weeks of being responsible for her own classroom, contrasting it to colleagues who were graduates of a program that emphasizes reflective teaching from a more "practical" orientation drawn from a strong, progressive tradition in teaching. These colleagues were representative of the school sentiment regarding how teachers ought to be prepared. While Kay felt uncertainty and confusion, they seemed to know exactly what to do:
I'd look at them and I'd think, "Well, that'd be nice, if I knew exactly what to do!" And it took me a few years to realize, "Okay, they had that coming out, but I had this chance"—I'm obviously a little anxiety ridden still—but, I've figured it out, you know! That's the difference. I was telling Kelly [a friend who had just been admitted to the Program], "When you first come out of TC, you're going to think, "What'd they do for me? Nothing! that kind of thing. Then later on, five years down the road, you're goina' say, "No, I really did get a lot out of it" (I, 5/20/96).
When asked what she thought we most wanted from her while she was a Preservice Student, Kay replied, "Definitely to reflect. Definitely to reflect. I think it was to reflect on your teaching and constantly grow"(I, 5/20/96).
Despite our impression of her resistance to academic assignments, Kay's student teaching journal shows that from the very beginning of her program, she made connections between what the school referred to as the "theoretical stuff at TC" and her more "practical and real" student teaching experiences. These connections did not occur by chance, however, nor did becoming a deliberative teacher leader just happen. Reflective teacher preparation requires attention to what the literature refers to as elements such as thinking processes and strategies for developing teacher reflection.
Reflective Teacher Preparation
The way in which Kay's program attempted to shape her development as a deliberative teacher leader needs some discussion in relation to the broader literature on teacher reflection. Even the most cursory review of literature on this subject leads to the realization that reflection, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder. While teacher educators seem to agree that getting fledgling teachers to reflect is a good thing, the way reflection is described, studied, and the ends toward which teacher reflection is aimed seem much less clear (Bolin, 1988; Smyth, 1989; Sparks-Langer & Colton, 1991; Tom, 1985; Zeichner, 1987).
The Emergent Literature
Some researchers speak of bringing about cognitive change in order to be able to refine program practices so that preservice students are able to be more specific in their knowledge of pupil learning and context variables (Hollingsworth, 1989). The research on reflection as a cognitive process is, in itself, wide and varied, ranging from examination of techniques that promote reflective thought (e.g,.Pultorak, 1993; Sparks-Langer et al. 1990) to those emphasizing the decisions teachers make about their practice (Yinger & Clark, 1981), and the knowledge base for teaching (Schulman, 1987). Ends and means differ even within clusters of research. For example, researchers interested in strategies which delineate steps toward reflection have applied Van Manen's level of reflectivity (1977), following Kenneth M. Zeichner and Daniel P. Liston (1987) in strikingly different ways. It has been utilized to analyze reflection in highly formulaic programs (e.g. Pultorak, 1993, which taught both Assertive Discipline and the UCLA model of lesson planning and supervision). And it has been applied in study of programs more emancipatory in structure and goals, as in the case of the Wisconsin model (Zeichner & Liston, 1987).
For some researchers, reflection is a process by which teachers make more intelligent decisions about strategies (e.g.. Cruickshank & Applegate, 1981; Hollingsworth, 1989). This process may or may not include a consideration of what Lampert and Clark (1990) refer to as "situated cognition" or in Hollingsworth's terms, learning of "particular concepts in particular contexts" (1989). For others, reflection is an emancipatory process that occurs as the student teacher relates preparation to autobiography (e.g.. Beyer, 1984; Smyth, 1989). These are programs focused on reflection as the means to social ends. John Smyth (1989) suggests; "Reflection can, therefore, vary from a concern with the micro aspects of the teaching learning process and subject matter knowledge, to macro concerns about political/ethical principles underlying teaching and the relationship of schooling to the wider institutions and hierarchies of society" (p. 4). Regardless of emphasis and interest, however, most researchers recognize that teacher reflection is a complex area of study.
Georgea Mohlman Sparks-Langer and Amy Berstein Colton (1991) identify three elements that have been the subject of study: (1) the cognitive, relates to information processing and decision making by teachers, (2) the substantive, or what drives thinking, includes experiences, goals, values and social implications, and (3) teachers' narratives, or their interpretations of events occurring within their particular contexts. Sparks-Langer and Berstein see the second as critical.
Efforts to bring the literature together have also identified strategies for preparation of reflective teachers as well as elements of teacher reflection. Zeichner (1987) focuses on strategies for reflection, identifying three ways in which one might differentiate among strategies for preparation of reflective teachers: (1) the level at which intervention is directed, (2) the degree to which steps are delineated toward reflection, and (3) the extent to which a theoretical perspective is identified.
The Teachers College Program
Preservice Program literature describes its mission as preparing academically able, liberal arts graduates for deliberative practice as leaders in the profession of teaching. Zeichner's description of strategies may illuminate the way this mission is enacted in relation to teacher reflection.
(1) The level at which intervention is directed, which may range from program revision to attempts to influence structure of schools and teaching: In the Preservice Program intervention is directed at multiple levels. Specific assignments are given to students to promote reflection, for example, they are required to keep student teaching journals.4.Continuous revision of the program occurs, following a collaborative planning model; teacher educator reflection is considered an important part of the process. Preparation and on-going meetings with student teaching supervisors occur during both semesters in which students are in field placements. The Program attempts to influence the broader context of schools and teaching through the PDS and a Cooperating Schools Network with teachers and administrators of the several schools where we place student teachers. Network meetings have examined issues as wide ranging as how to welcome new student teachers and goals of particular methods courses they take in completion of their program. Interested participants have recently organized to do action research on how to support student teacher development.
(2) The degree to which steps are delineated toward reflection: In the Preservice Program, steps are seen as less important than developing a context and climate for reflection through activities and experiences based on program themes. Our intent is to help students move toward serious and thoughtful questioning and understanding of their own perceptions, actions, feelings, values, and cultural biases as these relate to the practical work that is most compelling to them. "How tos," to borrow Dewey's term, are less important than developing ways of observing, questioning, and inventing.
