Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Developing Understanding of Research-Based Pedagogy with Preservice Teachers: An Instrumental Case Study

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Developing Understanding of Research-Based Pedagogy with Preservice Teachers: An Instrumental Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

New teachers often report discord between what they learned in college education courses and the real world of the classroom (Clift & Brady, 2005; Zeichner & Tabachnick, 1981). Surveys of recent graduates of our programs confirm that many new teachers are still failing to make connections between theory and practice. The elementary education program in our large urban university schedules a series of field experiences concurrent with methods courses to facilitate students' integration of theory and practice. Partnership schools work with the College of Education to provide experienced mentoring for teacher candidates. Additionally, faculty members work with teacher candidates in the schools to make connections among theory, research, and practice. For all of these efforts there are still areas that need attention. Not all of the courses that focus on pedagogy are directly connected to these field experiences, and a substantial number of students in our college are either part time or opting for alternative schedules, such as online, evening, or weekend courses. Although students often enter our field experiences with prerequisite methods courses completed, they have few opportunities to interrogate their beliefs and understandings about effective teaching or possess the means to implement research-based methods taught in those courses.

Teacher educators often wonder why preservice teachers fail to implement instructional strategies that research indicates are effective and instead, revert to teaching strategies they saw used by their teachers during their own experiences as K-12 students. Lortie (2002) indicates that preservice teachers often have durable beliefs about what is effective in education based on the "apprenticeship of observation" (p. 55), that is, students come into their teacher preparation courses with many years of observation of the educational enterprise in the role of students and have formed notions of good teaching based on what they saw and experienced as students. Mayher (1990) calls it "educational common sense" (p. 275), which has more to do with internalization of intuitions than with rational sense. Often these persistent beliefs are contrary to what is known about exemplary teaching practice, and researchers, such as Mayher and Lortie raise the issue of how to change beliefs about practice that are deeply embedded, are longstanding, have structured the perceptions and expectations of the preservice teachers.

Problem

The problem presented in this study centers on preservice teachers who have difficulty incorporating exemplary instructional practices. Although preservice teachers may be resistant to new ideas about teaching for a variety of reasons, Grossman (1991), John (1996), and Lortie (2002) speculate that their years of informal and silent observations of teaching during their own school experiences influence how they view methods and field experiences in preservice preparation. When new information contradicts their pre-existing understandings of effective pedagogy, students do not necessarily modify their beliefs. The resulting conflict may make them reluctant to implement new teaching strategies, especially if they anticipate that the strategies might not be successful (Richardson, 1996). In our work with preservice teachers, we saw the need to encourage and support the preservice teachers as they investigated research-based teaching strategies.

Purpose

In order to support our preservice teachers in their attempts to implement research-based instructional strategies, we developed a framework of planning, implementation, feedback, and reflection to encourage preservice teachers to examine unfamiliar strategies from their university courses that they had not previously had an opportunity to try. The purpose of this instrumental case study is to describe how preservice teachers used this framework to try research-based teaching practices from their methods courses and examine their notions of effective pedagogy during a field experience. …

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