Shared Planning Time: A Novel Context for Studying Teachers’ Discourse and Beliefs About Learning and Instruction
by Michele Gregoire Gill & Bobby Hoffman - 2009
Background/Context: Although teachers’ core instructional beliefs are difficult to accurately measure, they provide a framework for understanding the thinking that underlies important curricular and pedagogical decisions made in the classroom. Previous research has primarily used self-report to study teacher beliefs, but self-report is better for reporting explicit cognitions rather than implicit ones, such as beliefs.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of our study was to investigate teacher talk during shared planning time to provide insight into the rationales behind teachers’ decision making that may be related to their underlying beliefs about subject matter, teaching, learning, and their students.
Setting: Xavier Middle School is located in a suburban area of a midsized progressive city in Florida and has a teacher-student ratio of about 1:19. It serves sixth- through eighth graders, and 28% of the student population are minority students.
Population/Participants/Subjects: A team of 4 eighth-grade mathematics teachers at a suburban middle school in the southern part of the United States agreed to participate in this study.
Research Design: A qualitative case study of eighth-grade mathematics teachers’ discourse was conducted during their weekly shared planning time during the course of one semester.
Data Collection and Analysis: A tape recorder and field notes were used to record the team’s lesson planning discourse. After reviewing the written field notes, scenes of rich dialogue from the audiotapes were selected to be transcribed. Data from the transcripts were coded and assigned to relevant domains based on semantic relationships.
Findings/Results: We compiled all the domains related to teachers’ rationales or teachers’ thinking about learning and instruction and organized the data in a taxonomy supported by relevant examples from the transcripts. We found that these rationales and cognitions mapped onto six categories consisting of beliefs about pedagogical content, general pedagogy, subject matter, curricular choices, resources/textbooks, and students’ thinking. A consistent theme was found that reflected underlying beliefs in a traditional transmission model of instruction and learning.
Conclusions/Recommendations: This study supported our hypothesis that teachers’ collaborative planning time discourse provides a unique lens for understanding teachers’ beliefs. Furthermore, teachers’ planning time provided a forum for teachers to display the rationales underlying their decision making, rationales that are usually hidden from view, especially from the view of a researcher. Teachers’ normally hidden planning process was thus rendered visible, and hence open to investigation.
Teachers decision making has been a subject of intense scrutiny for years (Shavelson & Stern, 1981). The study of teachers decision making has been restricted primarily to self-reports because of two assumptions about teachers cognition, according to Feldon (2007): (1) Teachers intended actions are rational in relation to their consciously available representations of teaching situations (p. 124), and (2) Teachers are not robots; they make conscious decisions, and it is necessary to account for how such decisions are made. However, with the recent influx of dual-process theories of teachers cognition (Feldon; Gregoire, 2003) that postulate a more rational, rule-based path of cognitive processing that coexists with a more heuristic, automatic, schema-based path, there is a growing awareness that much of teachers decision making is automatic.
This tacit decision making is thought to be driven by implicit beliefs about learning, instruction, students, and subject matter, beliefs accrued during years of K12 teaching and learning experience (Nuthall, 2005). Dual-process models likewise help explain recent evidence that teachers stated beliefs often conflict with their actual practice. For instance, the cross-cultural Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS; Hiebert & Stigler, 2000) revealed that most mathematics teachers in the United States believed that they were teaching in a reform-oriented, constructivist manner, but in fact, their teaching was based on a traditional transmission model of instruction in which knowledge is delivered or transmitted to students rather than constructed by them (Kinchin, 2002). The problem, however, is that teachers implicit beliefs are not easily accessible (Kagan, 1992). According to dual-process models, implicit beliefs are equated with automatic decision rules that promote goal-directed actions (Bargh & Ferguson, 2000). Further, constraints exist in the research context that make reporting beliefs, even the conscious ones, problematic if such beliefs conflict with the way one is supposed to think about teaching. The purpose of our study was to investigate teacher talk during shared planning time to provide insight into the rationales behind teachers decision making that may be related to their implicit beliefs about the subject matter, teaching, learning, and their students.
The importance of teacher beliefs
Although teachers underlying instructional beliefs are difficult to accurately measure, they provide a framework for understanding the thinking that underlies important curricular and pedagogical decisions made in the classroom. In this article, we define beliefs, in line with Richardson (1996), as psychologically held understandings, premises, or propositions about the world that are felt to be true (p. 103). According to Kagans (1992) widely cited review of research on teachers beliefs, most of a teachers professional knowledge can be regarded more accurately as belief primarily because teaching, by its nature, is characterized by an almost total absence of truths, unimpeachably correct answers to the most important issues (p. 73) such as how and why students learn. Because beliefs and practices are inextricably linked, it is important to be able to assess such beliefs.
Unlike factual knowledge, however, beliefs are more difficult to capture. The traditional means for studying beliefs have been self-report instruments, such as surveys and questionnaires (Richardson, 1996), yet self-reports of beliefs are problematic because they may reflect self-presentation bias or an inaccurate, superficially held belief rather than a core ontology of the subject matter (Kagan, 1990). Moreover, these traditional means of measuring beliefs yield decontextualized beliefs that often do not relate to teachers actual practice (Kane, Sandretto, & Heath, 2002; Speer, 2005).
Beliefs shape teachers epistemological perspectives and strongly influence learning, teaching practices, and classroom management (Borko & Putnam, 1996; Calderhead, 1996; Gill, Ashton, & Algina, 2004; Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2004). Beliefs influence our choices, efforts, and performance; subsequently, the beliefs that we hold affect our behavior (Bruning, Schraw, Norby, & Ronning, 2004; Kagan, 1992). However, the relationship between the formation, actualization, and representation of beliefs is unclear (Wilcox-Herzog, 2001).
Teacher beliefs represent views of the world, the self, and the tangible context of classroom experience (Hoy, Davis, & Pape, 2006; Pajares, 1992). Beliefs incorporate values and opinions, including those related to personal identity, pedagogical methods, subject content, students, classroom, and both personal and collective efficacy (Hoy et al.). Beliefs differ from knowledge in that they require less validation and are held with a greater degree of subjectivity (Nespor, 1987). Note that beliefs are often poorly articulated and are implicitly held (Bruning et al., 2004). A large variety of teachers beliefs have been identified as relevant to learning and instruction, including beliefs about human development, diversity, assessment, classroom contexts, and beliefs about the self (such as self-efficacy and identity; Hoy et al.).
