Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Pre-Service Teachers' Juxtaposed Memories: Implications for Teacher Education

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Pre-Service Teachers' Juxtaposed Memories: Implications for Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Teacher education research has long understood that pre-service teachers' beliefs about teaching are well established by the time they enroll in a teacher education program. (Clark & Peterson, 1986; Levin & He, 2008; Lortie, 1975; Mead 1992; Nespor, 1987; Wilson, 1990). Indeed, no other profession can claim the "apprenticeship of observation" that the teaching profession affords (Lortie, 1975). Stemming from memories collected through 12+ years of observing their own teachers, preservice teachers can come to regard classroom teaching as natural, requiring no additional training (Ball & Forzani, 2009). This presents teacher educators with a dilemma. Charged with disseminating accepted theories and methods of effective teaching, teacher educators carry out their work in the face of students who, guided by years of memories, filter and interpret teacher education coursework according to their preconceived beliefs about how to teach (Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Goodman, 1988).

Based on the understanding that teacher memories help shape pre-service teachers' beliefs, teacher educators have sought ways to both honor such memories and facilitate a reflective dialog that analyzes those memories in light of accepted theories and methods that comprise teacher education coursework (Ayers, 1993; Liston, Whitcomb, & Borko, 2006; Minor, Onwuegbuzie, Witcher, & James, 2002). In the updated preface to his distinctive work, Schoolteacher (1975; 2002), Lortie suggested that facilitating such a dialog could begin by asking pre-service teachers to write about their former teachers, thus making their memories and beliefs explicit and available for analysis.

To that end, this study drew from a larger qualitative study that examined 148 preservice teachers' handwritten narrative memories about a past teacher (kindergarten through college) who, from the pre-service teacher's perspective, demonstrated excellence in the classroom and thus helped shape individual beliefs about good teaching. The narratives included memories of good teachers that spanned all grade levels, kindergarten through college, and a wide spectrum of content areas. Although they were not prompted to do so, about one in every four pre-service teachers used juxtaposition as a writing device to contrast their memories of good teachers with descriptions of poor teachers, perhaps to further demonstrate excellence through dichotomy.


The current study centered on the juxtaposition phenomenon that emerged from the larger collection of written narrative memories. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to examine the good/poor teacher juxtapositions to consider how such dichotomous memories can be used to guide pre-service teachers in analyzing the complexities of teaching and teacher behaviors.

Related Literature

The related literature examines how past teachers serve as role models for pre-service teachers, how symbolic interaction theory (i.e., assigning meaning to encounters) relates to pre-service teachers' developing beliefs, and how juxtaposed memories can create a cognitive dissonance that triggers dichotomous understandings of good and poor teaching practice.

Role Theory

Role theory defines a person's role as the functions a person characteristically performs within a social context (Biddle, 1979). It follows then that we develop expectations for the characteristic roles and functions of people in our society based on observation and experience. For example, we have an idea of what to expect from encounters with doctors, lawyers, or teachers. We hold these expectations based on our understanding of a particular role and the typical behavior of persons who occupy that role. According to Biddle, when an encounter with someone exceeds our role expectations, we are caught off guard and pleasantly satisfied. Likewise, when an encounter goes contrary to our role expectations, we become frustrated or disillusioned. …

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