Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Development through Dissonance: A Longitudinal Investigation of Changes in Teachers' Educational Beliefs

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Development through Dissonance: A Longitudinal Investigation of Changes in Teachers' Educational Beliefs

Article excerpt


Beliefs about teaching and learning are formed over a lifetime of experiences in classrooms and profoundly affect pedagogical decisions and actions in the classroom (Caudle & Moran, 2012; Chant, Heafner, & Bennett, 2004; Lavigne, 2014; Levin, 2003; Levin & He, 2008; Levin, He, & Allen, 2013; Pajares, 1992; Pham & Hamid, 2013). During preservice teachers' (PSTs') prolonged exposure to the work of teachers during their years of compulsory education, a period of time Lortie (1975) referred to as the "apprenticeship of observation," PSTs form preconceptions about what it means to teach. From their limited vantage points as students, PSTs internalize many of the values and practices of their teachers and develop their own beliefs about good teaching practice without the influence of formal instruction (Knowles & Holt-Reynolds, 1991).

The term belief has been defined as an understanding that guides, influences, and shapes an individual's intentions for action (Hancock & Gallard, 2004). Other terms utilized when referring to these powerful tacit assumptions about classrooms, students, and curricula (Kagan, 1992) are implicit theories (Clark, 1988; Fives & Buehl, 2008), lay theories (Knowles & Holt-Reynolds, 1991), intuitive screens (Goodman, 1988), and personal practical theories (Cornett, Yeotis, & Terwilliger, 1990; Levin & He, 2008; Levin et al., 2013). Regardless of the term used, most researchers agree that the beliefs of PSTs are "deeply personal" (Pajares, 1992, p. 309), do not require general consensus (Bryan, 2003), and stand at the core of becoming a teacher (Lortie, 1975; Pajares, 1992).

Theoretical Framework

Two key bodies of scholarship form the theoretical framework for this study: (a) research on the influence of teachers' beliefs on learning within a teacher preparation program (TPP) and (b) research on the constructive process of learning to teach often catalyzed by cognitive dissonance. Each of these will be examined in turn.

Influence of Teacher Beliefs on Teacher Learning

Many educational researchers have agreed that beliefs serve as filters (Fives & Buehl, 2012; Kagan, 1992; Lortie, 1975; Weinstein, 1990) or screens (Goodman, 1988) through which PSTs view and interpret new knowledge (Bryan, 2003; Gill & Fives, 2015; Lavigne, 2014; Levin & He, 2008; Mohamed, 2014; Richardson, 2003; Weinstein, 1990), often causing them to weigh the potential effectiveness of a methodology based on personal preference or familiarity (Holt-Reynolds, 1992; Levin & He, 2008; Richardson, 2003) instead of researched best practices (Fives & Buehl, 2008). PSTs tend to be strongly influenced by university professors and/or course content that upholds their existing conceptions about teaching (Goodman, 1988) and do not eagerly consider alternative pedagogical methodologies (Bryan, 2003), even if they seem logical.

Because preconceptions of PSTs are formed by witnessing teachers' external behaviors (not private intentions) from student-oriented perspectives (Lortie, 1975), they have often been found to be teacher centered (Levin et al., 2013), idealistic (Furlong & Maynard 1995), situated (Levin, 2015), and, in some cases, ineffective or outdated (Bryan, 2003; Furlong & Maynard, 1995; Holt-Reynolds, 1992; Pajares, 1992; Stuart & Thurlow, 2000) and difficult to change (Bryan, 2003; Feiman-Nemser, 2008; Kagan, 1992; Leavy, McSorley, & Bote, 2007; Pajares, 1992; Raths, 2001; Richardson, 2003; Thompson & Zeuli, 1999; Weinstein, 1990). Such beliefs can hinder PST learning (Fives & Buehl, 2008; Kagan, 1992) and inhibit the implementation of more creative, student-centered knowledge-construction pedagogies (Britzman, 1991; Bryan, 2003; Furlong & Maynard, 1995; Hollingsworth, 1989). There is consensus among researchers that teacher beliefs lie "at the very heart of teaching" (Kagan, 1992, p. …

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