Teacher beliefs are instrumental in pedagogical decisions. Nespor (1987) suggested that teachers beliefs function to define tasks when the goals and purposes of such tasks are unclear and to facilitate memory and attention to allow teachers to operate in ill-structured domains. Many teaching situations are the epitome of ill-structured situations because of the problems involved in teaching a classroom of students of widely varying intellectual, social, and affective differences.
Beliefs can be domain specific. For example, research on teachers beliefs, instructional decisions, and student outcomes provides some evidence that teachers beliefs about mathematics and its teaching and learning affect how reforms are implemented (Ambrose, 2004; Ross, McDougall, & Hogaboam-Gray, 2002; Sowder, Philipp, Armstrong, & Schappelle, 1998; Staub & Stern, 2002; Sztajn, 2003). Furthermore, Swan (2000) found that teacher beliefs not only influenced teachers responses to a reform intervention but also influenced students learning outcomes in mathematics; however, other studies have shown no relation between teacher beliefs and student achievement (Wilcox-Herzog, 2001). Wilcox-Herzog suggested that lack of relationship may be due to the difficulty of measuring beliefs accurately. In sum, research on teachers beliefs reveals that beliefs are entwined with many of the critical decisions that teachers make in the classroom.
How are teacher beliefs measured?
Self-report is the dominant method used to measure teacher beliefs (Speer, 2005). Typically, researchers encourage teachers to volunteer specific opinions through survey questionnaires or interviews. Self-report has been used to measure beliefs as varied as classroom management (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006), school reform (Ross et al., 2002), self-efficacy (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001), views of intelligence (Alvidrez & Weinstein, 1999; Butler, 2000), and teaching across domains and contexts (Fenstermacher, 1994).
Measures of self-report have questionable construct validity (Hoy et al., 2006; see also Nisbett & Wilson, 1977) because of bias (Baron, 1985; Fowler, 1995), the interdependency of variables (Dole & Sinatra, 1998), and the uncertain representation by teachers concerning the distinction between knowledge and beliefs (Southerland, Sinatra, & Matthews, 2001). Further, self-report is an adaptive process grounded in reflective cognition. Meaning is actively constructed and can shift dramatically based on the sequence, timing, and circumstances of the inquiry (Winne, Jamieson-Noel, & Muis, 2002).
Classroom observations are another way of identifying teachers beliefs. Observations may confirm self-reports, offset self-report limitations, and enhance reliability and validity of measurement (Rimm-Kaufman, Storm, Sawyer, Pianta, & LaParo, 2006). Although observation is a straightforward and concrete methodology for observing teachers behaviors, it may not be an accurate way of assessing their underlying beliefs. First, inherent in all observation is researcher intervention, which may result in a discrepancy between shared understandings (Speer, 2005, p. 362), or a lack of coordination of meaning between the participant and researcher. A researcher may inadvertently affect both a teachers initial response and influence member-checking because of the social desirability of certain beliefs in the classroom. Teachers may mistake empirical inquiry for a personal judgment by the researcher. Further, classroom observations may induce altruistic or obedient behavior (Webb, Campbell, Schwartz, & Sechrest, 1966) by causing participants to feel that they need to look good, avoid threats of self-exposure, or preserve self-image (Fowler, 1995). The issue of social desirability can lead to deliberate or unconscious alteration of responses ranging from guessing as to the implied goals of the researcher to providing results that appear acceptable.
Second, observations of teaching practice may not reflect accurate beliefs because of other mediating factors that may not be accounted for at the time of observation (Dole & Sinatra, 1998). The classroom is composed of a myriad of intervening variables, each exerting differential influence on the beliefs and manifestation of behaviors in the classroom (Boote & Gill, 2007). A particular behavior does not necessarily imply a particular belief. For example, in Speers (2005) study, Karl, a college math teacher, professed a belief in the Socratic method for teaching mathematics. In actual practice, he did not use this method. Although he did ask questions, he did not probe for student understanding and preferred to ask low-level questions such as, What does the problem ask? (p. 382).
Observational measurement interpretations can result in one of three possible scenarios. Observations may augment the espoused beliefs of teachers, observations may align with teacher beliefs, or observations may conflict with espoused teacher beliefs. Ideally, beliefs espoused by teachers are consistent with observation data; however, we know from the work of Green (1971) and others (e.g., Richardson, 1996) that contradictory beliefs can be held by the same individual because of their being held in clusters that are isolated from each other (Green, p. 48). For example, a teacher may hold the belief that all students can succeed if they try hard enough, but then when teaching algebra, she may conclude that some students are developmentally incapable of understanding key algebraic concepts. In fact, Green claimed that one of the activities of teaching is to help the learner develop more consistent beliefs.
Nevertheless, even if teachers hold inconsistent beliefs, it is still important for researchers to be able to identify those tacit beliefs and theories shaping their routine decisions that occur during the planning process. Wilcox-Herzog (2001), in a study measuring the link between teachers beliefs and behaviors, cited several reasons why the association between observation and self-report was challenging. Beliefs and behaviors are measured at different specificity levels, teachers with the perception of little perceived ability to practice beliefs are inhibited in belief expression, and the degree of belief entrenchment prescribes that only teachers with the most extreme beliefs are clearly represented by their behaviors. In other words, the stronger the belief, the greater the likelihood of its manifestation in practice (see Green).
Moreover, a disparity exists between espoused and enacted beliefs. In multiple studies, teachers, through emphatic self-report, claim to hold certain beliefs on a particular topic, yet their pedagogical practices fail to support their espoused beliefs (Cohen, 1990; Gregoire, 1999, Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). The apparent hypocrisy may be due to the implicit, differential, and inconsistent nature of espoused beliefs (Hoy et al., 2006; see also Green, 1971). The tacit nature of beliefs clearly complicates the measurement of beliefs. An individuals belief orientation may be unknowingly guided by implicit beliefs, or those that an individual is unable or unwilling to consciously acknowledge. Implicit beliefs evolve gradually over time and hold a powerful influence on cognition and behavior (Bruning et al., 2004). Pre- and in-service teachers have accumulated a wealth of implicit experiential knowledge about schooling and are often unable to recognize inconsistencies among their contradictory beliefs or between their beliefs and practices, making it difficult to measure beliefs validly or reliably.
