Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Using Case Studies to Explore Teacher Candidates' Intellectual, Cultural, and Moral Dispositions

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Using Case Studies to Explore Teacher Candidates' Intellectual, Cultural, and Moral Dispositions

Article excerpt

I saw the factories where some of my students and many of their parents work ... [a few] families fell on bad times economically and were forced out of their homes because they could not pay their rent. These families went to live in one of the area motels. I learned a lot about the background of the students. Knowing this has helped me understand where education is on the list of priorities for these students. It also just helps for me to know where these students are coming from when they enter the classroom each day. It shows me what I need to overcome, in a sense. It also serves as a challenge for me in terms of how to motivate all my students to learn, and how to make it applicable to their lives.

Jackie, (1) a white, upper-middle class student teacher in secondary social studies, wrote these words in her journal at the beginning of her student teaching experience at Whitman High School, a predominantly white, blue-collar, suburban school. In this brief excerpt of her journal, a myriad of assumptions, values, and beliefs about how one effectively teaches intertwine in a throng of messy layers. Although those evaluating Jackie are most concerned with her outward behaviors, it is these less tangible, internal qualities that determine Jackie's thinking and actions as a teacher. Various bodies of literature address aspects of these internal qualities: teacher beliefs (Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992), professional identity (Kelchtermans & Vandenberghe, 1994; Korthagen, 2004), and self of the teacher (Borich, 1999; Bullough & Gitlin, 1995; Nias, 1987). We use the concept of dispositions, defined as the internal filter that affects the way a teacher is inclined to think and act on the information and experiences that are part of his/her teaching context (see Schussler, 2006). This filter is shaped by a teacher's prior experience, beliefs, culture, values, and cognitive abilities. We contend that exemplary teaching lies at the intersection of three domains of dispositions--intellectual, cultural, moral--referred to as the "ICM framework" (Stooksberry, Schussler, & Bercaw, in submission). For Jackie, as for all teachers, disentangling the various threads that comprise one's dispositions is essential if teachers are to understand what drives their thinking and actions.

We constructed a case study based on Jackie's journal entry (i.e., the "Jackie case") to examine how candidates in two teacher education courses were inclined to think through a specific teaching situation. Specifically, we examined how candidates drew from three domains of dispositions--intellectual, cultural, and moral--as they analyzed the case twice over the course of one semester. We were particularly interested in whether and how candidates' thinking shifted by the second analysis at the end of the semester. Teacher candidates tend to make particular assumptions, especially when presented with students unlike themselves (Banks et al., 2005; Hollins & Guzman, 2005). Therefore, an integral part of the analysis also included looking within the three disposition domains to examine both candidates' awareness of the assumptions Jackie made as well as candidates' recognition of their own assumptions as they analyzed the case. Although candidates demonstrated an ability to reflect on appropriate instructional strategies, demonstrating awareness within the intellectual domain, they generally lacked awareness within the cultural and moral domains. These results are described in detail following an overview of the ICM framework and the methods for the study.

Theoretical Framework

Dispositions have been defined as "the trend of a teacher's actions in particular contexts" (Katz & Raths, 1985, p. 301), "habits of thinking and action" (Hammerness et al., 2005, p. 387), and "values, commitments, and professional ethics that influence behaviors" (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2002, p. 53). Like Schussler (2006), we consider dispositions more as a process, operating as a point of convergence and inception. …

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