(3) The extent to which a theoretical perspective is identified: The Preservice Program respects a variety of theoretical perspectives on teaching and learning, while building on a Progressive tradition that is social constructivist in philosophy. This is described in Program literature:
The Preservice Program also reflects the pluralism of Teachers College; students in the program study a wide variety of approaches to education rather than a single approach.
Our stance is that there is no single truth in education but there are many realities. Each of us has the right to choose our own (educated) platform, but we who are teacher educators have the obligation to introduce our students to the spectrum of alternatives and help them to look at the important differences among approaches. Because there is no one clearly superior way to engage in educating children, teachers must constantly set hypotheses and test them, searching for the best way to teach each individual child and group of children. Such teaching lacks the safety and predictability of the "tried and true" approach, and requires individuals who understand the limitations of fixed formulas and who enjoy reaching out into the unpredictable world created by the diversity and the uniqueness of each child and each group of children.
We want our students to understand that forms of knowledge, including self-reflection and questioning, are socially and culturally constructed. When any approach to curriculum and teaching becomes a formula to be applied in every school, it becomes a form of social domination.
In summation, the way reflection is viewed in the Preservice Program at TC is compatible with those approaches that focus on meaning making through reflection on self in relation to others, social and cultural context, and consequences. This is not unlike views described by John Elliott (1976-77) and Zeichner and Liston (1987). Elliott talks about reflection as a process of "self-monitoring" in which "one becomes aware of one's situation and one's own role as an agent in it" (p. 5). Zeichner and Liston describe goals for preparation of teachers "who are both willing and able to reflect on the origins, purposes, and consequences of their actions, as well as on the material and ideological constraints and encouragements embedded in the classroom, school, and societal contexts in which they work" (1987).5
In a paper, written at the conclusion of a course on the role of the Cooperating Teacher in teacher education, four years after graduating from the Program, Kay wrote, "There seems to be an enormous amount to think about and explore. This thinking seems to be leading up to an enormous need for reform, both in my personal theories and in the society values and structures all aspects of education rely on" (December, 1994). This inclination and ability to question personal as well as school and societal structures is what we hope will increasingly characterize all students who graduate from the Preservice Program as they continue to develop themselves as teachers.
Kay’s Preservice Experience: Beating the Odds
Three of the barriers to development of reflective teachers that are identified in the literature were evident in Kay's crucial first semester of student teaching and serve as organizing categories in reviewing her experience: (1) the powerful role of preconceptions and implicit theories, (2) the focus on practical experience while de-emphasizing integration of theory and practice, and (3) the tendency for concern over exerting control in the classroom to supersede motivation to be caring. Each of these is examined in the section that follows.
While Kay may have been predisposed to being shaped as a deliberative teacher leader, despite her outward resistance, there were significant aspects of the Preservice Program that addressed each of these "negatives" and moved Kay along. This is not to suggest any lack of agency on Kay’s part; ultimately her development is as an individual within a complex social and cultural nexus. The intent here is not to measure the amount and effects of Program intervention but to consider how aspects of the Program address indentified barriers to prospective teachers who match Karen’s profile at entry. In doing so, places were she might have been given more support also become apparent.
Penetrating Preconceptions and Implicit Theories
Prior to her first week of student teaching, Kay began the Preservice Core (Core), a group of courses clustered into one time block which is planned, co-taught, and assessed by Preservice faculty.6 Students take the Core concurrent to student teaching. They spend three mornings and one full day in their student teaching placement, while taking course work at the College afternoons and evenings. The Core is designed to be the integrating center of their experience, though most students experience student teaching as much more powerful than either course work or the Core. During the first session, Kay was challenged to look inward at her own elementary school experiences and outward to the broader social context in which teaching takes place. The intent is to establish a dialectical relationship between autobiography and curriculum context and practice. The "inward look" draws on students' personal knowledge, a theme which runs through two semesters of the Core. Learning activities and experiences that draw on personal knowledge are intended to help students bring prior experience to a conscious level and examine it so that they may intentionally critique and reconstruct it. For example, in the first Core session, they are asked to construct a symbol that represents one of their most positive memories from elementary school. Symbols are shared with a small group of peers. Peer groups are asked to think about what their experiences have in common and what this might tell them about teaching. From these discussions, a list of things to think about is generated from the whole class.7 Typical items that students will mention are, "the activities were hands on," "they brought positive recognition," "they were extracurricular experiences." Faculty then tie these reports of experience to knowledge about teaching and learning, pointing out that their own experiences can teach student teachers a great deal about what children need and want. We then examine negative memories of experience in a similar manner. Typical generalizations that students offer are, "the activities humiliated or demeaned a student," "students were made to feel inadequate," and "the teacher seemed to be unfair."
In a reflection paper (R) in which she was asked for her reaction to this introductory Core experience, Kay wrote:
I loved talking about our personal experiences in elementary school. My early schooling was a very positive time for me, but even so I can think of things I would like not to happen to other children. The others' experiences added more to my list, and they reminded me that teaching is a great deal more than just academics (R, 9/14).
The animation and involvement students show as they engage in this activity underscores the fact that prior experience is stored in memory not just as the recollection of an event, but as the event was felt and interpreted. In her autobiography, Kay has already noticed how important social and emotional experiences are in teaching.8 She also commented on how much she liked school. Both of these observations take on more importance as the semester progresses.
During the first Core session, the outward look is presented as a mini-lecture in which students are introduced to the idea of studying classrooms, children, and schools. Social, political, and contextual knowledge are introduced and become recurrent themes. Again, students are invited to think about how their own prior experience as elementary school students and their own experiences with racial, ethnic, social, and gender diversity can be instructive. Given the diverse population of students they will meet in the urban schools where they student teach and our Program commitment to social justice and equity, cultural diversity becomes an important and prominent subtext within the social, political, and contextual knowledge theme.
By the end of the first Core session, the four broad program themes of personal knowledge, organizational knowledge, social, political and contextual knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge have been introduced through specific activities, the physical arrangement of the classroom space where students meet for the Core, working in small groups, the team approach to their instruction, and "mini-lecture" content related to classrooms and models of teaching. Each of these themes is developed through a variety of activities and experiences throughout the two semester block. Undergirding them is the emphasis on deliberative teacher leadership and cultural diversity.