An alternate perspective is provided by recent research on dual-process models of cognition in which experiential knowledge, such as that gained from being a student in traditional classrooms, has a more immediate influence on cognitive processing compared with explicit rules and knowledge learned deliberately (Epstein & Pacini, 1999). Knowledge acquired experientially and repeatedly becomes automatizedand may even be held in different memory systems (Smith & DeCoster, 2000), which may explain why teachers explicitly stated beliefs may be incongruent with their implicitly held ones.
Connelly and Clandinins (1990) work on collaborative narration provides a very different method for understanding teachers beliefs. The technique of narrative inquiry uses a process of reconstruction through stories to understand the relationship between beliefs, practical knowledge and practice (Fenstermacher & Richardson, 1994, p. 49). Employing a collaborative effort between researcher and practitioner, narrative inquiry uses artifact analysis, interviews, storytelling, and writing samples in a focused attempt to determine shared understanding between practitioner and research. This method potentially compounds bias, due to social desirability and dualistic and potentially conflicting interpretations, because the collaboration between researcher and practitioner does not eliminate the intersubjectivity quality of the inquiry (Connelly & Clandinin, p. 10). In other words, the shared understanding that develops may be an artifact of the relationship created between the researcher and the practitioner, rather than an accurate reflection of the practitioners existing tacit pedagogical beliefs. We note, however, that Clandinin and Connelly do not claim to be trying to definitively identify teachers true beliefs; rather, they are interested in the negotiated meanings created by teachers in response to learning situations. Nevertheless, although such a method is useful for understanding the situated nature of teachers understanding and beliefs about learning and instruction, it does not provide insight into existing beliefs held by the teacher independent of the interaction with the researcher.
Practical argument, espoused by Munby, Russell, and Martin (2001), provides yet another unique lens into teachers beliefs by focusing on teachers justification for the causes of their behavior. The process requires teachers to describe why a particular intervention is warranted and is a transitional method for connecting beliefs with actions via incorporating explanation of skills and strategies. Practical reasoning transforms tacit beliefs into deliberate objects of conscious reflection (Fenstermacher, 1994). The process of practical reasoning provides an avenue for understanding teacher beliefs, but it is still susceptible to self-report bias because warrants are still subject to conjecture and desirability concerns (Phillips & Barbules, 2000).
We believe that teachers discourse during shared planning time has the potential to provide further insight into teachers underlying beliefs about teaching and learning by focusing on the rationales for their decision making, akin to practical argument but without the need for ex post facto explanation of the cause of their decision making. In other words, shared planning time provides a naturalistic context for rationales to be stated immediately prior to the decisions being made because the teachers goals are on lesson planning, not on responses to researcher inquiry.
Further, like practical argument, shared planning time discourse avoids some of the liabilities inherent in self-reports and classroom observations. If we could observe teachers thinking out loud about their curriculum decisions as they are making themnot in retrospectwe may have a lens for understanding teachers enacted beliefs that avoids some of the common sources of pitfalls, such as self-presentation bias, because the researcher is not directly interviewing the teacher. As opposed to classroom observations, in which beliefs have to be inferred from behaviors, or self-reports, in which self-presentation bias and lack of awareness of personal beliefs are common concerns, teachers discourse during a shared planning period affords the opportunity of recording teachers rationales for their curricular and pedagogical decisions. Those rationales should be more intimately related to their beliefs than their interview responses or general teaching behaviors would be. As Kagan (1992) noted, research on teacher planning reveals teachers goals and actions that are intimately tied to their educational beliefs.
Additionally, teachers interpretations of specific classroom experiences (i.e., their rationales) reflect their underlying beliefs (Pajares, 1992). However, as Pajares cautioned, beliefs must be inferred from what people say, intend, and do (p. 314). Accordingly, a significant proportion of research on teacher beliefs equates beliefs with rationales (Anderson & Holt-Reynolds, 1995; Cassidy & Lawrence, 2000; Gove, 1983; Gray, 2001; Holt-Reynolds, 1995, 1999; Larson & Silverman, 2005; Weber & Gillespie, 2001). We are suggesting that the inferences made from rationalesobtained naturalistically via planning time discoursemay be more intimately related to teachers implicit educational beliefs than other traditional domains for inferring beliefs (e.g., classroom observation or self-reports).
As more middle schools adopt cooperative teaching practices typical of exemplary middle schools (George & Alexander, 1993), they provide an unprecedented opportunity to observe and record teachers discourse during shared planning time sessions. During shared planning time, teachers discourse about subject matter, pedagogy, curriculum, and learners may provide a rich source of information for discerning teachers underlying beliefs about these domains.
In summary, the research on teacher decision making and beliefs leads to three main conclusions: Teacher dialogue provides an introspective view of cognition and beliefs, beliefs are difficult to measure, and teacher planning may be a promising method to help understand the pedagogical decisions that teachers enact. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to examine teachers discourse during shared planning time to gain insight into their decision-making processes by focusing on the rationales they gave for the lesson planning decisions. We hypothesized that these rationales would be related to their underlying beliefs about teaching and learning.
We chose to conduct a qualitative case study of teachers shared planning time to determine whether teacher discourse revealed rationales for decision making that reflected underlying beliefs about teaching and learning. Qualitative methodology was used because of (1) its suitability in unearthing the inherent meaning in teacher dialogue, (2) the need to incorporate a wide-angle lens (Spradley, 1980) because of the uncertainty concerning potential outcomes, and (3) the socially constructed nature of teacher planning. Observations were conducted by the first author (Gill) over the course of a semester at Xavier Middle School (XMS).1
The team of 4 eighth-grade mathematics teachers at a suburban middle school in the southern part of the United States agreed to participate in this study. Ms. Bryans (Ms. B) was the unofficial leader of the group because of her age and experience. She eventually became the chair of the mathematics department for XMS. Ms. B took charge of meetings, directed the lesson planning for the entire team, and generously shared resources and activities with the team members. Further, she was known in the community as being a problem-solving-oriented instructor. Gill had observed her the previous semester for a case study (Boote & Gill, 2007) that she had conducted on reform-based mathematics instruction. Ms. B has been teaching for 20 years and prides herself on being a good, reform-oriented mathematics instructor in the sense that embraces a pedagogy that includes complex problem solving, math manipulatives, and other hallmarks of constructivist-oriented instruction. This was her first year at XMS. She transferred from another middle school because its administration wanted her to teach a prescribed curriculum that she believed was opposed to her more activity-oriented curriculum. From an interview with the principal (see Gregoire, 1999), it was clear that the principal highly supported Ms. Bs teaching style, particularly her classroom management ability.
