Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Conceptualizing Developmentally Responsive Teaching in Early Field Experiences

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

Conceptualizing Developmentally Responsive Teaching in Early Field Experiences

Article excerpt

The purpose of this descriptive qualitative study was to examine case study as a pedagogical tool used to scaffold the conceptualization of developmentally responsive pedagogy for middle level preservice teachers in early field experiences. Child study projects (CSP) completed by middle level preservice candidates were analyzed to determine if they were able to make connections between the theoretical underpinnings of middle level education, early adolescence development, and middle school curricula and how these connections were perceived to support their understanding of developmentally responsive teaching in the middle school. Evidence from the analysis of the CSP suggests candidates understood students' diverse learning styles, personalities, developmental needs, and social and physical needs. They also understood the importance of relationships and appropriate instructional strategies.

Preparing teachers to be knowers and thinkers in the classroom requires colleges of education to envision not only the knowledge teachers need to learn, but also the experiences they must have in order to use that knowledge in the complex world of teaching (DarlingHammond & Bransford, 2005). Having the what and the how embedded throughout the program is essential in helping candidates construct a clear connection between theory and practice (Darling-Hammond, 2006). Engaging in this work requires teacher educators to understand the powerful dilemmas of learning to teach and to be willing to tackle those dilemmas methodically, consistently, and cohesively (Darling-Hammond, 2006).

The most persistent dilemma that remains a barrier to students of teaching becoming reflective knowers, thinkers, and doers, is their own narrow view of schools, children, and learning when they begin their teacher education programs (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Goodwin, 2002; Lortie, 1975). Lortie (1975) termed this the "apprenticeship of observation" referring to the knowledge candidates have constructed by virtue of being a student for twelve or more years in a regular classroom setting. The second dilemma teacher educators encounter is what Kennedy (1999) calls the "problem of enactment," referring to the tension candidates feel between the knowledge constructed through the apprenticeship of observation about the act of teaching and the actual enactment of researched-based best practices learned in their teacher preparation programs (Darling-Hammond, 2006). Finally, a third dilemma of learning to teach is helping neophytes construct an understanding of the multidimensional, simultaneous, and unpredictable nature of teaching (DarlingHammond, 2006; Jackson, 1974; Lampert, 2001; McDonald, 1992).

Darling-Hammond (2006) found teacher education programs that have successfully confronted these persistent dilemmas of learning to teach define clear standards of practice, develop coursework grounded in child development, provide extended clinical experiences, work to help candidates recognize the power of their own beliefs about teaching and learning, and utilize pedagogical tools that bridge theory and practice. She also noted that the reading and writing of child case studies was one pedagogical tool used within some of these programs as an effective way to tackle the dilemmas of learning to teach. The use of child case studies within a teacher preparation program provides candidates the opportunity for practical application of knowledge they desire while also engaging them in analysis and close observation of the context of teaching and learning, student behavior, instructional strategies, and the power of teacher decisions and actions (Darling-Hammond, 2006; Goodwin, 2002; Hammemess, DarlingHammond, & Shulman, 2002; Roeser, 2002). Hammemess et al. (2002) found that having candidates develop cases pushed them to think beyond their own schooling experiences and examine their beliefs about teaching and learning in the context of a classroom with "real" students and teachers. …

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