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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 12, no. 13 (April 07, 2004).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c April 07, 2004
Reform ideals and teachers practical intentions / Mary M. Kennedy.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 38 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright is retained by the first or sole author, who grants right of first publication to the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Volume 12 Number 13April 7, 2004ISSN 1068-2341Reform Ideals and TeachersÂ’ Practical Intentions Mary M. Kennedy Michigan State UniversityCitation: Kennedy, M. M. (2004, April 7). Reform id eals and teachersÂ’ practical intentions. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12 (13). Retrieved [Date] from http://epaa.asu.edu/epa a/v12n13/.AbstractReformers have been trying for decades to alter the fundamental character of classroom instruction in the United St ates, but have repeatedly been unsuccessful in fostering significa nt change in teaching practice. Several hypotheses have been put forward to account for this problemÂ–that teachers lack suffici ent knowledge (hence we need more professional development), that they lack sufficient will (hence we need accountability syste ms) or that they disagree with reform ideals or find other agendas t o be more compelling in their classrooms. This paper addresse s the third hypothesis by trying to ascertain what teachers car e about when they respond to specific classroom situations. Nume rous authors have suggested that teachersÂ’ beliefs, values, and perceptions influence their practices, but most papers in this area focus on just one teacher or a small handful of teachers and show how these particular teachersÂ’ ideas influence their pr actice. We still have little idea what kinds of concerns and intenti ons tend to be pervasive in teachersÂ’ thinking, and how these idea s differ from those embodied in reform ideals. The paper begins b y reviewing reform literature and outlining its main themes. It then describes a study of teachersÂ’ interpretations of classroom sit uations and their intentions for specific things they did in those si tuations. From teachersÂ’ discussions of their practices, the autho r identifies the primary areas of concern that dominated teachersÂ’ t hinking as they constructed their practices and shows where th ese concerns are similar to, and different from, reform ideals.
2 of 38 One of the most persistent themes in American educa tion literature is a dissatisfaction with the quality of teaching. Assoc iated with this dissatisfaction has been a continuing stream of reform proposals, e ach intended to rectify these perceived problems. Urgent demand for curricular or pedagogical reform, and proposals for what sort of reforms are needed, have been so pervasive that historians have begun writing histories of reform m ovements (Cuban, 1984; 1990; Gold, 1999; Hunt, 2003; Tyack, 1995). Their m essage is that reforms do sometimes alter particular features of schools, but that they rarely alter the instructional core of education, that is, the chara cter of teaching and learning that most Americans recognize as normal classroom life. Yet, undaunted, demands for reform persist and a new proposal appears every decade or two. What makes these various reforms important is that they focus specifically on classroom practices, and turn our attention to teac hers. Several hypotheses have been put forward to account for why teachers seem t o unresponsive to reform: that teachers lack sufficient knowledge (hence we need more professional development) that they lack sufficient will (hence we need accountability systems) or that they disagree with reform ideals or find other agendas to be more compelling in their classrooms. This paper add resses the third hypothesis. Perhaps teachers interpret classroom situations dif ferently than reformers would, and consequently pursue different outcomes than ref ormers value. TeachersÂ’ values have been shown in numerous studies to be im portant determiners of practice (Aguirre & Speer, 1999; Artiles, Mostert, & Tankersley, 1994; Brickhouse, 1990; Bussis, Chittenden, & Amarel, 197 6; Lumpe, Haney, & Czerniak, 1998; Pearson, 1985; Porter, Floden, Free man, Schmidt, & Schwille, 1989; Pressley, Rankin, & Yokoi, 1996). From studie s such as these, we know that teachers tend to implement policies when they agree with them, to eliminate curriculum content they believe is relatively less valuable, to represent subject matter in ways that are consistent with their own b eliefs and values, and to interpret policies and guidelines in ways that are consistent with their own beliefs and values.One reason disparities may occur between teachers a nd reformers is that everyone, including teachers and reformers, holds m ultiple and sometimes conflicting ideals for our schools. As a society, w e want our youngsters to learn particular content, but we also want them to be nur tured, to be developed into good citizens, and to be motivated to participate p roductively in society. We want teachers to be role models for moral and ethical be havior and to create positive climates for learning in their classrooms, but we a lso want them to be efficient and goal-oriented. We believe all students deserve equal treatment and resources, but sometimes we think particular studen ts should receive more. We are divided on whether children should be controlle d by external rules with consequences or whether, instead, they should be ta ught to regulate themselves. We want to socialize students to accomm odate the prevailing cultural norms, yet we want them to be critical thi nkers; we want to cultivate cooperation, yet enable them to compete in later li fe, and so forth. These different ideas wax and wane in their social popula rity, and strain the education system. Several writers have struggled to understan d and to explicate the various dimensions of these tensions (e.g., Cremin, 1990; Egan, 2001; Egan, 1997; Berlak and Berlak, 1981; Tyack, 1995).Another reason we might expect to see disparities i s that, both individually and as a society, we all espouse ideas that are more id ealistic and pure than are the ideas that actually guide our everyday practice. Ar gyris and Schn (1996) refer to these two sets of ideas as our espoused theories and our theories in use We may espouse, say a principle of honesty, but in par ticular situations we routinely violate our own espoused ideal. We do so for good r easons, of course, and