Ms. Jones (Ms. J) was younger than Ms. B, yet she was confident of her math instruction, and from time to time, she challenged Ms. Bs pedagogical suggestions. Ms. J had 13 years of mathematics teaching experience and was certified to teach mathematics, having received her BS in mathematics education. Ms. Connors (Ms. C) was an enthusiastic contributor to the group discussions. Like the other teachers, she was certified to teach middle-grade mathematics. Finally, Ms. Kintsch (Ms. K) was a new, provisionally certified teacher with a background in science and not mathematics. This was her first time teaching, and she was candid about her lack of confidence in her ability to teach math. She was also concerned that XMS might let her go if there were not enough students to justify her hiring. A biology major, Ms. K was hired as a part-time teacher, and she worked part time for a conservation group as well. The four mathematics teachers met weekly, usually on Mondays, to discuss their lessons, get feedback, and plan future lessons during their common planning time.
Xavier Middle School provided the setting and context for this study. XMS is located in a suburban area of a midsized progressive city in Florida and has a teacher-student ratio of about 1:19. It serves sixth- through eighth-graders, and 28% of the student population are minority students. Many of the policies and practices implemented by XMS are those that characterize exemplary middle schools (George & Alexander, 1993). For instance, XMS has block scheduling of four periods per day that last for 80 minutes each, with the addition of a half hour for lunch. Each grade is housed in its own building, creating a school-within-a-school atmosphere. There are no bells to signal the end or beginning of classes; students are trusted to get to class on time (although tardy policies exist for students who are consistently late to class). Furthermore, an extensive network of parent volunteers supports XMS in a variety of ways; in fact, Gill often encountered these volunteers when signing in for her observation or when calling XMS. The administrators keep in close contact with parents via the PTA, informal principal coffees on several Saturdays throughout the year, conferences, and an annual school climate survey that parents are asked to fill out. Other XMS practices that are representative of good middle schools include a teacher adviser program, exploratory programs, and teacher teams.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS
These 4 teachers were observed about once a week during their team planning time over the course of the fall semester at XMS, and a tape recorder was used to record the teams lesson planning discourse. Audiotape and field notes were used during seven of nine meetings with the team. After reviewing the written field notes, scenes of rich dialogue from the audiotapes were selected to be transcribed. These protocols (and two summaries from the initial and final meetings with the team) constituted the empirical evidence for this study. Each of the transcripts was read through by Gill, who coded and then classified the data into relevant domains (according to the guidelines set forth by Spradley, 1980) based on semantic relationships, such X is a kind of Y (strict inclusions) and X is a reason for doing Y (rationales). Because of the focus of our research questions, we paid particular attention to those domains relating to rationales, attributions, and causal explanations, compared with domains concerning objects or location information.
Data were triangulated through comparison with interviews and classroom observation of Ms. B, as well as interviews with the principal and assistant principal. In addition, two experienced teachers, blind to the study design, were asked to code one set of transcripts, focusing on any statements that they thought represented a rationale for a particular teacher behavior or belief about mathematics teaching and learning. Their coding scheme was consistent with the coding scheme devised by Gill. Both coders identified a pattern of rationales and beliefs that reflected the same underlying beliefs about learning and instruction found by Gill.
Several of the participants at first expressed concern when they thought that Gill would be present at all their planning meetings for the entire year because they enjoyed the camaraderie of their planning time sessions, particularly their freedom to talk candidly about the administration, their students, and other issues of personal concern. She explained that the study would only last through the end of the fall semester and that they would be able to send her out of the room at any time. Further, she assured them that her focus was only on observing their lesson planning, at which point they indicated their relief and cooperation. Gill agreed to leave the team planning sessions if and when the participants asked her to, in order for the team to discuss sensitive or confidential matters concerning students or the administration. This assurance to the teachers was important to gain trust and rapport while concurrently facilitating relevant dialogue. On one occasion, the team availed themselves of this right, and they asked Gill not to attend a meeting because of administrative tasks that they had to accomplish that day.
The initial coding yielded 57 domains for further analysis, using Spradleys (1980) guidelines for domain construction. Some of the more relevant examples of these domains included rationales for including (or not including) an activity in a lesson, ways to avoid responding to questions, characteristics of textbooks, attributions of lesson plans, means of organizing groups, methods to evaluate students, and types of math problems. We then looked for patterns in the domains that included rationales for decisions made or not made, based on our hypothesis that these rationales are related to teachers underlying beliefs about teaching and learning. The domain Rationales given for including or not including particular activities in the teams lesson plans illustrates this type of domain. In addition, other relevant domains were found that seemed to reflect underlying educational beliefs that were related to teachers thinking and decision making. Some examples of these domains are Teachers thinking about students behaviors and Teachers thinking about students correct and incorrect reasoning. We compiled all the domains that had to do with teachers rationales or teachers thinking about learning and instruction and organized them into a taxonomy (Spradley) supported by relevant examples from the transcripts.
Next, we created six categories of teacher beliefs considered important to learning and instruction based on our review of the literature, and we assessed whether any of the domains we created were reflective of one of these six areas of teacher beliefs. These six categories of beliefs consisted of beliefs about pedagogical content, general pedagogy, subject matter, curricular choices, resources/textbooks, and students thinking. In the following section, we will discuss each of these beliefs separately, along with illustrations of the teams discourse that reflects each of these beliefs, where applicable. We conclude this section by discussing other issues highlighted by this study.
PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT BELIEFS
Pedagogical content knowledge refers to knowledge about how to teach a particular subject area (Shulman, 1986). Beliefs about pedagogical content refer to normative or affective views about how to teach a particular subject matter. Teachers rationales about mathematics pedagogy represented the greater proportion of beliefs evidenced in the transcripts of their discourse during shared planning time. For example, during one session, Ms. B was helping Ms. K, the novice teacher, with her Math 8 lesson plans. Ms. B suggested that Ms. K use a game called Build It because she thought it was a good problem-solving activity. But then Ms. B warned her, [the next weeks lesson] is where I start to run into trouble because it is about problem solving using multiplication and division. Ms. B added, Now if I was gonna teach this normally, I would make up a worksheet on multiplication. And then I would make up a worksheet on division. Because they have to review the rules. This statement seems to reflect an underlying belief that even though problem solving is important, you have to teach the rules first for Math 8 students.
An observer of Ms. Ks classroom, noticing her using a worksheet on multiplication and division, would not realize that this suggestion had come from a more experienced teacher. Thus, planning time provided additional insight into the beliefs behind the decision to include worksheets in that lesson and into issues concerning mentoring. We will return to this at the end of this section.
