How can novices be prepared for the interactively challenging work of

How can novices be prepared for the interactively challenging work of ambitious teaching if it constantly needs to be invented from scratch and be tailored to particular students? If professional education for teaching is to make ambitious teaching more common, it seems that we would need to make several assump- tions that contradict the idea … Continue reading “How can novices be prepared for the interactively challenging work of”

How can novices be prepared for the interactively challenging work of ambitious teaching if it constantly needs to be invented from scratch and be tailored to particular students? If professional education for teaching is to make ambitious teaching more common, it seems that we would need to make several assump- tions that contradict the idea that this kind of teaching is entirely context bound and independently con- structed. We would need to assume, first, that this kind of teaching involves stable and learnable practices and that we could specify the kind of skills and knowledge needed to do it. We would also need to assume that teacher educators could teach these skills and knowl- edge, and that novices could learn them. In order to figure out how to build knowledge for teacher educa- tion if the goal is ambitious teaching, we need to confront this paradox (p. 492).

However, identifying a set of agreed-on core tasks of tea- ching is

However, identifying a set of agreed-on core tasks of tea- ching is surprisingly far from straightforward. As familiar as teaching is, a starting problem is that there is little agreement about the fundamental work. Reynolds (1992) reviewed research on effective teaching to propose a set of core tasks of teaching, but skeptics raised doubts about the basis for her list, questioning the underlying view of good teaching. Thus, required first is a shared view of the main purposes of prac- tice. We propose Cohen’s (in press) definition of teaching as the deliberate activity of increasing the probability that stu- dents will develop robust skill in and knowledge of the subject under study and coordinated with larger educational aims. We assume ambitious (Cohen, 1988; Lampert & Gra- ziani, 2009) goals for subject matter learning as well as for students’ personal development and preparation for partici- pation in a diverse democratic society. We assert also that the goal of teachers’ efforts must be the learning of every student in their charge.3 Being able to teach well, given this tripartite definition, depends on a flexible repertoire of high-leverage strategies and techniques that can be deployed with good judgment depending on the specific situation and context.

A second problem in identifying the core tasks of teach- ing rests with a dominant contemporary view of teaching as highly improvisational and wholly context dependent. This view of practice resists the notion that complex prac- tice, including techniques, judgments, and coordination, can be specified and taught. Describing this as an endemic tension between flexibility and stability, Lampert and Gra- ziani (2009) wrote,

should offer significantly more—and more deliberate— opportunities for novices to practice the interactive work of instruction.

 

Specifying the content of a practice-focused professional curriculum involves careful analysis of the core tasks of teaching. Feiman-Nemser and Remillard (1996) contrasted this with an approach centered on domains of professional knowledge, which often shortchanges the demands of using knowledge in practice. They argue that a “tasks of teaching” approach is congruent with how teachers learn to carry out and organize their work. In practice, teachers combine declarative knowledge with judgment and reasoning in con- text, deploying technique and actions toward specific ends. In practice-focused teacher education, similarly and by design, teachers would learn to do particular tasks such as creating a respectful learning environment, assessing students’ math skills, or reviewing homework. They would learn to do these specific tasks, but they would also develop more general and adaptable skills of practice through their engagement in these tasks. They would learn how to consider the environments of their work and to coordinate their practice in context. Begin- ning with the work of teaching allows teacher educators to work analytically backward from what teachers have to do to what they have to know and believe (Ball, 2000; Ball, Hill, & Bass, 2005; Feiman-Nemser & Remillard, 1996).

Building a practice-focused curriculum in teacher educa- tion requires

Building a practice-focused curriculum in teacher educa- tion requires specifying the content—what teachers need to learn to do—and unpacking it for learning. It requires devel- oping instructional approaches to help teachers learn to do these things for particular purposes in context. Particularly challenging is how to design ways to teach practice that do not reduce it to propositional knowledge and beliefs. For example, in teaching novices how to conduct a short warm- up language activity at the beginning of the day, it is easy to shift into a discussion of the uses of warm-ups, an analysis of possible language activities, or a reflection on how well a particular activity worked. Learning to set up the task and to orchestrate a brief discussion of the children’s work on it is different from designing or talking about the activity. To be sure, both analysis and action are part of teachers’ work. But, the focus in teacher education can slip easily into an exclu- sively cognitive domain, emphasizing beliefs and ideas over the actual skills and judgment required in enactment. We argue not that practice with the pre-active or cognitive aspects of teaching should be eliminated but that teacher education

Shifting From Knowledge to Practice

 