As she progresses through the semester we begin to see Kay's personal knowledge at play; contradictory images and beliefs surface. While the contradictions are more apparent to an outsider reading her work than they are to Kay, they become more conscious to her as she is required to examine them in a student teaching journal, read by her supervisor, and in periodic reflection papers written for the Core. Without such deliberate intervention, it is unlikely that her personal knowledge will be conscious or that it will do more than subvert her preparation program, given the fast paced work of student teaching. Without intervention, prior images are likely to lie dormant until she begins teaching and finds herself setting aside "academic" preparation for ways that seem more realistic or "right" not because they have proven to be effective, but because they are drawn from older patterns of response and feeling.
Ideas and inclinations to respond are drawn from personal knowledge and often present themselves as "shoulds." One should know how to teach. One should have a reservoir of knowledge and expertise sufficient to meet any and all demands, even as a beginner, and one should learn more from being in the classroom than from studying about the classroom, to name some powerful "shoulds." Britzman speaks of these as cultural myths to which student teachers unconsciously subscribe, "(1) everything depends on the teacher; (2) the teacher is the expert; (3) teachers are "self-made" (1986, p. 448). Almost immediately, one can infer Kay's belief that the teacher should be an expert. This notion, according to Britzman (1986), breeds fear that one will never know enough to teach and reinforces the view of teacher as an autonomous individual and knowledge as something to be delivered. After her first day in the student teaching classroom, Kay writes in her journal that "the task of getting them all reading and writing and spelling, while not letting the ones who already know how to get bored" is enormous (J, 9/ll). "Everything is overwhelming," she writes on day two, "I feel like I have so much to learn and that I'll never know enough to take on a class myself" (J, 9/12).
Janet, her Cooperating Teacher, does more than reassure her, "Janet's wonderful about explaining anything to me and she listens to my ideas as well. She's really letting me take a part in the planning of the daily program as well as participating throughout the day" (J, 9/11). By the second day, Kay is using the term we in talking about the classroom, "Janet feels that we can slow down. We'll work longer on one lesson and do more with it" (J, 9/11). She is part of a team. Janet has not only challenged the notion that teachers are expert, but that teaching is something that occurs in isolation from other adults (Lortie, 1975; Britzman, 1986). In her first reflection, Kay writes that Janet lets her in on her thinking about planning and asks for ideas. She is not waiting to take over the classroom and learn to teach in isolation, she is experiencing teaching as a collaborative process.
This initial, collaborative experience holds throughout the semester. In her mid-semester evaluation of Kay's student teaching, Janet wrote, "I am reminded of the co-teacher position Kay has in our classroom. She is a remarkable student teacher--confident, relaxed, intelligent, creative, organized, and kind" (1st Quarter Evaluation, 10/23). Kay's supervisor noted on the final evaluation, "Watching Kay work with Janet was perhaps the most exciting part of being Kay's supervisor. They were clearly a team, two professionals that respected each other's strengths and weaknesses" (Final Evaluation, 12/18).
Teaching as a collaborative endeavor is strengthened by the PDS effort. Teachers at the elementary site have agreed that those involved in PDS work will form grade level pairs to jointly plan a curriculum. Kay is also witnessing school-wide collaboration as the faculty struggle to establish their identity as a PDS and determine goals and policies. Kay wrote on her final evaluation of student teaching, "I have interacted with many of the other first grade teachers. I feel we have discussed many things which helped me a lot. I hope these relationships will continue" (Final Evaluation, 12/1). As she enters the final weeks of first semester student teaching, she is still describing collaborative planning (e.g.. J, 10/26).
We recall, however, that Kay's schooling was in traditional classrooms, reminding us that impressions from the two contexts (student teaching and past experience) do not match. While she is becoming aware of the contradiction between past experience and the orientation she is acquiring, it is unlikely that Kay has begun to significantly reconstruct her own theories about teaching and learning.
Reconstructing Personal Knowledge
One of the most dramatic contradictions between personal and professional knowledge is illustrated in Kay's encounters with her belief that children learn best when it is fun. We get glimpses of how Kay first accommodates discrepant views, then begins to reconstruct her own thinking. Janet, who is a graduate of the Preservice Program, follows a constructivist approach to teaching.
Janet's creation of a classroom environment and use of materials confirm Kay's experience in Ithaca, where games and hands on activities were the only way to get children to come for academic tutoring. But this emergent theory about learning resides alongside as yet unarticulated notions of school as a place where she had fun following a traditional curriculum format. The contradiction bubbles under the surface when she begins to wonder about what actually constitutes fun for children, a reflection prompted by her encounter with whole language. She mentions this in her journal the first week, describing a "great experience" with Violet, a first grader who doesn't know how to write her name. Janet has suggested that Kay help Violet form letters in salt. "This worked really well because at first she was just fascinated with playing with the salt so she was willing to practice the letters. After awhile she was able to pick out each letter and write." (J, 9/14). Kay is intrigued by how whole language "works," commenting, "I'm definitely seeing how much harder it is to use such processes as writing process or whole language. The teacher has to be much more creative" (J, 9/15).
The ambiguity does not actually surface, however, until Kay is required to compare her own first grade experience to that of her student teaching classroom in a Core assignment (R, 9/21). She begins with the obvious, noting differences in room arrangement. In elementary school she experienced assigned seats and "singular desks" while "Janet never assigns seats." She observes that the seating pattern develops cooperative relationships and a form of independence from the teacher. She contrasts the curriculum, observing that in her student teaching classroom "the curriculum is more hands on and personal." She wonders if her own willingness to write might have been stunted by having to spell things correctly and expresses approval of invented spelling.
Kay is feeling that constructivist theory, although she has not named it, has some benefits that she did not experience. But, the contradiction in her beliefs sharpens as she recalls that she liked her more traditional experience as a child:
I remember math as being all workbooks and dittos. This causes rote memory instead of comprehension in many children. Although, I remember the feeling of achievement I felt when I finished a workbook or packet of dittos. I am not sure this will occur with the more manipulative work since there is not much of a finished product. Maybe there will be more of this in the future, or perhaps the students will feel accomplished because they really learned something. (R, 9/21).