Several weeks later, Ms. B was again working one on one with Ms. K to tell her what homework she should be assigning her students. Ms. K asked if her students could skip some of the harder problems.
Ms. B: No, I dont think they should skip it. They need to know how to substitute numbers into equations.
Ms. K: Id go ahead and skip that.
Ms. B: No, they should still try it. . . . Theres just lots of different answers. . . . What if we do 232, cause these are stars which means theyre hard. . . . And they have to check it. OK? They have to check it. And it will be like pulling teeth. They are not gonna want to do it, and youre gonna tell them that they are gonna do it cause [pause]. As far as youre concerned, there are five steps. . . . And if you force it into them, they will do it.
This second example reveals the pedagogical content belief that a teacher is expected to use her authority to make students do things that they do not want to do. Self-reports might miss this detail in their global assessment of beliefs, and classroom observations would only reveal a teacher telling her students to check their work, not the underlying belief in the teacher as the enforcer of unpleasant but necessary tasks.
GENERAL PEDAGOGICAL BELIEFS
Beliefs about pedagogy refer to beliefs about how to teach in general, such as the relative value of using cooperative groups to increase class participation in a learning activity. Examples of participants rationales for their general pedagogical decisions were interspersed throughout their planning time discourse. For example, early in the school year, Ms. B told the group, I dont want to plan any more [for today], because something always happens, which seems to reflect the belief that teachers should not plan too far ahead because of unexpected events that may arise. Other pedagogical beliefs may be revealed by teachers discourse and by their practice. In the following excerpt, Ms. J was discussing her lesson on monomials with the other math teachers:
Ms. K: But is an exponent a monomial?
Ms. J: It can be part of a monomial.
Ms. C: Cause the exponent is just representing the multiplication of x times x. . . . And I went through with mine too, I said, monomial begins with which letter?
Ms. K: M.
Ms. C [chuckling]: And which operation are we allowed to use?
Ms. K & Ms. J: Multiply!
Ms. C: And still have a monomial? Very good! M! M! M! M! And the kids go, Oh!
Ms. J: An M&M!
Ms. C: Yeah! Exactly! And so Im like, OK, so all you can do in a monomial is [emphatically, hitting table with each syllable] MULTIPLY! And so hopefully, theyll remember that. Shouldve given out M&Ms though
Ms. B: Yeah, really to make it really good
Ms. C: To reinforce it.
The dialogue suggests a belief in the value of using candy as a reinforcer for learning and in using mnemonic techniques to encourage accurate memorization of content. We may have been able to infer these beliefs from classroom observation, but the particular value provided by observing teachers shared planning time is that one can more clearly see the degree to which a teacher embraces a particular belief. For instance, we would not have been able to discern whether Ms. C believed in the value of using candy as a reinforcer while observing this lesson because Ms. C did not end up using M & Ms. Even if she had, we could still attribute other motives for doing so, such as it being recommended in the textbook, and so on, but in the discourse, Ms. C clearly stated that using M & Ms would have reinforced her students memorization of the definition of monomials.
SUBJECT MATTER BELIEFS
Subject matter beliefs concern epistemological and ontological assumptions about the nature of a particular discipline, which for mathematics can be subsumed into three general categories of beliefs: instrumentalist (math as a series of algorithms to be practiced and mastered), Platonist (math as a series of formal propositions to be discovered), and constructivist (math as a process of problem solving; Ernest, 1989). In the present study, subject matter beliefs were more difficult to identify than other categories of beliefs. For example, in the following scene, Ms. J seemed to hold the instrumentalist perspective in her claim that the subject matter of math is contained in the textbook and not elsewhere:
Ms. J: Now when were we going to start the multiplication tables? We have to start that on Monday?
Ms. B [there is mumbling between them]: Yeah . . . yeah, thats a good idea.
Ms. J: Tell her were not starting in the book, you know, were not really starting into the subject matter at all.
Another example of instrumentalist beliefs may be found in the already discussed scene in which Ms. B said that if she was going to teach problem solving using multiplication and division, she would make up a worksheet on multiplication. She continued, and then I would make up a worksheet on division. Because they have to review the rules. Here, Ms. B seemed to embrace the instrumentalist belief that math is a collection of procedures and rules that have to be explicitly taught. However, because subject matter beliefs are often implicit and function as framework theories (cf., Wellman & Gelman, 1992), they are difficult to ascertain even during shared planning time discourse.
BELIEFS ABOUT CURRICULUM
Teachers beliefs about pedagogy and their students orientation to learning often underlie their curricular decisions. In this category, we will present several examples of discourse that revealed the teachers rationales for including or not including particular activities in their lesson plans. A large concern for this group of teachers was that their students like math, or at least math class. Therefore, the rationale that something was cool or fun was often enough justification for it being incorporated into their lesson plans. There were repeated examples of this belief throughout the transcripts of teachers planning time:
Ms. C: Where are these words from?
Ms. B: Its the name of the game. Bagels, Pico, and Fermi.
Ms. C: OK [laughing as if the names are silly]
Ms. B: So, and you play just like Mastermind, you try to get the number.
Ms. C: Mm hmm.
Ms. B: Now, that would be a cool thing to end the problem-solving unit. I think. So that would be a good thing to do on Friday for algebra and anybody else really [emphasis added].
Or later in the semester:
Ms. B [reading from the text]: The Language of Algebra. Oh boy. This looks really boring.
K: Im pretty excited about our review activity [a game they play].
M: Yeah, that should be fun [emphasis added].
Later during that same planning session:
Ms. B: The puzzles are fun and that might take the whole period to go over it [emphasis added].
K: The puzzles on Friday?
M: Yeah. . .
However, for these XMS teachers, the opposite reason for not including an activity in a lessonthat it was boring or not funwas not a sufficient rationale for not including it in the lesson plan, as the example about the Language of Algebra reveals. On the other hand, one reason for not including an activity in a lesson was that it was too hard:
Ms. C: Now, we dont have any activity for this day. And the, the variables and expression activity we did for Algebra was good but it was too hard. (Looking at the textbook.) And these are much simpler.
These examples suggest that this team held the belief that curriculum should be fun, if at all possible, and not too hard or challenging.
