Academic journal article Education

The Teacher Belief Inventory: Measuring the Theoretical and Practical Orientations of Preservice Teachers

Academic journal article Education

The Teacher Belief Inventory: Measuring the Theoretical and Practical Orientations of Preservice Teachers

Article excerpt

Since the time of Plato and Aristotle there has been debate concerning the relative value of theoretical knowledge in comparison with practical knowledge (Kessels & Korthagen, 1996). Evidence of this dualism can be found in the field of education and in educational research (Bredo, 1994; Fenstermacher, 1994; Kessels & Korthagen, 1996). The differences between theoretical and practical knowledge have been drawn in many ways. For example, Fenstermacher (1994) distinguished between formal and practical conceptions of knowledge while Goldenberg and Gallimore (1991) contrasted local knowledge with research knowledge. Similarly, Bredo (1994) distinguished between "symbol processing and situated approaches to cognition" (p. 32). According to Bredo, "symbol-processing," based on universal aspects of cognition, was equivalent to a theoretical approach to learning while the practical orientation was reflected in the "situated view," where learning was context-specific.

Most teacher education programs purport to have either a theoretical or practical orientation, or a combination of both. For example, some conceptions of teacher preparation view the road from novice to expert as a process of progressive problem solving (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1989). Educators who hold this view believe that effective teachers are those who continuously strive to resolve classroom problems by applying a systematic approach of hypothesis generation, empirical testing, and adjustment. Other programs focus more on a practical approach to teaching involving the study of instructional techniques appropriate for various situations encountered by most teachers (Joyce & Weil, 1986).

This dichotomous conceptualization of both teaching style and teaching preparation raises a number of important questions that are of particular interest to education faculty. How can the orientation of preservice teachers be measured? What effect does the orientation of a teacher training program have on preservice teachers? Do preservice teachers leave their training programs having adopted the program's orientation? Does their orientation change once they are student teaching?

To better inform this discussion about practical and theoretical orientations and their impact on teaching, an assessment was needed to measure the degree to which preservice teachers manifested a theoretical or practical orientation toward educational problems, In addition to determining the practical/theoretical orientation of preservice teachers, it was hypothesized that this instrument could also be used to assess the effectiveness of teacher training programs and promote self-reflection on the part of the preservice teacher. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to design and validate such an instrument.

Interest in this topic stems from the debate over various teacher training approaches where different teaching models are presented. There are at least 25 discrete models of teaching of which each has a different set of goals, methods, and theoretical bases (Joyce & Weil, 1986). In an attempt to find some commonalties among these teaching models, Duke (1987) identified six major areas where teachers may encounter educational problems. These areas were drawn from the works of Adler (1984), Purkey and Novak (1984), Hunter (1983), Caroll (1963), Good and Brophy (1984), and Barnes (1981). While multiple teaching strategies exist, Duke (1987) suggested that they do not, "justify every teacher simply doing whatever he or she wants" (p. 67). Instead, Duke emphasized that teachers must develop -- through research and professional experience -- a sense of what they are striving to achieve. They also must learn to collect the data that will help them meet these goals.

Duke organized his analysis of teaching models around six central teaching situations or areas where classroom problems are likely to occur. These areas included planning, instruction, classroom management, progress monitoring, clinical assistance, and care giving (Duke. …

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