Now the discrepancy is becoming conscious and she will wrestle with it as the semester progresses. Each point at which she mentions the interest in whole language or other constructivist methods presents an opportunity for her supervisor to begin to build the kind of mental scaffold, or bridge that will help her to acquire more mature ways of thinking about her work (Bolin, 1988). While Kay and her supervisor may have discussed the points of ambiguity and potential conflict that occur in her journal, there are no supervisor comments that suggest this level of engagement. Kay is apparently only jarred into dealing with the inherent conflict and ambiguity within her nascent theory of teaching when she is asked to write a reflection paper for Core on how she learned to read.
Kay recalled ability groups in reading at her school. She was a bright student and loved the feeling of competition. But she questions the effect on students' self esteem, particularly those who are not in a "higher" group. She also remembers that she "loved any workbook work throughout the years. I felt like a real 'student' when I was doing workbooks" (R, 11/16). The conflict becomes more apparent to her as she writes:
Everything I described goes very much against the whole language concept currently held by many. Because of my parents encouragement and help in the reading area I was able to enjoy and do well in non-wholistic language learning; however, I can clearly see that someone without my home background or relative ease with reading would do much better in a whole language program than the reading programs of the past.
Kay has sought to resolve the contradiction by searching for an explanation that will account for the fact that an approach that was good for her is so counter to what she is learning about in methods courses at the College and what she sees happening in her student teaching classroom. While the contradiction may never be fully resolved, Kay is aware of it. She has begun to critique and reconstruct her personal knowledge and is developing a groundwork for questions about what knowledge is of most worth and for whom. In order to develop, sustain, and deepen this self-critique, most students need support. Given the paucity of supervisory comment in her dialogue journal, it is difficult to say whether or not her supervisor played a critical role in this process. Even so, writing the journal entries seem to prompt Karen to reflect. Her Cooperating Teacher provides a model of reflective practice and Kay is being challenged by Core sessions and assignments. Her faculty reader, who follows all of her work for the Core, provides extensive feedback and raises critical questions, judging by comments made on her papers. She is also challenged by a small support group of student teaching peers, led by a faculty member, which meets weekly to reflect on professional issues related to their immediate experiences.
Whether or not Kay resolves contradictions is not as important as the fact that she notices them. She may, in fact, come to realize that throughout her career she will have divided opinion about ways of teaching and learning. She may also realize that some impulses that are prompted by past experience, are ones that she will choose not to act upon because they are not congruent with what she now believes.
Separation of Theoretical and Practical Knowledge
As Dewey (1904) postulated, programs that promote teachers who are experimental about their work and inclined to be students of teaching are likely to leave their graduates at an initial disadvantage. Graduates will have fewer "good things to do" in the short run and may seem less successful than other beginning teachers. But the ability to study a situation and invent appropriate activities that are grounded in an understanding of children, subject matter, and pedagogy will lead to a stronger teacher over time. When teacher educators emphasize the kind of experimental attitude which integrates theoretical and practical knowledge, they often meet with resistance, however. As Dewey pointed out, students very much want to know a set of "how tos" (1904). Compounding the difficulty, is the fact that most schools expect student teachers to come with a repertoire of good things to do rather than with a repertoire of good questions.
Earlier, we saw how Kay reflects on the relation between theory and practice now that she is an experienced teacher. Arriving at her present understanding required that she struggle with her own preference for "how tos" and her theoretical inclinations, or embryonic theories of teaching and learning. Britzman (1983) identified the tendency in her student teachers to prefer practical knowledge, describing it as the cultural myth that teachers are self made. Closely akin to this idea, perhaps inherent to it, is the notion that teaching is something one does, not something one thinks about (Bolin, 1987). Reflection, when it occurs, is likely to be on actions and whether or not they "work" without any theoretical understanding. What works is usually related to what produces greater control and learning results. Such utilitarian thinking, or emphasizes on the practical, rather than the intricate dynamics related to why particular actions or activities work and whether or not they are appropriate.
Kay notes after her first day, "I dealt with the students by instinct and they responded positively right away" (J, 9/11). During her second week of student teaching, she writes of an activity that she has led: "I completely imitated how I've watched Janet do it in the past few days. I think a great deal of this year will be at least partial imitation. But I'll learn to conform her ways to fit me" (J, 9/20).
At the same time, she is working on an assignment for the Core that is designed to promote careful integration of theory and practice, a semester long child study using a variety of ethnographic techniques. She notes in her journal:
I enjoyed doing the child study because you miss so much about a student when you have to watch 27 of them. From mine I discovered that Mike was not doing the group lessons with the group. When Janet would ask the class to do something like count, Mike would just sit there. Now Janet knows he needs a little extra encouragement. The books point out how essential this observation is and I agree, but if a teacher is by herself in the classroom, how would she ever have time to do it? Even with two of us there we are both constantly involved in something (week of 9/21).
In terms of her future as a deliberative teacher, this passage suggests some important beginnings. Kay is weighing what she has read about observation, as assigned in the Core, and learning that there is value in doing the assignment. She is also questioning how realistic it is . The inclination to question the "official knowledge" of her textbooks and Core can deteriorate into a dismissal of theoretical knowledge, or it can be encouraged as a way of moving toward deliberative knowledge (Van Manen's term, 1977), which examines the social and political nature of what is taught.
Meanwhile, though Janet is a model of how one can integrate both theoretical and practical knowledge, Kay's broader field setting validates practical more than theoretical knowledge. Kay attended PDS meetings in which faculty challenged assignments such as the child study, arguing that too much valuable time in the classroom was wasted in doing "work for TC." PDS faculty constantly pushed for more time in classrooms and fewer university requirements that impinge on that time. For example, students are required to play an observer role during the first two weeks of student teaching and begin to collect data on the classroom and a child study subject. Teachers wanted them to immediately become fully immersed in the life of the classroom, primarily by taking on small groups. So, as is the case with most student teachers, Kay heard conflicting messages about what knowledge is most valuable in learning to teach. She was not immune the to tension.
Another assignment in which she is to look closely at a child who is particularly challenging to her (academically, socially, behaviorally), prompts Kay to consider the bridge between theory and practice and reflects her own struggle with what is worth doing. She observes:
By doing my challenging child study on Violet, I am consciously seeking her out more often and am finding out some great stuff. Today during writing I conferenced with her and I coaxed her into explaining her picture to me... I really feel this observation could produce very beneficial results. I'll have to make sure that we follow up on what I come up with.