BELIEFS ABOUT TEXTBOOKS
Curricular beliefs are also tied to beliefs about curriculum resources, particularly textbooks. In this group of eighth-grade teachers discourse, there were many examples of their discontent with the textbook (one of the newer, more constructivist-oriented ones on the market), and their underlying beliefs about what makes a textbook good. The belief that objectives in textbooks should be specific is suggested by Ms. J in the following scenario.
Ms. B [reading from text]: Objective, to understand and use place value.
Ms. J [disapprovingly]: Thats not very specific.
In addition, these teachers believed that some of the textbook problems were needlessly confusing:
Ms. B [asking her colleagues about the textbook]: Whats the next section? The next section is, like, rounding, and its the worst rounding. If I recall correctly, its not round a number to a place, its What number when you round it to the next place will be 80? [She flips through the textbook and reads the directions word for word.] Name the place to which each number appears to be rounded. [J chuckles.] An exact number has been rounded to the given number. Name the nearest whole number, the greatest whole number, and the least whole number that the exact number could be. OK, its really, really ridiculous.
Ms. J: So lets skip that. We can do rounding
Ms. B: Yeah, but we have to do it.
Indeed, textbooks cause further confusion by not sticking to conventional use of formulas and their letter abbreviations:
Ms. J: Did you also notice that one of those, that the formula that we gave them, that the perimeter is 2 x l x w?
Ms. C: Yeah. . .
Ms. J: Why would they
Ms. C: Why would that beI know. I thought that was weird too.
Ms. J: Well, it actually didnt, it just said p, but they think p is perimeter. Weve done perimeter and area in this chapter, and one of the questions on the test is p = 2 x l x w.
Ms. C: Did anybody use it?
Ms. J: You mean, use the perimeter formula?
Ms. C: No, use that for their perimeter formula on the
Ms. J: No, but they
Ms. C: good
Ms. J: but some of them changed and did perimeter instead of using that formula. You know what I mean?
Ms. C: Uh huh. [laughing]
Ms. J: They added em and multiplied by 2. Cause they saw p and they thought, perimeter.
In the final section, we address beliefs about students, another important area into which teachers discourse provides insight.
BELIEFS ABOUT STUDENTS ABILITIES
Another rich area for identifying teachers beliefs concerned students thinking and reasoning abilities. There were repeated examples that suggested these teachers held the belief that students academic ability is limited and innate. In the following excerpt, Ms. B proposed the game Pico, Fermi, Bagels to be used as part of Mondays lesson plan. Ms. C tells her that she has Pre-Algebra first thing on Monday:
Ms. B: Right. Well, no, Pre-Algebra. Well, I guess you could use it. It might be too hard for Pre-Algebra.
Ms. C: Well, no, Pre-A. I think Ill be able to do throughout the. . . . I had them copy their notes today, we . . . played a game. You know, so
Ms. B: But I think it would be good for Algebra 1 and Algebra 1 Honors at least if you wanted to do that on Friday. You could set up the notebooks and play that game. [They discuss the game.]
Ms. C (reading from Family Math book): Pico is a metric. . . . Fermi was a famous. . . . Bagel is a . . . hole at the center.
Ms. B [laughing]: I think that would be cute. Finish off the unit. I dont think Math 8 can do it.
Ms. C: No, and I dont think Ill have to do it in Pre-Algebra but yall can be the guinea pigs and . . . and then I maybe can play it with them later.
Later, in the same lesson planning session, there is further evidence of the belief that some activities are just too hard for the lower level math students:
Ms. C: Right, I have the overheads . . . [in a loud, authoritative tone] And we do not copy the overheads as I made my home, my first block do today . . . . I wasnt thinking . . .[sheepishly] I made them copy all that. I feel terrible. I have to make it up to them.
Ms. B: So give em some raisins.
Ms. K: So dont make them
Ms. C: so give them some raisins [laughing]. Thats great. [To K] Make em copy whats in color. The strategies into their notes, and I think what Im going to do with my Alg. and Alg. 1 Honors is let them summarize it for themselves.
Ms. K: Now, Im not going over them with Math 8.
Ms. C: Yeah cause youre Math 8.
In this scenario, Ms. C decided that having her Pre-Algebra students copy all the notes from the overhead was too much work for them, so she tells Ms. K to have her Pre-Algebra students only copy what is in color, the strategies part. However, for the advanced classes, Ms. C suggests that they summarize the notes themselves. And Math 8, the lowest group, will not even see the notes.
Another type of belief about students concerned beliefs about students grasp of particular concepts and skills. For instance, the eighth-grade math teachers at XMS seemed to believe that students made silly mistakes without thinking, particularly regarding estimation:
Ms. C: Yes. Yes. You know, and a lot of kids do stupid stuff like um, something divided by, like 18 divided by 18 is 0 or something. Just not thinking. You know, [imitating generic student] Oh the same number [laughing]. Its zero!
Ms. J: And then I recall that they put down estimation, and then they worked out the problem . . . dont you? Thats not right, is it?
Ms. C: No.
Ms. J: They give an exact answer and they say they estimated. Now if they do, if theyre saying, youre saying that youre gonna take paper and pencil, then they can have an exact answer.
This dialogue suggests that the math team held the belief that most eighth graders do not understand the nature of estimation. There was no discussion of how to help students correct their understanding of estimation; rather, it seemed to be a given that this skill is beyond most of their students abilities.
After teachers discourse was mapped onto the belief categories, we found a consistent theme in the beliefs identified. We identified these common beliefs shared by the team as follows: (1) Problem solving is important, but you have to teach the rules first, especially for lower level students. (2)You have to force students to do things they do not like to do. (3) Extrinsic rewards are desirable ways to increase students learning. (4) Textbooks are the source of content and authority for an academic discipline, for teachers and students alike. (5) That something is fun is a sufficient rationale for including the activity into a lesson. (6) Students must be protected from work that is too hard for them. (7) Students intellectual ability is limited, stable, and innate.
As a whole, these beliefs reflect a traditional, instrumentalist model of mathematics instruction and are not likely to be ones that teachers would readily espouse in an interview or subscribe to on a self-report questionnaire because some may be perceived as undesirable, or some may not be in the forefront of their minds, which provides support for our hypothesis that shared planning time provided a fruitful context for research on teachers beliefs. Because these beliefs are tacit, it was necessary to triangulate our findings with evidence from other sources to support our claim. The data obtained from an ethnographic case study of Ms. Bs classroom conducted by Gill in the previous semester (Boote & Gill, 2007) revealed that Ms. B at least held traditional beliefs about mathematics instruction. Ms. B, although disagreeing with the label of traditional, agreed with our findings about the beliefs she expressed about teaching and learning in the previous study. In addition, the coding provided by the two experienced teachers blind to the studys design clearly indicated that the teams discourse was indicative of an instrumentalist model of instruction. For example, one of the codes that was repeated was that grades and other extrinsic factors (such as notebook checks) are more important than student understanding.
