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Organizational Resources in the Service of School-Wide Ambitious Teaching Practice

by Magdalene Lampert, Timothy A. Boerst & Filippo Graziani - 2011

Background/Context: “Ambitious teaching” is teaching that aims to teach all kinds of students to not only to know academic subjects, but also to be able to use what they know in working on authentic problems in academic domains. Studies of individual teachers have identified the challenges of this work. Resources are often provided at the school level with the purpose of making this kind of teaching more common. But as Cohen, Raudenbusch, and Ball (2003) point out, it is not making resources available to a school that matters in improving instruction, but getting those resources to be used in instructional interactions where teachers and students work together to get academic content learned.

Purpose/Objective: The purpose of the case study was to understand how the common use of resources across a school functions to enable those resources to make their way into the instructional stream1. First, the use of shared social, intellectual, and material resources was investigated in consistently ambitious teaching across diverse classes and teachers in the school. Using a conceptual frame from social practice theory, we then examined how resources in use shaped teachers’ common interpretations of teaching problems and common assumptions about appropriate solutions.

Research Design: Qualitative case study based on extensive observation and interviews.

Conclusions/Recommendations: As a field, we need to provide images and narratives for ambitious teaching that is scaffolded in such a way that one can be a mere mortal and yet capably meet its routine demands. In this paper we have tried to provide one such image. We can offer several strong hypotheses based on this casework; the first is that ambitious teaching is more manageable when it is undertaken collectively, when it is supported by common materials, and has an intellectual underpinning that is useful and routinely used. Ambitious teaching is made more sustainable when a multiplicity of resources are drawn upon in concert, not installed one at a time and delivered to individual practitioners. We have tried to illustrate the strong role that an organization can play in the development of widespread ambitious teaching. In this image the organization supports ambitious teaching in such a way that most teachers can see, enact, and routinely articulate, this approach.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 7, 2011, p. 1361-1400
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16072, Date Accessed: 8/3/2021 1:57:46 PM

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About the Author
  • Magdalene Lampert
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    MAGDALENE LAMPERT is the George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor in Education and Director of the Learning Teaching Practice Project in the School of Education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. She is also a senior associate of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Palo Alto, CA. Her current research and development interests focus on designing and studying tools and pedagogies for teacher preparation and induction that focus on novices learning to do ambitious mathematics teaching. Lampert is the author (with Deborah Ball) of Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching and Teaching, Multimedia and Mathematics: Investigations of Real Practice.
  • Timothy Boerst
    University of Michigan
    E-mail Author
    TIMOTHY BOERST is Associate Professor of Educational Practice, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. His work focuses on the development, accumulation, and use of professional knowledge in the service of student and teacher learning. He is coauthor (with Deborah Ball, Laurie Sleep, and Hyman Bass) of “Combining the Development of Practice and the Practice of Development in Teacher Education” (Elementary School Journal).
  • Filippo Graziani
    Italiaidea Center for Italian Language and Culture Studies
    E-mail Author
    FILIPPO GRAZIANI is a teacher of Italian and a teacher educator at Italiaidea Center for Italian Language and Culture Studies in Rome, Italy. He is co-author of Italian Espresso, a series of textbooks and CD’s for English speakers, and co-author (with Lampert) of “Instructional Activities as a Tool for Teachers’ and Teacher Educators’ Learning in and for Ambitious Practice” (Elementary School Journal).
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