3 of 38 these reasons constitute our theory-in-use. This di stinction is important in education because we know that teachersÂ’ practices often differ from the kinds of practices they espouse, and that they frequently de scribe their own practices as more consistent with reform ideals than outside obs ervers believe to be the case (see, e.g., Applebee, 1991; Cohen, 1990 ; Oliver, 1 953). It is not clear, when such disparities appear, whether teachers misunders tand the reform concepts, and really believe they are doing the things reform ers advocate or whether they subscribe to the same ideals as reformers but their practices consist of so many exceptions to the rule that observers canÂ’t see the rule itself. In either case, the practices teachers actually engage in differ from t hose reformers espouse and often also differ from those the teachers themselve s espouse. Many contemporary authors (e.g., Brophy, 1989; Rich ardson, 1996; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999) now suggest that teachersÂ’ beliefs a bout such things as the nature of the subject matter, how students learn, and the role of the teacher in promoting learning, are of central importance in ex plaining teaching practices. Others suggest that teaching practices may follow m ore from the inherent conditions of teaching itself. For example, Labaree (2000) has listed several problems inherent in teaching that most people do n ot see or are not aware of: the fact that teaching cannot occur without coopera tion of students, the fact that students are themselves captive audiences, the fact that emotions are necessarily part of the work, and that, consequentl y, part of teaching consists of emotion management; the fact that teachers are virt ually isolated from other adults as they carry out their work, and the fact t hat most teaching situations are inherently ambiguous and subject to numerous interp retations. These two hypothesesÂ–that practices are influenced by beliefs and that they are influenced by the conditions of teachingÂ– are not e ntirely distinct, for beliefs themselves could derive from the conditions of prac tice and could, in turn, influence them. The combination leads to questions about how teachers interpret their situations and how they use these interpretat ions to construct their practice. van den Berg (2002) refers to these interpretations as teachersÂ’ meanings Â–that is, the meanings that teachers ascribe to the event s they see in their classrooms. These meanings, or interpretations, are important, for the practices teachers construct will depend heavily on their understandin g of their situations. Of interest in this paper, then, is the nature of thes e interpretations and the kinds of intentions teachers adopt in response to them.This paper aims to learn more, then, about how teac hers interpret classroom situations and decide how to respond to them. It ha s two main parts. In the first, it reviews reform literature from several decades and outlines some of the themes that have dominated this literature. My aim in this section is to demonstrate that, even though there are many conflicting voices withi n this literature, there are also a few main themes that have persisted for some time now. In the second part of the paper, I describe a study of how teachers accou nt for their classroom practices. In this study, my colleagues (Note 1) and I interviewed a sample of 45 teachers about specific classroom episodes in an ef fort to learn more about how they interpreted these episodes, what beliefs and v alues influenced their thinking, and what actions followed from their thin king. The intent of this paper is to contrast these rationales with reform rhetoric t o see whether, and in what ways, the values embodied in teaching practices wer e similar to or different from the values embodied in reform ideals.Reform IdealsThough there are many differences in goals among pe dagogical reformers, they tend to agree on a single premise that motivates th eir interest in reform: Something needs to be fixed. Some reformers perceiv e the process of learning
4 of 38 to be dull and dreary, some perceive classroom life to be stultifying or oppressive, some perceive school knowledge to be un interesting, unimportant, or thin. One recent source characterized the American curriculum as Â“a mile wide and an inch deepÂ” (Schmidt et al, 1997) These gener al perception have been reinforced by researchers numerous times throughout the 20th century. For instance, in his 1932 Sociology of Education Willard Waller noted that school subject matter was boring and irrelevant to life ou tside of schools. Later on, Hoetker (1969) reviewed a series of studies stretch ing back almost to the beginning of the 20th century, in which researchers observed that teachers relied heavily on recitations in their instruction and tha t these recitations consisted of rapid-fire questions requiring rapid-fire responses focusing on trivial facts and denying students the opportunity to think much abou t the content. Another literature review (Gall, 1970), done around the sam e time, also noted that teachers focused primarily on factual recall.In the 1980's a spate of studies yielded evidence t hat the school content tended toward banality. Like earlier studies, these studie s tended to attribute the problem to teachers rather than to, say, curriculum materials or administrative structures. For instance, in his study of elementar y classrooms, Walter Doyle (1986) found that teachers transformed academic con tent into academic tasks, and that this transformation frequently destroyed t he original significance of the content. Similarly, Linda McNeal (1986), in her exa mination of secondary classrooms, found that teachers reduced complex ide as to labels and lists, sacrificed depth for breadth, obscured difficult to pics and omitted controversial ones. Moreover, the lessons she observed had been c onstructed by the teachers themselves and were not designed to meet school obj ectives. Both Doyle and McNeal attributed these practices to teachersÂ’ need to maintain control over their students. Doyle argued that routine tasks were easi er to manage, and McNeal argued that, as teachers increased their concerns a bout control, they were more likely to trivialize knowledge and their students w ere less likely to be engaged. But reformers donÂ’t necessarily take their cue from research. Many reformers have offered similar observations as they justified their goals. For instance, Mary Campbell Gallagher describes the origins of the 196 0's curriculum reform by saying, Â“Disgusted with the dull and inaccurate les sons in commercial school textbooks in science and mathematics, a handful of scientists, mathematicians and educators . .Â” (Gallagher, 2001, pp 283). And when The National Commission on Excellence in Education released its 1983 report, A Nation at Risk, it opened with this dramatic statement: We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have histori cally accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-b eing of its people, the educational foundations of our society are pres ently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our v ery future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ag o has begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing our educa tional attainments. (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) So the perception that school content is trivial, o r even downright wrong, and that instruction is been lifeless or uninspired, has bee n here a long time. And these perceptions, whether correct or not, have motivated numerous reform movements over the past half century. Though reform ers disagree on what is needed, and how to go about doing it, they all beli eve it is possible to improve the content and quality of classroom instruction. T heir proposals can be grouped into three broad ideas: the need for more rigorous and important knowledge, the need for more intellectual engagement with content, and the need to make