Besides beliefs, several other interesting findings emerged from the discourse analysis. The first was the role of mentoring. The dynamic between Ms. K and the rest of the team members revealed how one novice teacher became inducted into a community of practice. Notice how Ms. K is persuaded to use an electronic grade book in the following scenario:
Ms. K [speaking about the grading notebook]: Can I, can I look at your grade book after. . . . How, I dont know how to set up a grade book. I, I didnt put my attendance in. But, do you have two separate sheets for attendance and then for grades? Or do you have enough squares to put grades in? Do you have no more than one grade per day? So you have two lines and you put attendance on the top line, and grades on the bottom?
Ms. B: We do all our stuff on computer [Theres a chuckle].
Ms. K: OK, so I probably
Ms. B: and you can get the grade book program. Um, its probably on Es computer, but
Ms. K: so, the only thing for the grading is
Ms. B: the attendance. She can do the attendance on hers, but I cant do attendance on mine.
Ms. K: But you do it here at school? You keep it here at school
Ms. B: Yeah.
In addition, in a previously cited episode, Ms. B suggested that Ms. K create a worksheet to teach the Math 8 students problem solving with using multiplication and division. She emphasized that these students need to learn the rules first before they play games involving multiplication and division in problem-solving. Both of these incidents show how Ms. B in particular influenced and directed Ms. Ks lesson planning. (Ms. K generally adopted Ms. Bs suggestions.)
A second, related issue concerned powerthe question of whose voice was heard during the team decision-making process. As the previous examples demonstrate, Ms. B often seemed to be the one in charge, and, although she was a benevolent mentor, at key moments, she overrode the other team members suggestions by discounting them, ignoring them, or claiming them as her own:
Ms. C: What did we decide we wanted to do about the different angles? I, I, um. . .
Ms. B: I think I would live with one triangle, to tell you the truth. . . .[negating Js idea of dividing class in groups to work on different triangles to get a broader understanding of trigonometry ratios]
Ms. C: OK.
Ms. B: I would just follow directions.
Ms. C: OK.
Ms. B: Its just so much easier.
This example illustrates that planning time is not a panaceasocial desirability may still play a role in the expression of beliefs; however, it is important to note that it was desirability to please a fellow teacher, rather than to provide the researcher with a self-report of a belief. Furthermore, the issue of power is a complicated one in this context because Ms. B was a mentor to Ms. K but had no actual authority over her teammates. Ms. B had a high degree of efficacy in her ability to teach, and she was the one who guided most of the discourse during planning time. In addition, she took it upon herself to teach Ms. K the ropes about lesson planning, and the two of them were often found sitting next to each other as Ms. B shared her lesson plans with Ms. K.
Although issues of power and mentoring are important for understanding teaching and schooling in general, such concerns were not the primary focus of our study. We include them briefly here to give an example of the types of data available during shared planning time and to suggest directions for further research. In the next section, we discuss implications of our findings for future research on teachers beliefs.
In this study, we found that observing teachers discourse during shared planning time provided a rich source of data on teachers rationales for their decision making and thinking about learning and instruction. We claimed that teachers discourse mapped onto general categories of beliefs about learning and instruction identified as relevant in the teacher beliefs literature. Shared planning time provided insight into teachers tacit beliefs, particularly pedagogical content, general pedagogical beliefs, beliefs about curriculum and textbooks, and beliefs about students ability. This finding is in line with contemporary learning theories that hold that cognitions such as beliefs and knowledge exist in the discourse among individuals, the social relationships that bind them [and] the artifacts that they use and produce (Jonassen, 2002, p. 46). These beliefs are not definitive; by definition, we are interested in tacit beliefs, and teachers may hold contradictory, partially formed beliefs that are not a part of conscious awareness. However, we contend that the data provided by teacher discourse during team planning provide a unique lens for examining teacher talk in a way that circumvents some of the problems inherent in traditional means of studying teachers beliefs. What is unique about the present study is that the ethnographic case study (see Boote & Gill, 2007), even with its multiple interviews and weekly class observations, did not provide as rich a source of data regarding Ms. Bs beliefs as did this relatively simple and smaller scale study of Ms. Bs discourse during team planning time.
Although planning was an effective context for identifying a number of instructionally relevant beliefs, our data concerning underlying subject matter beliefs were less conclusive. Subject matter beliefs are more general worldviews of a discipline concerning what the discipline considers a worthy object of study and what is worth knowing in that domain. As such, they are particularly difficult to identify. Although self-reports of subject matter beliefs generally demonstrate strong internal consistency (Peterson, Fennema, Carpenter, & Loef, 1989), self-reports are more likely to perpetuate the dichotomy between espoused and enacted beliefs (Hiebert, 1999; Hoy et al., 2006). Other, more indirect methods, such as teaching scenariosin which teachers rate the degree to which a description of a particular lesson reflects optimal teachingmay correspond more closely to teachers enacted beliefs, but scenario ratings are generally less reliable than self-reports (Gill et al., 2004).
We may be able to infer teachers subject matter beliefs through examining the list of beliefs that were found in this study and determining which epistemology of mathematics these beliefs are more likely to represent. From this analysis, an instrumentalist belief in mathematics seems to be the dominant paradigm shared by these teachers (Ernest, 1989); however, our claim requires a greater degree of inference than is required for those beliefs discussed previously that were more straightforward to identify, particularly because they were more specific and context dependent. Another way to discern teachers subject matter beliefs may be through a combination of methods, such as teaching scenario responses and a qualitative analysis of teachers discourse during shared planning time, and using these methods, plus classroom observation, to triangulate the inferences made. Accurate identification of teachers subject matter beliefs using these or similar methods is a key area for future research.
Beliefs do not exist in a vacuum, nor do they necessarily shape curriculum decisions. Teachers in the classroom must adapt their thought process and style based on factors such as available time, collective expectations of leadership, and daily constraints inherent in the learning process. For example, Ms. B, when discussing how to teach the algorithmic aspects of multiplication and division, indicated, Now if I was gonna teach this normally, I would make up a worksheet on multiplication. This perceived conception of normality was likely predicated on classroom routine, established protocol, and curriculum guidelines. Ms. B could not teach the lesson in the way that she preferred and that her beliefs warranted. Ms. Bs deviation from normality may have been based on practical necessity, as opposed to compromising her beliefs based on fluctuating circumstances.
