Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Beyond Knowledge: Exploring Why Some Teachers Are More Thoughtfully Adaptive Than Others

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Beyond Knowledge: Exploring Why Some Teachers Are More Thoughtfully Adaptive Than Others

Article excerpt

Teacher educators have long valued knowledge. They have written about what knowledge teachers need (Carter, 1990; Grossman, 1995; Shulman, 1986; Wilson, Shulman, & Richert, 1987), debated the role of knowledge in teaching (Hammerness, Darling-Hammond, & Bransford, 2005; Snow, Griffin, & Burns, 2005), and questioned whether any "particular bits of knowledge can necessarily help teachers simultaneously think about all of their areas of concern" (Kennedy, 2006, p. 208). Currently, various state governments are imposing more and more standards regarding what to include in course content, apparently on the assumption that good teaching is a rational and conscious application of knowledge.

Yet our experience as teacher educators who strive to develop thoughtful teachers, that is, teachers who are responsive to students and situations, suggests that knowledge typically addressed in our courses does not necessarily suffice. Not all of our teacher candidates demonstrate thoughtful teaching. Some become technically competent but not particularly responsive to students or situations, despite our best intentions and our belief that it is such responsiveness that constitutes thoughtful teaching and lies at the center of teacher effectiveness.

Puzzled by the inconsistencies we observe in our teacher candidates and the role of knowledge in this outcome, we engaged in a 3-year conversation in which we questioned whether, as teacher educators, we overlook important aspects of teaching in our concern for ensuring that teacher candidates are equipped with required content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge, if so, what is necessary beyond knowledge? This conversation became a collegial, almost philosophical, inquiry aimed at improving the experiences offered our teacher candidates. It was not intended as a study, rather as a collaborative exchange of perspectives on teacher education. As it evolved, we began to examine how our individual perspectives, theoretical or epistemological, and our various research agendas informed our understandings of teacher education and helped us think more broadly about the ways we prepared new teachers.

Ultimately we focused on four perspectives that represent our individual research areas: belief-based personal practical theories, vision, belonging, and identity. As we describe below, talking across and through these perspectives led us to the hypothesis that teacher educators must develop teachers' self-knowledge and sense of agency in addition to developing standard forms of professional knowledge. But our suggestions are tentative, and our goal is to challenge our teacher education colleagues to join us in exploring what, beyond knowledge, might help us better prepare thoughtfully adaptive teachers.


Excellent teaching is relatively rare because, as Shulman (2004) said,

   After some 30 years of doing such work, I have concluded
   that classroom teaching ... is perhaps the most
   complex, most challenging, and most demanding,
   subtle, nuanced and frightening activity that our species
   ever invented. (p. 504)

Teaching is demanding because teachers must deal with numerous forces. The situations they face are often dilemma-ridden and inherently ambiguous. For example, Kennedy (2006) described teaching as

   an endeavor that requires simultaneous consideration
   of six different areas of concern, that strives toward
   ideals that are inherently contradictory, and that happens
   in real time where the merits of alternative courses
   of action must be weighed in the moment. (p. 206)

Bransford, Darling-Hammond, and LePage (2005) compared the complexity of teaching to conducting an orchestra. Like conducting,

   Teaching looks simple from the perspective of students
   who see a person talking and listening, handing
   out papers, and giving assignments. … 
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