5 of 38 knowledge accessible to all students (Note 2) 1. We need more Rigorous and Important ContentThe first persistent reform ideal is to increase th e importance of school subject matter and the rigorousness of the curriculum as a whole. Sometimes this idea is captured with phrases such as Â“more demandingÂ” or Â“ more challengingÂ” curriculum, and sometimes with phrases such as Â“cen tral ideas.Â” But there are many different views about what makes knowledge imp ortant. One group of reformers wants students to learn important discipl inary ideas rather than lists of facts and figures. For instance, in addition to kno wing the relevant names and dates of the civil war, these reformers want studen ts to understand the causes and consequences of that war. In addition to readin g or reciting passages from Shakespeare, they want students to understand the s ignificance of these passages. In addition to learning computational pro cedures, they want students to understand how those procedures work. In additio n to learning the accumulated body of scientific findings, these refo rmers want students to understand how science works. Most of these reforme rs want students to gain not only disciplinary knowledge but also the intell ectual habits and values of these fields.But another group of reformers wants to give studen ts the knowledge and skills they will need to function in our society. They wan t students to acquire the ideas and values that define our culture and to be prepar ed for constantly changing technology and for an increasingly complex economy. And they fear that too much attention to the liberal arts will interfere w ith their goals. For these reformers, the most important ideas are those that are most culturally and technologically relevant.When the American Academy for the Advancement of Sc ience (1989) developed its reform proposal, it emphasized the first set of ideas. It wanted students to learn not just specific scientific knowledge but a number of ideas that had to do with the essential nature of scienceÂ– that science assumes the world is understandable, that science demands evidence, and so forth. This organization also emphasized the importance of large organizing ideas such as equilibrium, systems and so forth. Similarly, the National Counc il of Teachers of Mathematics focuses on central mathematical ideas in this passa ge: School mathematics curricula should focus on mathem atics content and processes that are worth the time and attention of students. Mathematics topics can be considered important for different reasons, such as their utility in developing other mathematical ideas, in linking different areas of mathematics, or in de epening students' appreciation of mathematics as a discipline and as a human creation. Ideas may also merit curricular focus because they are useful in representing and solving problems within or outside mathematics. (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000, p. 12) On the other side, this passage from the National C ommission on Excellence in Education illustrates the importance of practical k nowledge: The people of the United States need to know that i ndividuals in our society who do not possess the levels of skill, lit eracy, and training essential to this new era will be effectively disen franchised, not simply from the material rewards that accompany competent performance, but also from the chance to participate fully in ou r national life. A high level of shared education is essential to a free, d emocratic society and to the fostering of a common culture, especiall y in a country that
6 of 38 prides itself on pluralism and individual freedom. (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) Although they differ from one another, all of these groups share a perception that the knowledge currently offered in our classrooms i s either not very important or not very demanding, and that the task of reform is to correct that situation.2. We need more Intellectual EngagementThe second persistent reform ideal focuses on how s tudents interact with school subject matter. Reformers want teachers to increase studentsÂ’ interest, capture their imagination, or pique their curiosity. They w ant students to be intellectually engaged with important ideas and to be thinking har d about them. The notion of intellectual engagement is often associated with pr ogressive education, where the emphasis is on physical activity as well as men tal activity. One of the earliest examples of the progressive version of this reform idea is William Heard KilpatrickÂ’s (1918) proposal for projects. Kilpatri ck argued that the purposeful act was the central feature of life itself, and that it should also be the central feature of school life. He wanted classroom lessons to be o rganized around projects that students wanted to do, regardless of whether that m eant building a boat, putting on a play, or trying to solve a problem of some sor t. All of these would be more meaningful and engaging to students than would be t he sort of learning activities that teachers normally assigned.These twin ideas of meaningfulness and engagement a ppeared again in the 1960's reform movement, which relied heavily on a p edagogy called discovery learning Discovery learning was intended to ensure that st udents acquired the most important ideas, that they thought hard about these ideas, and that they found these ideas more meaningful and engaging beca use of the way they interacted with them. Numerous curricula were devel oped during this period, most in mathematics and the sciences, and nearly al l relied on complicated classroom activities that were designed to promote studentsÂ’ intellectual engagement with the content. Jerome Bruner, a centr al figure in the discovery learning movement, defended the proposal for discov ery learning again in 1997, when he summarized his original reasoning as follow s: Acquired knowledge is most useful to a learner when it is Â“discoveredÂ” through the learnerÂ’s own cognitive ef forts, for it is then related to and used in reference to what one has kn own before. Such acts of discovery are enormously facilitated by the structure of knowledge itself, for however complicated any domai n of knowledge may be, it can be represented in ways that make it accessible through less complex elaborated processes. (Bruner, 1996, p xii). The importance of meaningfulness and intellectual e ngagement appeared again in the 1990's standards-based reform. Here is how t he National Council of Teachers of Mathematics laid out the meaning-and-en gagement theme: In effective teaching, worthwhile mathematical task s are used to introduce important mathematical ideas and to engag e and challenge students intellectually. Well-chosen tasks can piqu e students' curiosity and draw them into mathematics. The tasks may be connected to the real-world experiences of students or they may arise in contexts that are purely mathematical. Reg ardless of the context, worthwhile tasks should be intriguing, wit h a level of challenge that invites speculation and hard work. S uch tasks often can be approached in more than one way, such as usi ng an arithmetic counting approach, drawing a geometric d iagram and