Its nice to feel that one of the "pain in the ass" assignments is really worthwhile. I'm realizing that they probably are, but when I'm really pressed for time its hard to keep this perspective (J, 10/10).
Kay's interest in practical matters is reflected in another description of Janet. Janet has explained to her that she has not taught first grade before and they will be learning a great deal together. "I do not see this as a disadvantage. If anything, it will give me a chance to see how a teacher discovers what works and what does not" (R, 9/11). In her experience with the after school program in Ithaca, she had felt herself fortunate to learn a number of methods from teachers and she is eager to add to her collection.
Integrating Theoretical and Practical Knowledge
Given a Cooperating Teacher focused on practical knowledge, Kay might become less inclined to reflect on anything other than the technical aspects of teaching and learning. However, while Janet is interested in "what works," she approaches activities with an experimental attitude, thinking about why they are or are not effective and toward what ends. Perhaps more important is the fact that Janet supports Program requirements by encouraging her in self reflection. For example, five weeks into the semester, Kay tries a lesson that includes a challenge of sex role stereotyping. The children grasped the concept sooner than she had imagined they would and she finds herself out of material. Things fall apart. Janet encourages her to think about what went well and when the change in children's behavior occurred, "I admit I was convinced my lesson was a flop until Janet explained this to me. I think I can look and see what went wrong with my lessons but almost as important is seeing what went right or if something didn't work what worked better" (J, 10/12). In this instance, her supervisor also affirms an experimental attitude, in comments in the dialogue journal, noting that it is as important to understand what went well much as what did not, "And as we have discussed, thinking about why things work and don't provides much more depth to understanding the teaching learning process" (J, Supervisor's comment, 10/12).
Six years later, in reflecting on the role that Janet played in her development as a teacher, Kay recalled, "Janet definitely was going through stuff, you know, listening to people and trying to apply [their theories] in her classroom. I think she was always speaking about theories she'd heard ...Janet would definitely sit there and think through... She wrestled with issues, was always "testing" things" (I, 5/30/96). Kay remembered that as a student teacher, she saw this as nothing short of amazing.
At the time, Kay wrote in her second reflection paper for Core (R, 9/21):
The ideas that I am hearing from Janet, the other teachers at [the school] and at Teachers College all sound amazing. A lot of these ideas are different from some of the past; however, some parts of first grade will never change. The children are getting their first taste of the importance of school, and it is a very emotional time for them. There is so much to learn during this year, as well as so much to teach. It is a challenging year for everyone involved.
By the end of her first semester, Kay has had numerous opportunities to surface, critique, and revise internal images about the relationship between theory and practice. By mid semester, she has become much more experimental in her work, accepting the need for careful planning, but learning to act spontaneously. A learning episode is becoming an occasion for observing and learning about children (10/19); she incorporates what she has discovered into her plans for the next day. Learning to think on her feet, become a careful observer of children, reflect on the experience, and utilize what she learns to plan for the future are ways in which the practical and more theoretical may be integrated if there is sufficient emphasis on why activities are appropriate as well as that they worked. Janet strengthens this connection. By the seventh week the two are able to collaboratively make decisions in the act of teaching, as well as reflect and plan together before or after the fact. Janet helps her to see how the activities they are doing are part of an integrated curriculum. Kay finds that this is fun for children and for herself as a teacher, which draws on a prior image that she has of what education ought to be (J, 10/25). The tensions between prior images, and growing understanding of teaching as theory in action, continue to be apparent, however, as we examine how she deals with the issue of social control that is delineated in the literature.
Focus on Social Control of Classrooms and Children
One of the most discouraging findings in the literature on teaching is the eroding effect of school culture on fledgling teachers who enter with the hope of doing good and soon become skilled in what Haberman terms the "pedagogy of poverty" (1991), a pedagogy that focuses on authoritarian control. The thought of being alone in the classroom and in charge is so overwhelming to most student teachers that it colors almost everything they do. Until they feel confident that they can control student behavior, they are preoccupied by issues of discipline. Kay is no exception. Her journal is peppered with references to the enormity of the task, both in dealing with individual children and a whole class.
Controlling the whole class is an issue from the beginning. Here we see how her ideas about control and inclinations to respond in particular ways are driven by the teacher shoulds described earlier. In an episode during her first week she uses terms such as "felt at a loss," "completely frustrated," and "miserable" to describe how she felt when children refused to obey a request to walk quietly to the cafeteria. Implicit to the reaction is the belief that teachers should be in command and control. Janet helps her to examine the episode, "But I really have a gut feeling that I should have been able to do it. Part of me is saying, 'If I can't bring 10 kids up one flight quietly, how am I going to handle a classroom of 28 or so by myself?' Agh!!!" (J, 9/9).
She discusses the difficulty in getting children quiet and the fact that she feels uncomfortable using games and exercises which make her feel "stupid" in order to settle them down. (J, 9/27), and how "disheartened" she feels when lessons do not go smoothly (J, 9/28). "My biggest problems are in classroom management. I do not know how to motivate the utterly unmotivated children. I know these two aspects are the hardest areas of teaching, but I WANT TO KNOW HOW TO DO IT!!" (J, 9/28).
She also worries about controlling individuals and small groups. For example, during her third week in the classroom she attempts to teach a reading group and two of the children keep wandering off.
I found myself getting very frustrated and actually yelling at Christy to get back to the table. Janet told me after a short while to just let her wander. Is this right? Part of me feels that she will always think she can get away with not doing what she doesn't want to do. I'm finding it very hard to persuade a child to do lessons and this worries me (J, 9/26).
The following day she finds the group easier to work with, despite the fact that some of them said the lesson was "boring." In comparing the two days, Kay notes that this group "seemed to want to read rather . . . than be elsewhere." She concludes, "I find for myself that if a child is trying and willing to put in the effort I have a great deal of patience, but if they don't want to try I don't know how to deal and I get very frustrated" (J, 9/27).
