Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Where Do We Go from Here? Making Sense of Prospective Social Studies Teachers' Memories, Conceptions, and Visions of Social Studies Teaching and Learning

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Where Do We Go from Here? Making Sense of Prospective Social Studies Teachers' Memories, Conceptions, and Visions of Social Studies Teaching and Learning

Article excerpt

Like most teacher educators, we are aware that prospective teachers enter programs with many experiences in schools, and social studies classrooms in particular, that influence their beliefs about schooling, what it means to teach, their subject, and students (Britzman, 2003; Pajares, 1992; Richardson, 1996). These experiences and beliefs inform how they then experience our program and, possibly, how they will teach. We in social studies have documented very little about exactly where our students are in their thinking when they begin their social studies education methods courses. However, more research on the inner workings of social studies teacher education is needed (Adler, 1991, 2008; Armento, 1996).

In the past, many have seen the apprenticeship of observation as a barrier to transformation in teacher education (e.g., Labaree, 2000). Rather than viewing our prospective teachers' experiences as barriers, or as deficits to be overcome, we choose to embrace Segall's (2002) understanding that "it is not whether or not teacher education changes prospective views about teaching and learning, but rather, how and in what ways it does so" (p. 168). The larger study from which this piece arose was designed to look at these subtle changes teachers make in our program. In this article we report on our examination of their memories and visions of social studies education as a way to see what they bring from their apprenticeships of observations.

Theoretical Framework

Theoretically our study is situated in two related discourses: social studies teacher education and learning to teach as an apprenticeship of observation (Lortie, 2002). In the most recent handbook of research in social studies education, Adler (2008) looked across the three previous reviews of research (Adler, 1991, Armento, 1996; Banks & Parker, 1990), and highlighted how "research has appeared to do little to inform teacher education practices or provide an understanding of just what happens in teacher education" (p. 330). After reviewing research conducted between 1994 and 2005, Adler (2008) concluded that despite an increased focus on teachers' beliefs, there remain few conclusions for teacher educators to draw on when attempting to reframe the structure and coursework of their teacher education programs. If we fail to find out where prospective teachers begin and what they think about social studies teaching (good or bad), then we can do little more than create a "best guess" or "one-size-fits-all" approach to teacher education. We miss the opportunity to examine the multiple apprenticeships that prospective teachers experience and bring with them when they enter our programs. As a field we bemoan the fact that prospective teachers do not change or that their teaching practice does not reflect what we taught. We have laid the blame on others (cooperating teachers, cultures of schools, the content area professors). We wonder, if we as a field do not understand where our prospective teachers begin, how can we expect to have the changes that we want?

Research into learning to teach around specific disciplines or topics in social studies exists that helps teacher educators begin to understand the process of learning to teach social studies. For example, we are beginning to understand more about the nature of some aspects of how prospective teachers think about historical thinking (e.g., Yeager, 1997), technology (e.g., Keiper, Harwood & Larson, 2000; Molebash, 2002), and the middle school learner (e.g., Conklin, 2008). While this work has been helpful, a more direct focus on the apprenticeship of observation in social studies teacher education is needed.

Slekar (1998) brought these two worlds together for elementary social studies teacher education. He worked with two prospective elementary social studies teachers to gain an understanding of their apprenticeship of observation and what they would do as a teacher. …

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