7 of 38 enumerating possibilities, or using algebraic equat ions, which makes the tasks accessible to students with varied prior knowledge and experience. (p. 18) This interest in real-world activities is not held by all reformers, but instead belongs to sub-set of reformers, referred to broadl y as Â“progressives,Â” who assume that the inherent interest of the instructio nal task is an essential tool for motivating students and engaging them in learning. Other reformers criticize progressives on the ground that an over-emphasis on engaging activities can lead to watering down the curriculum and to spendin g too much time on activities that do not have sufficient intellectual merit. The y worry that activities lead to hands-on learning but not to minds-on learning.Still, even non-progressive reformers acknowledge t he importance of intellectual engagement for learning cannot occur without intellectual en gagement. Whether learning requires the kind of activities that progr essive reformers tend to seek is a separate question. There may be other ways to int ellectually engage students that do not involve complicated activities. Because of these disputes about the strategy for achieving intellectual engagement, I r etain the idea of intellectual engagement in this analysis, but not the idea that this engagement must be achieved through either progressive learning activi ties or through direct instruction.3. We need to make knowledge accessible to all stud entsThe third persistent reform ideal reflects a commit ment to making school knowledge accessible to the full range of students attending American schools, not just those who are gifted or who are college bo und. When Cronbach and Suppes wrote their tome on disciplined inquiry in e ducation, in 1969, they put the issue this way: The older form of education--transmitting facts and rules of thumb, and issuing a lifetime certificate of professional competence--has no validity in a world where social goals, communicati on patterns, and even scientific theories are changing constantly. A t the other end of the spectrum, the school is asked to instruct the c hildren from homes where there is no educational tradition and no prep aration for responsible intellectual effort. The nation, speaki ng through its local and national leadership, is calling for the inventi on of new educational methods that will wipe out the cultural depression of the inner city. . Yet the reforms have not truly succeeded. An Intern ational Study that compared the mathematical achievements of adolescen ts in various countries showed that American students have a prop er understanding of mathematics as a growing field of knowledge, but find mathematics more alien and uninteresting than students in several other nations. (Cronbach and Suppes, 1969, pp. 2-3) In her reminiscence of the 1960's curriculum reform movement, Gallagher (2001) also stressed the importance of universal access: I must emphasize that while the Curriculum Reform m ovement benefited [sic] from national interest in keeping u p with RussiaÂ’s scientists, the Reformers themselves believed so pa ssionately in their subjects that they wanted to teach all students, not just aspiring scientists and mathematicians. Phyllis Morrison tol d me, Â“A thing that we saw again and again, . is that if you treat science as an open-ended exploration, all the studentsÂ” learn science. (p. 286)
8 of 38 Following the curriculum reform of the 1960's, the nation went through a spate of federal legislation designed to increase educationa l opportunities to students who had historically been underserved. Congress ena cted legislation creating the Head Start program and the Elementary and Secon dary Education Act, which included a large entitlement for disadvantage d students. These programs were followed later by programs for students with l imited English and for special education students. In each case, a central purpose of the legislation was to provide greater access to education for a broader r ange of students. In 1983, when the National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) wrote its now famous A Nation at Risk it opened with this statement: All, regardless of race or class or economic status are entitled to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their i ndividual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. This promise means t hat all children by virtue of their own efforts, competently guided, ca n hope to attain the mature and informed judgement needed to secure gain ful employment, and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of societ y itself. (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) This third reform ideal is probably less contentiou s today than it has ever been. Nearly all reformers, nearly all citizens, and near ly all teachers, agree on the importance of giving all students access to school knowledge. However, there are still vigorous debates about how to achieve tha t goal, with one side wanting to maintain a focus on important ideas and a rigoro us curriculum and the other wanting to focus on meaningful and engaging activit ies. In his history of efforts to Â“popularizeÂ” education, Cremin (1990) says this deb ate goes back at least to the 1830's, with one side pushing to expand educational opportunities and the other worrying that expansion would mean diluting the cur riculum. For many advocates, the issue hinges on how much we should focus on important content versus intellectual engagement It is not clear that these two ideals must necessarily be mutually exclusive, but advocates frequently pit them against one another, forcing a complicated issue in to a simple dichotomy. Chall (2000), for instance, pitches Â“teacher-centeredÂ” in struction against Â“student-centered.Â” The former is oriented toward i mportant ideas and the latter is oriented toward meaningful activities. For Chall the former fosters student learning and the latter hinders it. Similarly, Ravi tch (2000) pitted Â“progressiveÂ” education against Â“traditionalÂ” education, where pr ogressive approaches emphasize meaningful activities and traditional app roaches emphasize important content. For Ravitch, virtually all progressive ide as are anti-intellectual and lead to a less rigorous curriculum. These dichotomies do not address the fundamental nature of instruction, which is that it cannot occu r without both important content and intellectually engaged students. Teachers must nec essarily think about both things at once.My goal in this study is not to settle any of these disputes, but instead to use these three broad values as a way benchmark against which to array the ideas that guide teaching practices.TeachersÂ’ Rationales for their Practices MethodTo learn how teachers interpret their situations an d justify their practices, we observed and interviewed 45 teachers as they taught a lesson of their choice. All
9 of 38 teachers taught in upper elementary grades. We soug ht teachers who taught in a variety of reform contexts, thinking that this samp le selection procedure might increase the likelihood that the teachers had been influenced by some type of reform message. For efficiency reasons, we sampled clusters of teachers, that is, teachers residing in whole schools or in clusters o f schools rather than visiting dozens of individual teachers scattered about the c ountryside. The final sample appears in Box 1 (Note 3) Box 1: Final Sample of Teachers Orientation of regional reform Specific Policy Initiative No. Schoolsvisited Demographic context of schools No. of participating teachers More important content Vermont Portfolio assessment 1Rural low-income white 12 Edison School(Charter) 1Urban low income Black 5 California science project 6Rural Hispanic, farming 11 More intellectual engagement; universal access Professional Development Schools in Michigan 6mixed urban and suburban 6 All three ideals State-promoted NBPTS certification (North Carolina) 1Rural low-income white 10 NBPTS certification without state support (Michigan) 1Suburban upper middle white 1 In the interview, we asked teachers to address very specific things that they did in their classrooms, rather than to talk about thei r general strategies or general aims. Following Schoenfeld (1999a; 1999b), we reaso ned that the values that are relevant to teaching are those that are activated by the situation Therefore, we wanted to learn how they interpreted each situat ion, how they responded and why they responded as they did. The interview strat egy consisted of videotaping a lesson and then having both the teacher and the r esearcher observe the tape and select some specific episodes to discuss in the interview. When teachers received the tape of their lesson, they also receiv ed a card with instructions, which read as follows: When viewing the videotape, be sure to have a penci l and paper handy for notes, and be sure to have the tape count er showing so that you can write down the counter times associate d with your notes or thoughts. (Press the Â“displayÂ” button in the upp er left corner of the control panel).In preparation for the interview, try to select a c ouple of episodes that
