Background/Context: Teacher preparation suffers from a lack of evidence that guides the design of learning experiences to produce well-prepared beginners. An increasing number of teacher educators are experimenting with practice-embedded approaches to prepare novices for ambitious instruction. This study examines the role of core instructional practices introduced during preparatory experiences in shaping novices’ first-year teaching.
Research design: Employing a mixed-methods approach, we compare the first-year teaching of two groups of individuals with secondary science certification, one of which comprises graduates from a practice-embedded preparation program, and the other graduates from programs that did not feature practice-embedded preparation. A total of 116 science lessons taught by 41 first-year teachers were analyzed, focusing on the quality of student opportunities to learn (OTL) observed during the lessons.
Research questions: This study sought answers to two research questions: 1) What are the characteristics of students’ OTL from first-year teachers, one group of whom learned a set of core instructional practices during their preparation program and the other group of whom were not exposed to core practices? 2) Who provides opportunities for students to engage in meaningful disciplinary practices as outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards, during the first year of teaching, if any? How did they create such opportunities?
Findings: Independent-sample t-tests showed that there are significant mean differences between the two groups (t=3.1~8.9; p < .001), on four metrics associated with their students’ opportunities to learn. In-depth qualitative case studies reveal two ways that core practices shape instruction in new teachers’ classrooms: (a) they support novices in formulating an actionable curricular vision as advocated by the science education community, and (b) they appear to help novices notice, attend to, and build upon students’ ideas in classrooms with the use of strategies and tools recommended by the program.
Conclusions/Recommendations: A focus on a set of strategic and intentional practices, designed to help teachers achieve rigorous and equitable learning goals, has potential as a curricular frame for teacher preparation. But the emphasis should be placed on the vision and pedagogical goals that underlie the core practices, rather than the ungrounded use of strategies or tools themselves.