One reason that shared planning time might be an effective location for identifying teachers beliefs is that it is generally unstructured time and does not have the restrictions typical of the classroom environment. Teachers do not need to worry about interpretation of meaning on the part of students or whether they are following established pedagogical protocol. Teachers in an environment of free expression tend to take more academic risks, propose more ideas, and experiment with more novel methods (Goddard et al., 2004). This perspective was supported in the present study on different occasions, such as when Ms. B, acknowledged that the textbook lesson on rounding for Math 8 students was really really ridiculous. She proposed later, during the planning session, Either we have to come up with something for rounding or skip it and go back to it, demonstrating the freedom that she and the team perceived to deviate from the textbook.
Further, shared planning time may foster teacher autonomy. For example, when discussing the ability of students to understand complex material, Ms. Bs and Ms. Cs views concerning intelligence and students ability to self-regulate learning were clearly revealed in the discourse showing the appropriateness of summarizing versus copying notes from the overhead projector. There was no concern about the impact of their views on the students or on each other. The planning context promoted a nonjudgmental forum in which team members freely discussed strategic alternatives, views not usually revealed in singular discourse, structured interview process, or participant observation.
Finally, planning is an ideal context to control for the impact of social desirability and self-presentation bias. Interviews and observations have frequently been found to inhibit unbiased expression of ideology because teachers feel a need portray a positive self-image (Rimm-Kauffman et al., 2006). During the planning process, the expression of beliefs is insulated from judgment, decision making, and immediate application in the classroom context, thus freer expression is promoted. Planning is not value neutral, but perspectives of teachers indeed were reflected based on planned functional reality, not justification to support a position because it may be perceived as unpopular or inappropriate. We do caution, however, that status influences discourse during planning, because junior teachers may have been trying to please Ms. B, and their discourse may reflect compliance rather than their real beliefs about teaching and learning. However, relative to methodologies such as interviews, the planning context allows for expression of ideology and beliefs that may at least be free from self-presentation bias with regard to the researcher. In other words, because the teachers task during planning time is to plan lessons and not report their beliefs, they are not consciously trying to advocate a particular position about their beliefs; rather, they are just trying to get their work done. A perfect example of such expression was revealed when teachers indicated that they were concerned about Gills presence when and if they discussed their beliefs and feelings about school administration. They held back those feelings while the researcher was present and, on one occasion, asked her to leave the room. However, teachers were uninhibited and freely expressed their beliefs concerning pedagogical practice, content, and curriculum, and acknowledged that there was no problem with having a researcher present during this part of the lesson planning process.
Some of our expectations for this study were met; however, it is important to realize that shared planning time as a methodology is not a panacea. Teachers still knew they were being observed, thus the potential for bias still existed; however, because we did not directly ask teachers what they believed, their responses should be less influenced by our presence. Still, this issue is one that deserves further inquiry. Teachers beliefs are complex, and thus we need to examine them from multiple angles using a variety of methods in order to increase our understanding of their nature and influence. We suggest that shared planning time data be triangulated with other methods. We expected to gather information on teachers rationales for choosing certain activities over others and on their understanding of students and subject matter. However, we also expected to find more discussion about students and their struggles with the content matter. We did not obtain evidence that this group of teachers engaged in such thinking, either on a sustained or deep basis. Two unexpected issues recurred throughout the planning sessions: (1) The textbook and activities used by the team often fell short of their standards, and (2) Activities that were too challenging were modified or excluded from the lessons without questioning why they were hard. The one exception to the latter theme was when Ms. C spent the planning period trying to figure out why a particular triangle was so problematic for students to construct.
The present study raises important questions: To what extent is teaming a powerful means of correcting teachers misunderstandings (pedagogical and subject matter) about students? Similarly, how does collaboration influence teachers, particularly novice ones, to adopt a certain set of beliefs and practices, ones that may be contrary to what they learned in their teacher education programs? We also wonder whether teams can entrench certain behaviors and practices among the individual members that may not be in the students best interest. Finally, we wonder if teams might provide a more useful way of introducing educational reforms than via individual teachers because teaming (and designated time for the teams to meet) provides teachers with the opportunity to reflect on the changes required of them, particularly if the person leading the team has the respect of the group. Future research should investigate these questions, using this method in other grades and disciplines and over an entire school year.
The novel context of teacher planning time as a location for understanding teachers beliefs also raises further questions concerning the tacit nature of those beliefs. In this study, we are cautious to only report those factors that were clearly identified through narrative analysis and our coding process. Even though planning time served as a useful context for overcoming some of the liabilities of self-report, many times, teachers do not realize or do not express factors underlying their teaching decisions. Absence of a particular finding is not a guarantee of nonexistence. Beliefs can be influenced by factors such as collective efficacy (Tschannen-Moran, & Hoy, 2001) or individual school culture (Stigler & Perry, 1990). The role of the teacher within the school system, the assessment of teacher effectiveness by the community, and the organizational culture of the school influence the overall conception of what beliefs are espoused. Different levels of support from these entities can influence how teachers view their effectiveness, what they are willing or able to reveal, and their pedagogical decisions. The multiple factors influencing teacher beliefs and the overall complexity of the construct contribute to the need for analysis beyond our current effort.
This study supported our hypothesis that teachers collaborative planning time can, under auspicious conditions, be a suitable methodology to collect data on teachers beliefs. During common teacher planning time, a unique opportunity existed for us to hear, unfiltered by self-presentation bias (at least to some degree), and to see in action, how teachers beliefs were revealed in this weekly decision-making process. Furthermore, teachers planning time provided a forum for teachers to display the rationales underlying their decision making, rationales that are usually hidden from view, especially from the view of an outsider. Teachers normally hidden planning process was thus rendered visible, and hence open to investigation. Clark and Peterson (1986), in a seminal review paper on teachers thinking, noted that teachers beliefs were a necessary object of study. They also reviewed research on teachers planning time; however, neither they nor any subsequent authors, to our knowledge, have connected the two. It is our hope that this study leads to further investigation of teachers instructional beliefs to help us understand the difficulties and possibilities of improving instruction.
1. XMS and all teacher names reported in this study are pseudonyms given to protect the teachers identities.
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