10 of 38 were interesting or important to you. These might b e times when something unexpected happened; you suddenly had an insight about what was going on ; you realize something now, in retrospect, that you didn't think of at the time. In the meantime, I will also watch the tape and wil l select some episodes to ask you about. Mine may be harder for y ou to talk about because they may refer to actions that were more au tomatic or that seemed obvious to you.Expect the interview to last up to two hours, so th at we have ample time to talk about both of our lists of events. The interview itself was relatively unstructured bu t arranged to ensure that the following four issues were addressed for each episo de discussed: How they understood the situation, or what they saw ; Why they responded as they did; Whether their practice had changed over time; If practice changed, what prompted the change. I address only the second question here, why teache rs responded as they did. Readers interested in the questions about change ar e directed to Kennedy (2002).FindingsUsing this strategy of focusing on specific events, the 45 interviews yielded discussions of 499 specific episodes of practice. F or all of these episodes, teachers talked not only about what they wanted to achieve but also about what they saw in the situation, what they valued, and wh at they had learned from various reform initiatives. The transcripts reveale d two important patterns. First, there was a common pattern in how teachers talked a bout their practices which appeared to reflect their lines of thinking about their practices. These lines of thinking may actually be an artifact of the way the interview was conducted, but they were sufficiently widespread and sufficiently powerful that they warrant attention. The second general pattern was that teac hers mentioned hundreds of different intentions, and their intentions spanned a much wider range of issues, or concerns, than reformers tend to think about. Ac ross these 499 episodes, teachers described 937 specific intentions for thei r actions. Lines of ThinkingThe first pattern had to do with how teachers laid our their ideas. They generally started discussing an episode by mentioning either (a) what they intended to do, or (b) what they saw in the situation. For instance when Ms Pass nominated an episode that she wanted to discuss, she did so by t elling us what she saw in the situation: I noted a bunch of different things. One was that I realized at one point in the tape that a child had his hand up, and almost gave up on me coming to him because I didnÂ’t see him very quic kly. It probably wasnÂ’t a great length of time. But for this particu lar child who isnÂ’t down as having an attention deficit, but I feel he does to some degree anyway. And I thought I kept better track of making sure I was in closer contact with him. And found that at one poin t he had his hand
11 of 38 up for maybe 30 to 40 seconds, and he was about to give up on me when I happened to --.[Ms Pass, 3rd grade language arts, 25 years experience] Ms Pass's perception of this situation includes far more than the fact that she failed to see a child's hand raised. She also reali zed that the child had difficulty learning and that she apparently had failed to make sure she was in close contact with him, even though she had intended to b e. So part of what she sees is that she was not achieving one of her intentions This approach to beginning a discussion was very co mmon. Teachers nearly always began by telling us either what they saw in the situation or what they were intending to do in it. So how teachers Â“read,Â” or i nterpret, their situations is an important part of their lines of thinking about wha t to do. Once teachers had offered these immediate impressio ns, we often asked for further elaboration (e.g., with a question such as, Â“Why was that important,Â” or Â“What is the significance of that to you,Â” etc) and these questions revealed another layer of thought. The next layer of thought that teachers revealed was a set of accumulated principles of practice -specific rules of thumb about how to achieve certain goals, how to respond to certain si tuations, what to expect from students in particular situations, typical patterns of student behavior, and typical patterns of relationships between what teachers do and how students respond. For instance, after Ms Pass noticed that she had no t responded to the student whose hand was raised, the conversation proceeded a s follows: [Do you feel itÂ’s important to address all students with their hands raised right away or is it mostly just this child?] No. I feel pretty much for all children. Their question needs to be answer ed. And thatÂ’s another reason why I have them not sit with their h and up while theyÂ’re waiting for me, because lots of time they e ven lose the question by the time I get to them. But if they tak e their hand back down, because IÂ’m engaged with another student, som etimes they work out whatever the question was anyway. So I don Â’t know that I feel that itÂ’s absolutely vital that I get to every child. And if a child puts their hand back down, then itÂ’s probably one of two things. The question didnÂ’t really pertain to what we were doin g, or they really weren't stuck, and maybe they just wanted me to see something. Or, you know, these kids who tend to be stuck, and defi nitely need my help will put it back up again when I go back up, s o. [Ms Pass, 3rd grade language arts, 25 years experience] Here, Ms Pass has laid out a rather detailed explic ation of what happens when students raise their hands while the teacher is occ upied with another student. Her general intention is to ensure that the questio n gets answered, but the question need not be answered immediately nor neces sarily by Ms Pass. Her principle of practice for situations like this is t hat students do not keep their hand up while waiting for Ms Pass, but instead should pu t it down. Her reasoning is that, if they do this, they may work out the answer s for themselves, or the question may become moot anyway. So standing behind teachers' interpretations of the ir situations is a set of principles of practice that teachers have accumulat ed over time and that codify patterns of student behavior, patterns of teacher b ehavior, the myriad relationships between what teachers do and what stu dents do, and some rules of thumb about how to respond to particular types of s ituations. These principles of practice represent teachers' understanding of how t he system of teaching and learning works within their classroom settings.
