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Interruptions: Thinking-in-Action in Teacher Education

by Cara Furman & Shannon Larsen - 2020

Background/Context: This paper is a part of the special issue “Reimagining Research and Practice at the crossroads of Philosophy, Teaching, and Teacher Education." We center what follows on a practice used in undergraduate methods courses that we have termed Interruptions. Interruptions are a form of inter-class visitation in which faculty plan together, visit one another’s classes, and publicly interrupt the teaching of the other with a variety of both pre-planned and spontaneous questions relating to the day’s lesson.

Research Design: We weave together a conceptual analysis and qualitative research, drawing from a larger qualitative study conducted in one early childhood and one elementary undergraduate math methods course in Spring 2016. For the study, we co-planned eight lessons together (four in each course), and observed one another teach each of those lessons, while taking notes and purposely interrupting instruction. We collected survey data from students at the end of each classroom observation and interviewed two students from each class at the end of the term. We also kept reflective journals of our work. In this paper we deploy a narrative format to document teacher inquiry drawing upon our reflective journals and classroom observation to describe the development, enactment, and our response to Interruptions.

Outcomes: Our use of Interruptions pushed us to examine our own philosophical beliefs and how they were, or were not, enacted in our teaching practice. We highlight that the connections that emerged between philosophy and teacher education provided us with the necessary time to care for our ethical selves both in and out of the classroom. Specifically, we share how this exercise allowed us each to become more deliberately reflective about the work that we do and why and how we do it.

Conclusions/Recommendations: In addition to giving us time to slow down our teaching in order to think carefully about our choices while in the midst of teaching, we found that we also considered instructional implications long after the Interruptions were complete. Interruptions helped us think more deliberately about the ethical choices we made as educators and in the service of our students. Interruptions proved to have deep and long-lasting effects on our practice as teacher educators. Other practitioners who ground themselves in both philosophy and methods may benefit from similarly systematic approaches for examining their own practice with an eye towards improvements in teaching and understanding of the self.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 4, 2020, p. 1-26
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23069, Date Accessed: 9/23/2021 11:33:55 PM

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About the Author
  • Cara Furman
    University of Maine Farmington
    E-mail Author
    CARA FURMAN, PhD, is an assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Maine Farmington. Prior to this, she was an urban public elementary school teacher. Published in journals such as Curriculum Inquiry, Education and Culture, and Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, her research focuses on Descriptive Inquiry, inquiry, asset based inclusive teaching, and progressive practices. Having studied both philosophy and education, she integrates qualitative research on classroom practice, teacher research, and philosophy in both her teaching and research. She is the co-director of the Summer Institute on Descriptive Inquiry.
  • Shannon Larsen
    University of Maine Farmington
    E-mail Author
    SHANNON LARSEN is an Associate Professor of Elementary Education at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF). Shannon has experience working as both an elementary classroom teacher and a K-8 mathematics coach. In addition to teaching undergraduate methods courses, Shannon has helped to develop the Maine Mathematics Coaching Project at UMF. This is a series of graduate courses designed to support K-8 mathematics coaches in the state. Shannon’s research interests focus on how teachers (pre- and in-service) learn to improve their practice. Some of her recent work has been published in NCTM’s Annual Perspectives in Mathematics Education 2017, the ICME-13 Monograph Uses of Technology in Primary and Secondary Mathematics Education: Tools, Topics, and Trends, and AMTE’s Elementary Mathematics Specialists: Developing, Refining, and Examining Programs that Support Mathematics Teaching and Learning.
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