By the end of her fifth week, Kay has begun to realize that everything does not depend on the teacher, that there are many factors that influence what can and will occur. She seems to understand that developing skill in classroom management and teaching takes time. One cannot force children to learn. Children can contribute to their own learning, and observing them is beneficial. While it is important to plan, even the best of plans can go awry, but, one can learn from a flop as well as from a success. Her embryonic theory of teaching and learning is now more evident and she shows more evidence of applying ethical and moral criteria as she questions classroom events. However, it is important to note that although Kay has begun to collect material for reconstruction of prior preconceptions and implicit theories, she has not necessarily internalized the new way of thinking.
During her sixth week of teaching, what had gone "wonderfully yesterday" did not work. The children wanted to question when she wanted to cover material, "I really would have liked to get into a discussion of their questions, but there just wasn't time" (10/18). She moves on, but the children balk:
The whole class joined in and told me it was boring. I don't really remember what I said, something like, "Well, lets get through this and maybe the next thing we do you will enjoy," (or something to that effect). What do you do at this point? I really felt that it was not the entire class's feeling, they were just sort of joining in. If they really were bored with it then yes, maybe I should have found a way to handle the lesson in a different way, but also the students unfortunately do have to do some things they don't want to and if I don't do something when they say its boring they will begin to declare things boring before they give them a chance (J, 10/18).
The expediency of coverage and control impinge on Kay's belief that learning should be fun. She continues to reflect on the experience, considering the possible consequences of giving in to their demand to quit because the lesson bored them, concluding that most of the children probably just went along with a few. The root of the problem, she assumes is "I could not keep the entire class quiet or listening or giving answers. I stopped in the middle, which was good, and explained that some people want to hear so please let them. This worked for a little while but the ruckus started again" (J, 10/18).
She summarizes what has become a lengthy journal entry with the hope that though the children may not have been happy at the moment, "this immediate feeling will pass and they'll enjoy the big book" which they are preparing (J, 10/18). This statement seems to reconcile her need for children to have fun with the more immediate need for social control.
The tension between fun and control persists and her reflection on it leads Kay to a new definition of control. Kay takes over the class when Janet is not feeling well. She writes, "I think on the whole I kept control of the classroom" (J, 10/23). She describes "favorite" moments which came during an activity in which she used a variety of manipulative and craft materials, "They all exclaimed about what fun they were having and how they wanted to do more stuff like this . . . I liked the mixing of arts and crafts and intellectual skills" (J, 10/23). Later, in reflecting on the week, Kay writes, "Through fun activities such as pumpkin carving, illustrating a poem and other things necessary concepts can be examined and understood. I am very much enjoying the challenge and creativity of integrated curricula and I think they are a wonderful way to run a classroom" (J, 10/26). Now Kay appears to be actually reconstructing her image of classroom control from one where the teacher is an authoritarian who keeps control to an image that ties control to curriculum planning and child development. This process seems to be strengthened when she observes children on a field trip and notices how much more relaxed she is in this context (J, 11/1) and how much she learns from seeing them in a different context (J, 11/2).
Previously, in her autobiography, Kay noted how her own experience in an affluent suburban neighborhood contrasted to the experience of students in the after school program in which she volunteered, "they introduced me to the part of Ithaca I had never really seen. This was the part that was inhabited by the ‘townies’ rather than the students of Cornell or Ithaca College. My mind became a great more opened this summer, I hope it can remain this way as I continue into the future" (A, p. 3). As she nears the end of her first semester of student teaching, Kay begins to think more about the broader issues that were so compelling to her in Ithaca. Janet includes her in a conference with parents of her child study subject, Violet. "This episode just pushed in my face again how much the family life effects a child and how important it is to ask questions about it. It certainly can lead to better understanding of the student and hopefully will help you deal with her better" (J, 10/30). After a parent night, she is reminded that "parents may teach their children differently than we do. Ideally a cooperation between teacher and parent should be set" (J, 11/2).
Kay's comments on these experiences are each examples of an opening for her to reflect on the ethical, political, and social implications of her work. While she seems to give little conscious attention to deliberative knowledge, she often analyzes events and assesses consequences with reference to moral and ethical criteria. For example, this is most evident as she begins to consider consequences of classroom decisions in terms of their immediate and long term benefit to children. When children are grouped by skill level for reading, a practice she has begun to question, she comments that sometimes it is needed "in order to keep interest and growth" (J, 9/25). When a lesson went "smoothly," but without everyone participating, Kay reflected, "I did not try to get everybody to understand. I was happy when most did. Looking back I see that this is the easy way out. I know I was nervous and wanted it to work. So, I think for today this was okay, but for the future I will make more attempts to draw out the quiet students" (J, 9/26). Here the moral criteria seems to be inclusiveness. She forgives herself for not involving everyone, but will intentionally plan for participation. In another instance, what appears to be a rather technical focus is summarized by a comment in which she states that the activity will further show children that they know and can do a great deal (J, 10/19).
Equity, fairness, and justice are clear themes that begin to appear in journal entries around the borders of her more compelling practical concerns. Early in the semester Kay has a strong reaction to an off hand jest that Janet makes about giving up on a child.
At one point after class I asked Janet what to do about Christy who says no to everything and is constantly causing trouble. She said in jest, "Oh, I've given up on her." But to me she's the one who least needs someone to give up on her. I know Janet is not totally giving up because I see her deal with her. I really don't want to be the type of teacher that gives up on kids, although I see how hard it is not to when you have 27 other students to think of. Idealistically I'm saying I'll never give up, but I hope realistically I follow this. (J, 9/19).
Kay comments on this episode in her reflection the following day, too, noting that Janet had spoken to a staff consultant about Christy and they were working out ways of dealing with her, "I'm really glad about this. She needs the extra attention and its good to see Janet's not giving up on her as she quipped yesterday" (J, 9/20). Kay believes that Janet would not really give up on a child, but the incident evokes a strong reaction and a fear that it might happen. She also shows a growing awareness of the social realities of the classroom in her comment that ideally, she will never give up. Perhaps she is beginning to see how schooling can have a crushing effect on high ideals.
