Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Analyzing Teaching through Student Work (1)

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Analyzing Teaching through Student Work (1)

Article excerpt

As a parent and a teacher educator, I am acutely aware of the need to "practice what you preach." Yet, in both roles, I often find it a challenging axiom to carry out. When I warned my eldest child about the latest research on sleep deprivation, I resolved to make adequate sleep a priority in my routine. Similarly, when I volunteered to develop and teach a capstone course for M.Ed. students based on analyzing one's teaching, I determined to analyze my own teaching. In this article, I focus on one component of that ongoing self-study: my analysis of two M.Ed. students' work in which they analyze two of their K-12 students' work. Through this embedded design, I completed the identical assignment that I required of my students.

The Role of Self-Study

There is increasing recognition of the role of self-study in building teachers' knowledge base. As teachers make decisions about what and how to teach, they draw upon a knowledge base that includes numerous types of knowledge (Carter, 1990; Shulman, 1987; Tom & Valli, 1990). This knowledge base is not static, but rather changes and expands throughout one's teaching career. An important method for expanding one's knowledge base is through critical inquiry and reflection on one's practice. The National Board for Professional Teaching Practice (NBPTS) proposes that "getting teachers engaged in a self-reflective teaching practice will improve the quality of teaching and improve student learning" (NBPTS, 1999a, p.7). The notion of learning from one's own practice stems back to the work of Dewey who advocated "a special kind of professional education, in which a curriculum of theory-in-practice dedicated to the understanding of theory-for-practice was at its heart" (Shulman, 1998, p. 523).

When theory is linked to practice, teachers themselves can become a critical source of new professional knowledge. However, simply gaining experience is not equivalent to learning from experience. Prospective teachers, engaging in unanalyzed classroom experience, face a serious problem of coming to inappropriate conclusions "that will be reinforced by further unanalyzed experience on the job" (Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann, 1985, p. 68). Field experience for prospective teachers often serves to reinforce, rather than challenge, generic views of teaching gained through personal experience as K-12 students. Yet teaching involves complex, particular, and unpredictable situations. Ball and Cohen (1999) contend that teachers need to learn, both before and while teaching, how to learn in and from practice. Consequently, professional education should focus on systematic study of practice and "emphasize questions, investigations, analysis, and criticism" (p. 13). Given that every classroom and teaching situation is different, it is impossible for teacher education programs to prescribe appropriate strategies. Teachers need the skills and dispositions to analyze teaching and learning in order to adapt their practice.

Recent approaches to teacher assessment include reflective practice as a key component of effective teaching. Although specific approaches differ, the conceptualizations of teaching underlying the standards and assessment criteria developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) emphasize reflective practice (Porter, Youngs, & Odden, 2001). Reflective practice is considered essential for competent teachers, whether beginning or experienced. The ETS and INTASC assessments focus on beginning teachers whereas the NBPTS recognizes accomplished teachers who have taught at least five years. The ETS suggests that competent beginning teachers reflect on classroom events to plan subsequent teaching and to improve skills over time; similarly, INTASC identifies the need for beginning teachers to continually assess the effects of their actions (Porter, Youngs, & Odden, 2001). …

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