12 of 38 Sometimes, but not always, teachers also referred t o principles that they had acquired elsewhere, as from a professional developm ent program or from a state policy. For instance, a teacher might refer to a pr inciple of practice having to do with student motivation, and say that she (Note 4) acquired this idea at a workshop, or she might refer to a policy having to do with grading practices. So principles of practice can derive both from experie nce and from institutional policies and guidelines.There is an another layer of ideas that extends eve n deeper still, for teachers often justified their principles of practice by ref erring to a set of standing beliefs and values that they may have held since childhood, or at least have held for many years, about such fundamental things as how st udents learn, what motivates them, and what the teachersÂ’ role should be in the classroom. The line of thinking that generally comes out from a discussion of an episode, then, suggests that the most immediate thing in the teachersÂ’ awareness is her interpretation of the situation and her intentions for doing something about it. But behind these ideas are a set of accumulated princip les of practice that codify the teachersÂ’ understandings of how classroom life work s, and standing behind those principles of practice are a set of standing beliefs and values about the fundamental nature of teaching, learning, motivatio n, subject matter and so forth. In our interviews, teachers generally started by de scribing their intentions or by describing what they saw in the particular situatio n, then they moved back to their principles of practice, and then even further back to their standing beliefs and values. Teachers repeatedly used this general f orm when they laid out their accounts of their practices. The general form of th eir lines of reasoning is shown in Box 2. Box 2: General Form of TeachersÂ’ Lines of Thinking Though teachers laid out their ideas by starting on the right side and moving to the left, the sense of the conversation was that th e ideas themselves developed sequentially moving from the left to the right. Tha t is, ideas in boxes on the left were always brought up to justify the ideas to thei r immediate right. If a teacher
13 of 38 first announced an intention, and we asked for more information, she would typically move to her interpretation of the situati on. If we asked for further elaboration, she would move to her principles of pr actice. The sequence suggests that each newly-revealed level of thinking is somewhat deeper and more long-standing than the one that preceded it in the conversation. The way these ideas were introduced suggests that, within t he teachersÂ’ own thinking, the line of thinking actually begins on the left si de, with teachers' most deeply held, most long-standing, and most general ideas ab out teaching and learning, and it ends on the right side with specific situati ons and specific actions. The first box on the left, Standing Beliefs and Values includes ideas that tend to be deeply held and relatively less malleable: gener al theories of student learning, theories of student motivation, beliefs a bout the teachers' role and responsibilities, and beliefs about the nature of s ubject matter and what is important to know about it. Often teachers articula ted these ideas by referring to their own experiences as students, or simply as hum an beings. The second box, Accumulated Principles of Practice consists of observations about classroom patterns and rules and strategies for interacting w ith students. These principles appear to be have been built up in a manner that is consistent with the teachersÂ’ standing beliefs. If a teacher believes it is impor tant to maintain control at all times, she tends to accumulate rules of thumb that help her do that. Accumulated Principles of Practice can include litt le tips and techniques that teachers read about in a magazine or pick up in the lounge, or general observations about how students tend to behave or h ow they tend to respond to different types of situations. The particular princ iples that are mentioned in a particular conversation are those that are relevant to the specific situation. Thus, a single teacher may mention different principles w hen discussing different episodes of practice, but is less likely to mention different standing beliefs and values.Following these two left-most sets of ideas are two other important sets of ideas: their Interpretations of the Situation and their Intentions These two sets of ideas are formed in the context of specific teaching situ ations, based in part on what teachers see and in part on their standing beliefs and values and their accumulated principles of practice. Finally, follow ing the entire line of thinking is an action or a set of actions that is justified by this line of thinking. Two important points need to be made about these li nes of thinking. First, with only a few exceptions, these lines of thinking are internally consistent both within an episode and between episodes. That is, we usually didnÂ’t find conflicting ideas within a given line of thinking o r even within a given interview. For instance, in one of her lines of thinking, Ms D efoe mentioned a standing belief that the teacherÂ’s role in the classroom was to always remain calm and in control and every episode she nominated for discussion wa s an instance in which she perceived a situation that could get out of control, but that she was able to stop before it did. And in every case, she nominated the episode because she was happy with her own performance. In each of the episodes she nominated, then, she was congratulating herself for remaining calm and in control and for preventing minor student infractions from escalating into major lesson distractions.Second, the fact that these ideas are laid out in B ox 2 in a linear fashion should not be taken to mean that influences cannot run in both directions. For instance, it is likely that teachers accumulate principles of practice that are consistent with their standing beliefs, but it is equally likely th at, once teachers accumulate a set of principles of practice, these principles serve t o reinforce, through instantiation, their standing beliefs and values. A nd it is also possible that new experiences can alter teachersÂ’ principles of pract ice and even their standing
14 of 38 beliefs. For example, Ms Toklisch described herself as a teacher whose practice had radically changed about 6 years earlier. She de scribed the beliefs she had now but could also tell us what she used to believe All of her principles of practice were consistent with her new belief system but she could also describe her former principles. Even teachers who had not un dergone such big changes could easily say things like, Â“I used to think that students needed more flexibility and freedom, but I now see that they work much bett er with more structure.Â” So standing beliefs and accumulated principles can inf luence teachersÂ’ interpretations of events, but interpretations of e vents can also alter standing beliefs and accumulated principles of practice.A handful of lines of thinking do include inconsist encies. Here is an example of one. Ms Buford (Note 5) is a fifth grade teacher who has a difficult class this year. In particular, it includes a boy, Juan, who i s highly volatile and prone to violence. Juan acts out a lot, has temper tantrums, and gets into fights with other children. Buford wants to keep him in class a s much as possible, because she does not want to deny him the opportunity to le arn (one of the three reform ideals) and because she wants him to learn how to b ehave in social settings. But in fact she expels him frequently because he ca uses so many disturbances and disrupts learning for other children. In additi on, she perceives the other children in her class as easily distracted and exci ted, thus complicating the problem of Juan.One thing Buford has decided to do this year is to maintain a very calm demeanor and a very calm classroom, with no joking or extraneous comments at all, in the hope that she can prevent both Juan and other children from getting overly excited and rambunctious. That means that sh e herself needs to be very calm and that she needs to avoid any actions that m ight incite Juan or the class as a whole. The Â“actionÂ” in this case, then, is a c alm, deliberate, even boring, persona. Box 3 shows BufordÂ’s Line of thinking. Box 3: Ms BufordÂ’s Line of Thinking about her Calm Persona