To make practice the core of the curriculum of teacher edu- cation requires a shift from a focus on what teachers know and believe to a greater focus on what teachers do. This does not mean that knowledge and beliefs do not matter but, rather, that the knowledge that counts for practice is that entailed by the work. A practice-based theory of knowledge for teaching (Ball & Bass, 2003) is derived from the tasks and demands of practice and includes know-how as well as declarative knowledge. But a practice-focused curriculum for learning teaching would include significant attention not just to the knowledge demands of teaching but to the actual tasks and activities involved in the work. It would not settle for developing teachers’ beliefs and commitments; instead, it would emphasize repeated opportunities for novices to prac- tice carrying out the interactive work of teaching and not just to talk about that work. A practice-focused curriculum would also have to include foundational knowledge, but designed and developed differently from its usual treatment in teach- ers’ preparation. Although we focus in this article on the problem of teaching the actual enactment of practice itself (Grossman & McDonald, 2008; Lampert & Graziani, 2009), we also discuss foundational knowledge briefly.

diagnose pupils’ difficulties with fractions, then their profes

diagnose pupils’ difficulties with fractions, then their profes- sional training must be designed to prepare them to be skillful with these tasks. Assuming that most people can learn these difficult practices while trying to teach real students, or through observing and talking with more experienced teach- ers,isunrealistic.Drawingonourownandothers’investigations, below we sketch the fundamental work that teacher educa- tors would need to do to build a curriculum and pedagogy for teaching practice.

Although simple on the surface, the task focuses squarely on a key issue in

Although simple on the surface, the task focuses squarely on a key issue in comparing and ordering fractions, namely, that understanding a fraction requires knowing what the unit is and attending to the number of equal parts of the whole. Because the problem was posed without a specific context (cookies, pizzas, a number line), the students had to choose and use a representational context themselves. The teacher’s choice of problem involves considering these mathematical affordances, as well as anticipating what students might do with it. In opening the discussion, the teacher had to decide what phrasing to use in asking her question, what tone of voice to employ, where to walk around the room, and on whom to call when. As the first student worked at the board, the teacher had to divide her attention among that child and all of the other children in the class. She chose which stu- dents to call on subsequently, what ideas to probe more deeply, and how, and she posed questions to check students’ understanding. When Daniel, a limited English speaker, ven- tures an important mathematical observation that, although important, is off the main point, the teacher has to complete his turn without getting off track or making him feel side- lined. When Betsy volunteers to show the number line,

The teacher had to choose specific instructional moves and coordinate

The teacher had to choose specific instructional moves and coordinate among her content goals, what her students were doing, how much time she was using, and her estimate of the students’ engagement. These actions are deliberate, aimed at specific learning goals. What the teacher was doing is also unnatural. When Mei makes her precise drawings and explains her solution, it is not natural to ask others if they would like to comment, for it is, after all, correct. When Keith admits to having made his drawings “wrong” but explains that he now understands, it is not natural to praise him for having said something “extremely important,” to ask him to open up his error again, and to do so for all his class- mates to hear. The teacher in this example is deeply engaged in the demanding and elaborate nature of the work of profes- sional teaching; her decisions, moves, and interactions depend on specialized training.

teacher makes a different judgment—that this is worth seeing and

teacher makes a different judgment—that this is worth seeing and discussing but that it will take time, and so she uses a move that allows Betsy to proceed without slowing the prog- ress of the whole class discussion. Although it is not immediately visible in the lesson, the teacher had to draw on her knowledge of fractions, of her students, and of her instruc- tional goals (which were in turn referenced to multiple formal and informal expectations for what third graders should do in school and to other goals of public schooling; for example, to develop students’ critical faculties or to develop dispositions for respect and civil disagreement) to make each of these decisions and was attending to how much time remained in the period allotted to the mathematics lesson.

Speaking haltingly, Daniel elaborates. The teacher asks

Speaking haltingly, Daniel elaborates. The teacher asks

whether he is referring to “Sean’s conjecture” (“when you

make, to make some number of pieces you cut one less”) and

he nods. Next, another student, Betsy, says that she can show

–4 and –4 on the number line. The teacher says that she would 48

like to see that but, recognizing that constructing this rep- resentation will take time, sets the child up to construct her number line while the rest of the class continues discussing other aspects of the problem.

The other children in the class listen with varying degrees of attentiveness while the teacher moves about the room. She occasionally leans over a pair of students, or straightens a pupil’s notebook, or places her hand on a child’s shoulder. She asks whether anyone else has a comment about Mei’s solution. Unexpectedly, Keith says he agrees, but that first he “did something different” and that it was “wrong.” The teacher asks whether he remembers what he did, and he explains:

Keith: First, I made the same thing that she did, then I made the other piece longer, so I thought they were supposed to be the same size.