Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Promoting Pedagogical Reasoning as Preservice Teachers Analyze Case Vignettes

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Promoting Pedagogical Reasoning as Preservice Teachers Analyze Case Vignettes

Article excerpt

Many teacher educators use case studies to promote reflection, sharpen observational skills, and foster understanding of classroom complexities. Effective P-12 classroom interventions may more likely occur if prospective teachers encounter teaching realities early in their preparation programs and learn how to translate the emerging knowledge base into professional practice. In this article, I outline a heuristic device designed to help prospective teachers analyze case vignettes in an educational psychology course and offer initial data supporting use of this device to promote pedagogical reasoning and reflection.

Although some have called the 1990s the decade of the case study (see Wineburg, 1991) and a wide array of relevant case studies is available, how to best employ cases in teacher preparation remains a largely unanswered question. Some research studies and descriptive reports have begun to address the crucial issues related to this question.

Silverman, Welty, and Lyon (1994) describe the case method of teaching as including discussion-based activities, active-learning orientations, question-based formats, and group process structures. They recommend critical questions to promote discussion rather than right answers and outline suggestions for the ideal physical setting for case analysis.

Kleinfeld (1991) suggests the following analytic strategies for studying cases: spot the issues; distinguish between immediate crisis and underlying problem; develop strategy alternatives; and consider potential consequences, others' perspectives, and what may be at stake and at risk. Others have studied reflective teacher thinking in mathematics instruction (Barnett, 1991) or classroom management (Stoiber, 1991). Some have explored teacher reflection by the use of modeling, journaling, and think aloud strategies (Loughran, 1994).

Schon (1983) outlined the importance of reflection in action and suggested that tacit knowledge and judgments are critical elements. He argued that the student cannot be taught what he needs to know, but he can be coached (Schon, 1987, p. 17, emphasis in original). He explained how skillful case teachers put students into a mode of operative attention by asking them not only to analyze a situation or say what others should do but also to say (on the basis of admittedly inadequate information) what they would do in the case situation they have analyzed (p. 323). According to this viewpoint, case teachers in such situations must help students learn how to frame problems, understand the tacit knowledge they bring to such situations, and value multiple theories of action.

The details of how to help preservice teachers reflect on case studies remain unsettled in the literature. The following question is basic to exploring the problem: What types of cognitive processes are involved in teacher reflection and decision making and how can the teacher education curriculum teach such thinking?

Theoretical Perspectives

During the past decade, researchers have studied the cognitive aspects of teacher decision making. Shulman (1987) described teaching in terms of pedagogical reasoning where teachers think about teaching and base their actions on professional standards. Berliner (1985) envisioned the teacher as a decision maker who manages a complex set of interacting variables in a dynamic social environment (p. 6).

Such advancements in ,he conceptual nature of the pedagogical process should ideally set the stage for a new breed of instructional and evaluational techniques for prospective teachers at different points in the curriculum. Because these techniques require more than visionary and theoretical stances, research must guide their development and implementation in teacher preparation.

Berliner (1986) cited one of his research studies in which groups of teachers briefly viewed a classroom slide and explained what they saw. The postulants and novices offered literal descriptions of the scenes, while the experts provided a deeper analysis of the scene by making inferences and applying pedagogical knowledge (p. …

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