15 of 38 A close look at BufordÂ’s line of thinking reveals c onflicting ideas. Some of BufordÂ’s standing beliefs are consistent with refor m: She wants to be enthusiastic about her teaching, believes students should participate in a variety of activities, and that they should share ideas. Th ese ideas suggest that she wants high intellectual engagement, a reform ideal. She also notes that, for all of this to happen, students also need to learn to c ooperate and to listen. Also consistent with this theme is a principle of practi ce that she acquired from a recent workshop that encouraged teachers to promote childrenÂ’s internal motivations and to reduce their dependence on exter nal consequences as a way to motivate students. All of these beliefs and values suggest that her ideal classroom is one that is exciting and filled with d iscussion about mathematical ideas.But there is a second theme in her thinking as well one that has to do with being on task. Among her principles of practice, fo r instance, is the observation that students get easily distracted and that it is very difficult to bring them back once this happens. Associated with that observation is a belief that teachers should serve as role models for being on task. When she talked about the episodes we had observed, she indicated that she so metimes curtailed discussions and particularly discouraged any commen ts that might lead a discussion off task. This strategy contrasts with t he ostensible value she places on children sharing ideas, but is still consistent with a standing beliefs about the importance of the teacher serving as a role model f or how to behave in class, and how to remain on task. So there is a tension he re between the notion of encouraging enthusiastic participation, on one side and keeping everyone focused and on task, on the other side.Now move to her current situation, where these conf licting ideas must be translated into specific practices, in the context of this particular class. Buford perceives this group of children as constituting a particularly difficult class. She has many students who fall quickly off task, get si lly and lose the thread of the lesson. And in particular, she has Juan, who is esp ecially volatile, often violent, and who has repeatedly incited other students. She wants to increase JuanÂ’s internal motivations for participating, but at the same time, managing Juan while also keeping everyone else thinking about mathemati cs is extremely difficult. She notes that this class Â“wears her out. (Note 6) Â” Given her prior ideas, and her interpretation of this situation, she decides that she needs to maintain a very calm, deliberate persona while teaching this class, one that soothes the group and keeps the entire class on an emotionally even k eel. She concludes that she cannot be the enthusiastic teacher she wants to be. On the contrary, she gives herself a number of specific prescriptions for her own behavior. No joking, no informal asides, no Â“pizzazz.Â” This is not a pleasa nt outcome for Buford, who noted with disappointment, when observing the video tape, that the class is slow and even boring, but who also argued that this was a necessary climate for this particular group of students. In effect, Buford tra des one reform ideal Â– intellectual engagement -for another reform ideal : providing all of her children, including Juan, access to knowledge.BufordÂ’s line of thinking illustrates the number an d variety of things that can influence teachersÂ’ intentions and actions, but it also shows that these ideas can contradict one another. In BufordÂ’s case, she has a conflict between her standing value of having children share ideas with an enthusiastic teacher and her perception of this particular class as being to o volatile to respond appropriately to such a climate. She decides, reluc tantly, to adopt a persona that verges on boring. In spite of this, or perhaps beca use of it, the class wears her out.The actions she took are consistent with some of he r prior ideas but inconsistent
16 of 38 with others, and the pattern also helps us understa nd how Buford responds to outside reform initiatives. For instance, as a refo rm initiative, the workshop that encouraged her to increase studentsÂ’ internal motiv ations influenced her line of thinking but failed to influence her practices in t his classroom, and BufordÂ’s testimony suggests that the reason for the failure had do with the particular circumstances of her teaching situation. In this ca se, then, the line of thinking helps us see how the interplay of beliefs and value s, accumulated principles of practice, and the conditions of practice itself lea d to a particular practice. TeachersÂ’ IntentionsThe second important pattern that was apparent as t eachers talked about their practices was the number and variety of intentions that they mentioned. In fact, on average, teachers had multiple intentions for ea ch action. For instance, here is how Ms Temple responded to a question about one of her practices during a phonics lesson: [You said something along the lines of, Â“I see some different ways of doing it.Â” What was going on there? ] When you have an Â“a-nÂ” together it changes the sound itÂ’s Â“uhn,Â” not Â“anÂ”. So we call that . a welded sound. What IÂ’m looking for is for kids to recognize that; I have it up on my board, they have it on their cooki e sheets [The children are arranging magnetic letters on cookie s heets. They have separate magnets for Â“aÂ” and Â“nÂ”, but they also hav e a magnet with a blended Â“anÂ” symbol], so IÂ’m hoping that they recog nize these welded sounds, because it changes the sound of the actual letter. That they use that so that they are thinking about what theyÂ’re spelling. [Ms Temple, 5th grade language arts, 15 y ears experience] Almost immediately after this, she offered two othe r intentions: [What was going through your mind?] I was trying to look at who it was that recognized the aan as the welded sound. And I was also making sure that they split the word in the right p lace, by the syllables. So when Ms Temple said to her students, Â“I see some different ways of doing it,Â” a relatively simple move in her lesson, her be havior actually derived from three separate intentions: She wanted to get studen ts to recognize the Â“anÂ” sound as a welded sound; she wanted to see which pa rticular students had in fact used the welded sound when they spelled the wo rd; and, meantime, she was also looking around to make sure that the stude nts separated their syllables correctly. Such references to multiple intentions w ere very common in these interviews.It should not be surprising that teachers hold nume rous intentions for their practices. Society as a whole holds multiple and co nflicting ideals for teachers, and teachersÂ’ ideas no doubt reflect all of society Â’s ideas as well as a set of ideals that derive from their personal experiences. Moreover, it should not be surprising to find contradictions among teachersÂ’ i ntentions. The number and variety of things teachers care about, and the numb er and variety of intentions they have for their practices, virtually ensures th at some of these intentions will conflict with others (e.g., Hammer, 1997; Lampert, 1985; Schwabb, 1978; Fenwick, 1998). Sometimes internal contradictions c an create Â“knotsÂ” in teachersÂ’ thinking (Wagner, 1987). For instance, a teacher feel that she must stop being such a boring lecturer, yet she canÂ’t ch ange her approach without appearing to be a phony, yet she must change, yet s he canÂ’t . Wagner notes that when teachers get such knots in their thinking they experience tension and