Learning from Kay
Focusing on the preparation experience of one student will not answer the question of how to prepare student teachers in ways that are powerful enough to overcome the many barriers to their development that are identified in the literature. The insight it offers into how barriers were confronted in the experience of one student are an invitation to further discussion and inquiry that will contribute to a much broader picture of teacher preparation than is currently available. The study has not yet yielded any startling new insights or conclusions to inform teacher educators and policy makers, nor is it likely to do so. Its value will be in confirming and deepening our understanding of processes that are guided by teacher educator lore, experience, and a growing body of research.
Like most student teachers, Kay was concerned about herself, children, and activities and events of the classroom. Her writings show that she was most often concerned with actions, or who did what with or to whom, though she dealt with feelings, values, and beliefs, particularly toward the end of her first semester. Her reflective style was primarily analytical. If Kay's degree of reflectivity were to be evaluated using the framework based on VanManen's levels of reflectivity in curriculum, as they have been applied in studying the Wisconsin program (see Zeichner & Liston, 1987), we might conclude that she was largely technically oriented. Yet, one can find instances in which she seems to make choices on the basis of strong value commitments, and seems to be orienting herself for practical action. Despite the fact that she was eager to teach in urban schools and had the desire to help children, there are few instances that come close to Van Manen's highest level of reflective activity, which would have her questioning the worth of knowledge and the nature of social conditions that support one in raising such questions.
Kay's work suggests that student teachers may be sufficiently focused on themselves and their relationship to Cooperating Teachers, students, and the curriculum to preclude serious and penetrating, deliberative rationality, even though they may be motivated by social concerns. This is confirming of Kagan's conclusion, following her review of literature on preservice and beginning teachers (1992). Kagan notes that "The initial focus on self appears to be a necessary and crucial element in the first stage of teacher development. If this is true, then attempts by supervisors to shorten or abort a student teacher's period of inward focus may be counterproductive" (p. 155).
Confronting Personal Knowledge
Kay’s first semester experience confirms the significance of surfacing, critiquing and beginning the process of reconstructing prior images of teaching. It is this work that, in a sense, clears the way for the development of an integrated view of theory, practice and the moral dimensions of classroom/social control. Recognizing the power of personal knowledge may be the most significant work for a beginning student teacher sine all learning, including that about theory and its relation to curricular practice and classroom/social control, passes through the individual’s mental and emotional filters. We can see from Kay's experience, that there are numerous opportunities for a student teacher to confront prior images and personal knowledge, to integrate theory and practice, and to come to terms with the broader implications of classroom control. But, to the extent that Kay is typical, we cannot expect that students--even strong students--will recognize and overcome powerful negative factors without particular kinds of support. Specific activities and experiences that required her to confront personal knowledge seemed to be helpful in moving her toward its critique and reconstruction. These are unlikely to be useful as recipes for teacher educators, however. More important than any particular technique is providing a context and climate for reflection through teacher education program activities and structures. These provide student teachers with the opportunity to grow toward a greater capacity for deliberation.
To simultaneously entertain multiple concerns and perspectives seems a great deal to ask of the beginner. Teacher educators recognize that learning to teach is a complex process that is facilitated, not completed, by a preparation program. If student teachers are preoccupied with survival skills, such as classroom control, it is because they feel the need to survive! As teacher educators, we struggle to help them learn how to begin where the student is. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves of the lessons from work on teacher development and recent work on adult development. While developmental theory, whether it is applied to children or adults, is open to critique and should not serve as a set of prescriptions about how to organize our programs, developmental theory provides a useful lens from which to critique our work. At the same time, we need to keep a larger vision before ourselves and before our students. Because they are likely to be preoccupied with survival needs, we may be tempted to focus on technical aspects of teaching. A larger vision of teaching and learning will not allow us or our students to be comfortable with learning strategies and techniques without learning to critique them. Asking the penetrating question, probing for alternative ways of doing, and considering consequences are a few of the ways we can build bridges to a broader view of teaching. Two instances from Kay's journal provide examples of how developmental needs and broader vision might be kept in the kind of dialectical tension we attempt to set in motion during the first Core session. Both were discussed previously. The first is found in Kay's discussions of Christy and the second when she describes how the children declare that they are bored with her lesson.
In her discussion of Christy, we saw that Kay was disturbed about whether or not Janet would actually give up on a child, even though she recognized that Janet was jesting. Kay begins one of several reflections on Christy with a concern about classroom control. She does not know how to go about getting Christy to stay in her place and attend to a lesson. She has not yet begun to see how curricular choices have a profound effect on student behavior, nor does she yet recognize that Christy's restlessness may suggest that the planned activity is simply not reaching her. A technical response would be to provide her with an array of strategies for control--a direct response to her expressed need. In taking a broader view, her supervisor might engage her in a discussion about what could be prompting the behavior as well as strategies for dealing with Christy, thus dealing with her concern, but prompting a more critical look at surface behavior. When she describes her reaction to Janet's comment that she has "given up" on Christy, Kay already recognizes that Janet is unlikely to really give up. Her strong reactions is reflective of her own fears about how she will react to children who make her feel like giving up. Kay needs permission to express feelings about children, feelings that are negative as well as positive. Student teachers often need to be reassured that feelings are neutral, that is they are not in themselves moral or immoral; actions are not neutral. Learning how to deal with the range of emotions that children evoke is one of the challenges of learning to teach. Yet, teachers are offered little guidance in learning how to deal with the powerful feelings evoked in classroom life.9
This instance in Kay's experience also suggests how a mental scaffolding could be built for more penetrating deliberation. Since Kay expresses a powerful emotional reaction to Janet's quip, she might be asked to consider why the incident evoked such a response. Kay's autobiography suggested a strong interest in social justice. Probing questions could lead her to consideration of how children get labeled and who tends to be given up on by teachers and schools. The teacher educator's role in not to provide answers, but to begin to develop the mental scaffold for such considerations in the future that will lead to positive moral choices. And, while it was not the case with Kay, her experience reminds us that where emotional reactions are out of proportion to the circumstance, the teacher educator needs to be sensitive to limitations of their role and ready to make appropriate referrals.
