Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Constructing Coherence: Structural Predictors of Perceptions of Coherence in NYC Teacher Education Programs

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Constructing Coherence: Structural Predictors of Perceptions of Coherence in NYC Teacher Education Programs

Article excerpt

A Historical Perspective: Contradictions Between Field Experience and University Coursework

From Dewey on, scholars in teacher education have suggested the importance of linking fieldwork experiences to preparation at the university--of using the field as a laboratory for a richer understanding of teaching and learning (Darling-Hammond, Bransford, LePage, Hammerness, & Duffy, 2005; Dewey, 1938; Goodlad, 1990). In recent years, the role of field experience in learning to teach has received increased emphasis, with some scholars and policy makers arguing that classroom teaching experience is a critical ingredient in learning to teach, especially when such experiences are related thoughtfully and purposefully to principles of teaching and learning (Darling-Hammond, Bransford, et al., 2005). Indeed, the National Academy of Education's Committee on Teacher Education argued that early and sustained fieldwork is particularly important but must be designed in ways that help frame later learning in teacher preparation programs (Darling-Hammond, Bransford, et al., 2005). (1)

The renewed emphasis on field experience has not gone unnoticed in the policy arena: policy makers as well as teacher educators have begun to call for increasing the amount of time candidates should spend in field experience programs (McIntyre, Byrd, & Foxx, 1996; New York State Education Department, 2001). For instance, as part of a recent revision of teacher education requirements, New York State increased the prestudent teaching field experience requirement to 100 hours and the number of student teaching days to 40 (New York State Education Department, 2001). Currently, nine other states require more than 40 hours of field experience prior to student teaching, and four of those require 100 hours (National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification [NASDTEC], 2004). In addition, 34 states require 40 or more days of student teaching, with an average of 55 days of student teaching required (NASDTEC, 2004).

Despite such an emphasis, researchers have historically considered field experiences to be among the weakest components of teacher education programs (Wideen, Mayer-Smith, & Moon, 1998). Field experiences are often devised without clear goals and can lack purposeful connections to university coursework (Guyton & McIntyre, 1990). Indeed, without careful links, new teachers can come to feel that their learning in the field does not reflect--or, worse, contradicts--their learning in their university courses. If unaddressed by the program, such contradictions can make it difficult for new teachers to learn new practices, try reforms, or move toward a professional understanding of teaching and learning (Britzman, 1990; Guyton & McIntyre, 1990; Zeichner & Liston, 1987; Zeichner & Tabachnik, 1981). For instance, even student teachers with prior experience, strong content knowledge, and a professional vision that is consonant with their program find it difficult to apply what they are learning in placements that are inconsistent with the program (LaBoskey & Richert, 2002; McDonald, 2005; Smagorinsky, Cook, Moore, Jackson, & Fry, 2004). Feiman-Nemser and Buchmann (1985) term the potential disconnect between school setting and university programs the "two-worlds pitfall." When visions of good teaching and learning in these two worlds are contradictory, student teachers often experience the socialization in placement schools as more immediate and powerful (Zeichner & Gore, 1990).

Over the past several decades, reformers have begun to emphasize the development of "coherent" programs (Buchmann & Floden, 1993; Howey & Zimpher, 1989; Russell, McPherson, & Martin, 2001; see also Darling-Hammond, Bransford, et al., 2005). To that end, some programs have made explicit efforts to link coursework and fieldwork, creating deliberate, thoughtful connections between clinical experiences and formal coursework (Darling-Hammond, 1999; for particular cases, see Darling-Hammond & Macdonald, 2000; Koppich, 2000; Merseth & Koppich, 2000; Miller & Silvernail, 2000; Snyder, 2000; Whitford, Ruscoe, & Fickel, 2000; Zeichner, 2000; also see Hammerness, 2006). …

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