Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

"It's 1000 Degrees in Here When I Teach": Providing Preservice Teachers with an Extended Opportunity to Approximate Ambitious Instruction

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

"It's 1000 Degrees in Here When I Teach": Providing Preservice Teachers with an Extended Opportunity to Approximate Ambitious Instruction

Article excerpt

The title of the article is a quote from a preservice secondary science teacher, Allison, who confided that the experience of learning to engage in complex instructional practices during a university-based methods course was difficult. This particular quote emerged after Allison facilitated a class discussion with students about the evidence they needed to collect during upcoming activities to better understand how cellular mitosis related to cancer. Allison planned this particular discussion based on her assessment of students' needs during the previous day's lesson, given their difficulty in connecting stages of cell division to a mutation that causes some cells to continually replicate.

While this scenario sounds typical--a preservice teacher (PST) noting the difficulty of taking on a primary instructor role--three features of Allison's experience stand out: First, the students in Allison's class were not teenagers; instead, they were her fellow secondary science PSTs. Second, Allison, along with an instructional team of three colleagues, planned, cotaught, and reflected on 11 consecutive hour-long lessons--an entire unit of instruction--to peers in their methods course. Third, Allison did not teach a series of disconnected lessons or practice management strategies; instead, she approximated ambitious instruction, a pedagogical framework in which teachers provide rigorous and equitable learning opportunities to all students using specialized practices and tools that are learned, developed, and adapted over time (Ball & Forzani, 2011 ; Lampert & Graziani, 2009; Windschitl, Thompson, Braaten, & Stroupe, 2012). Together, these three features comprised of an instructional experience during methods class, dubbed "macroteaching" by a PST, which we, the course instructors, planned, enacted, and constantly codeveloped with the PSTs.

In this article, we describe the macroteaching experience from the perspective of the 17 PSTs in our secondary methods class and our perspective as course coinstructors. We present this study for two reasons: First, increasingly in the United States, the value of teacher education has been called into question (Zeichner, 2010). In addition to academics expressing concerns about its contribution to the broader educational enterprise (Levine, 2006), the proliferation of alternative certification pathways suggests to some people that formal professional education may be superfluous to the work of teaching (Zeichner, 2010). Therefore, teacher educators need to better articulate how and why teacher preparation matters for learners of complex ambitious instruction (Horn & Campbell, 2015).

The second reason we present this study is to better understand the experiences PSTs need to learn ambitious instruction. Over the past 20 years, the field of teacher education has shifted in thinking about how novices could most effectively learn about complex instruction, moving away from an exclusive focus on developing knowledge about teaching (e.g., improving content knowledge specific to teaching, reading about teaching, discussing teaching) toward approaches that focus on the enactment of core teaching practices that embody knowledge of the subject matter and how students best learn (Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009; Zeichner, 2012). Kennedy (1999), writing about "problems of enactment," noted that PSTs could develop knowledge about teaching, yet not understand how to translate these ideas into instructional practice. To address these problems of enactment, Grossman and McDonald (2008) suggest that the onus reside with teacher educators to provide novices with varied opportunities to investigate teaching and learning, situated in artifacts of practice such as case-based learning, examining lesson plans and student work, and using video of classroom instruction. While these approaches can affect how novices talk about teaching (Grossman & McDonald, 2008), what is less well understood are the ways teacher educators can effectively prepare PSTs to enact ambitious instructional practices. …

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