While teacher education literature has begun to explore the role of prior images in teaching, little has been done with the nature of images and how they relate to the emotional life of the classroom. Britzman looked at what appears to be the substance of images and their likely affect on teachers. Her work is a reminder that memories contain content of experience and our perceptions and feelings that are related to the experience. This is an important point for teacher educators who are searching for ways to promote reflection. Student teachers who do not have recall of early memories may not be ready for intense probing of experience without appropriate psychological support. Perhaps a broader vision for teacher educators will be one that has us working with colleagues in psychology and counseling education to explore deeper dimensions of reflection, including the place of emotions in learning to teach.
The second example of how Kay might have been helped to move toward deeper reflection can be found in the incident when the children declare that they are bored with the lesson she has planned and begin to balk. By this time in the semester, Kay is thinking about what she had planned and evaluates its appropriateness. She also wonders about whether or not children were really bored and if they must always be excited about what they are learning, wrestling with what children want versus what they need. She may not be ready to analyze societal issues related to an entertainment driven culture, but she might respond to a question such as, "Where do you suppose they get that?" Again, the answer is less important than beginning to frame questions about classroom events and their broader implications.
Reorienting Personal Knowledge
In entering the classroom, student teachers are re-entering a world of familiar social realities. They are already experts on teachers, students, and schools. But their expertise has been developed from the perspective of a student. A deliberative program needs to help student teachers see the classroom from multiple perspectives: of teacher, of children, of parents--as the student teacher remembers them and as they are now. When the conditions for genuine self-understanding, emancipatory learning, and deliberative rationality are present, the student teacher can begin to take on a new orientation. Questions such as how they are experiencing the classroom, the memories it evokes, how they have experienced classrooms in the past, how the Cooperating Teacher sees the classroom, and how it is seen by the children all provide material for the student teacher's reflection.
Knowledge of how to observe and study children, classrooms, and schools is immediately applicable to the process of reorientation. Student teachers can begin, as Kay did, to see that issues of control, critical to teaching, may replicate repressive and authoritative structures, or may be means of creating structure and boundaries for students that allow them increasing control of their own behavior and to accept responsibility for actions. When this is the case, the moral attributes of respect, responsibility, and compassion are seen as essential tools for classroom community life. It is out of life together in the classroom that teachers are able to bring children into a kind of dialogue with the world around them and help them develop the tools for understanding and living in that world.
But it is in life apart from the classroom that reflections and deliberative practice are developed and sustained. Away from the immediacy and press of classroom interactions experiences are rehersed, critiqued and evaluated. While there are many forces that urge removal of teacher preparation from colleges and universities, Kay’s case suggests otherwise. Kay overcame barriers to her success as a reflective teacher that are well documented in the literature. Unlike the large majority of academically able teaching candidates and teachers, she persisted through preparation and beyond. Her school-based cooperating teacher played a key role during the first semester. But Kay’s preparation program assisted in the process in ways that seem unlikely for teacher education which is based solely in the school.
Construction of her own theory of teaching and learning out of the dialectic between personal knowledge and practical experience can be prompted and supported by university or college based experiences. But it will be in the work of theorizing itself, more than in the practicality of theory taught at the university, that the relationship between theory and practice is fused. In becoming a curriculum theorizer, Kay began to understand theories as human constructs which attempt to explain the practical actions of teaching and learning, which, in turn, are embedded in larger social views about knowledge, value, and political control. In Kay’s first semester as a student teacher we see fleeting glimpses of this work.
Teacher educators who have studied levels of reflectivity in their students often express frustration that they seem to show so little evidence of deliberative knowledge, even in programs that promote higher order reflection. As teacher educators we may know that developing higher levels of reflectivity does not happen all at once, yet our programs do not always reflect this knowledge. Kay reminds us that reflective teaching involves processes that need to be nurtured over an extended period of time. Teacher preparation is a launching. Kay also reminds us that there is still important work to do in understanding the development of teachers who are caring, thoughtful, intellectually demanding, and sensitive in their work with children.
1Following Karen Zumwalt (1982), the program emphasizes teacher deliberation, or reflection on action in classrooms.
2 Following Max Van Manen (1977), the larger study of Kay, from which this report is drawn, is concerned with "encounters, lifeworlds, and meanings" (p. 214) with the intent to provide insight into how she made sense of her experience. Kay's process of meaning making is examined in light of Program goals and literature described above. The study is guided by three questions: 1. How does Kay conceptualize the relationship between theory and practice in her teaching? 2. In what ways are the themes that guided her Preservice Program manifest in her teaching practice? 3. How do Kay and her colleagues (principal, other teachers, student teachers) view her development as a teacher? Data has been collected from three principal sources: documents (including those analyzed in the present report, student teaching and program documents of three student teachers for whom she has been a cooperating teacher, various papers Kay has produced over the past years, classroom observations of Kay over a two year period and of her former student teachers in their initial year, interviews with Preservice faculty, her supervisor, three former student teachers, her principal and Kay herself). Interview protocols were developed from the broad, guiding questions and left open ended in order to allow for emergent material. Analysis has followed standard ethnographic procedures (see Erickson, 1986) for both content and structure. This article has been reviewed by participants, including "Kay" herself. The data are being utilized in analysis for the larger study, but will be available in the Preservice Archives for examination by those interested in particulars of the research.
3Jon Snyder (1990) documented the role of conflict in creation of this particular PDS and brings together a detailed review of the literature on conflict as it relates to the subject.
4 See Bolin (1988, 1989) for discussion of how the dialogue journal is used as a tool for student reflection.
5 A more detailed description of the Program is found in Schoonmaker & Goodwin (1995), a paper prepared for visitors to the College.
6 First semester Core incudes Curriculum and Instruction in Early Childhood and Elementary School Classrooms and Models of Teaching (Democratic Group Process, Cooperative Learning and Conflict Resolution) which are taken concurrently with Student Teaching. Subject methods courses such as reading, science, and mathematics; foundations; and electives are spread out over the course of the 14+ months that students take to complete a Master of Arts degree. An additional semester of core and student teaching follow the first semester.
7 Working in groups becomes a norm as we build democratic, cooperative group process, or organizational knowledge in the Program. (Later in the year, students look at schools as organizations.)
8 Students often speak of their surprise at the strength of emotions evoked by these recollections, hence, faculty must be respectful of limits. Students are not forced to examine material with which they are not ready to deal.
9 Arthur Jersild's (1955) classic study, When Teachers Face Themselves, is a notable exception.
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