17 of 38 the tension in turn can lead them to be more rigid and less spontaneous. But some understanding of the terrain of these inte ntions might also help reformers. The apparent resilience of teaching prac tices in the face of decades of reform initiatives raises the question of where reform ideas fit in the entire landscape of ideas that guide teachersÂ’ practices. Perhaps a map of their intentions can help us understand why teachers appe ar not to heed reform ideals.In our interviews about specific practices, teacher s volunteered numerous intentions for doing the things that they did. From these 45 teachers, and 499 specific episodes of practice, we eventually heard nearly a thousand references to intentions. This is an average of slightly over 20 intentions per person (Note 7) Understanding these intentions, then, is an impor tant step in understanding the origins of teaching practices. TeachersÂ’ intent ions varied in both their form (how they were expressed) and their content (what areas of concerns were addressed). Expressions of IntentionsMany of the things teachers were interested in were not expressed as goals, or as things that they wanted to accomplish. In fact, many of them referred to things teachers wanted to avoid, such as lesson disruptions. If goals represent teachers' hopes, then classroom disruptions and the like represent teachers' fears. The difference is important, for hopes and f ears are accompanied by different senses of urgency. Psychologists have bee n aware for centuries that people are Â“risk averse.Â” In financial contexts, su ch as gambling and investing, for instance, people are more motivated to avoid lo sses than to achieve gains (Kahneman & Tversky, 1986). Teachers, too, may feel a greater sense of urgency to avoid those things they fear than to acc omplish the things they hope for. Certainly the language they used when talking about avoidances indicated a strong sense of urgency.Moreover, teachersÂ’ intentions include even more th an just hopes and fears. A third set of intentions could be called aspirations These are things teachers want to be such as kind, sensitive, fair and so forth. Yet a nother set of intentions were expressed as obligations Teachers felt obligated, or responsible, to their students, to their colleagues and to society as a whole. Finally, a fifth set of intentions were expressed i n terms of personal needs that teachers wanted to satisfy, such as a need to reduc e confusion or to reduce emotional strain. Notice that, even though certain types of intention s were more likely to be expressed with certain types of emotional valences, it is technically possible for any emotional valence to accompany any type of inte ntion. For instance, one teacher may intend to promote intellectual engageme nt because this is something she believes is important and wants to ac complish, while another may hold the same intention because she feels oblig ated to students or their parents to do this. The content of the intention re mains constant, but its emotional valence varies.So of all the things teachers wanted to do, only so me were expressed as goals, or as things teachers wanted to accomplish. Others were expressed as fears, aspirations, obligations or personal needs. These d ifferences in how intentions were expressed indicate the kind and degree of comm itment that teachers have to their various intentions. For example, when we a sked teachers what would happen if they failed to meet an obligation they usually indicated that they would feel guilty whereas if we asked what would happen if they fai led to avoid
18 of 38 something, they usually indicated a strong sense of urgency that they not fail The phrases that teachers used to describe their in tentions, then, reveal what is at stake for teachers if they succeed or fail, incl uding how much of their own ego is invested in the outcomes. This fact was most apparent when teachers talked ab out the things they wanted to avoid. When describing things they wanted to avo id, they often described anxieties over real or potential outcomes, and some even described their reaction to classroom episodes with words like Â“pan ic.Â” These emotions often came up when teachers feared that they might lose s tudents' full attention or lose control of the classroom, and they often artic ulated a strong need to avoid these outcomes.Content of IntentionsSeveral writers have attempted to devise taxonomies of the things teachers or other educators need to think about as they are tea ching. For instance, Joseph Schwab (1978) argued that curriculum developers mus t accommodate the four commonplaces of teaching: students, teachers, subje ct matter, and milieu, and the National Academy of Sciences (Bransford and Bro wn, 1999), argued that an effective learning environment must attend to four aspects of teaching: learners, knowledge, community and assessment to support lear ning. Notice that there are differences among these taxonomies. The Nationa l Academy did not consider the teachersÂ’ needs or interests as releva nt to the learning environment, and Schwab did not consider assessment as relevant to curriculum. Neither taxonomy addresses the momentum of lessons themselves, which is of great interest to teachers.Taxonomies such as these are usually based on ideal ized conceptions, not on empirical examinations, so it should not be surpris ing to learn that the intentions described by these 45 teachers did not fit into the se ready-made taxonomies. However, they did sort into a few general areas of concern Two of these areas of concern had to do with the problem of acquaintin g students with new knowledge: (a) Content coverage and learning outcom es, and (b) methods of fostering student learning. Two others had to do wi th moving students through the work: ) maintaining momentum and (d) fostering student willingness to participate. The last two had to do with the person al and social issues: (e) the classroom as a community, and (f) the teacherÂ’s own personal needs. Each of these is area of concern is elaborated below.Content Coverage and Learning Outcomes When teachers talk about content, their language tends toward a sense of obligationÂ–n ot to their states, their districts or their administrators, but to other tea chers and to students. These teachers seemed very aware that they were part of l arger coordinated systems of instruction, and in particular that the teachers who received their students the following year would expect the students to have le arned particular content. They did not want to disappoint those future teache rs. With respect to their obligations to students, they wanted to ensure that their students would be able to handle state tests or to handle the next yearÂ’s curriculum. Box 4 provides a sample of comments from teachers that illustrate th eir intentions regarding content coverage. The sense of obligation is appare nt in these excerpts. Box 4: Examples of teachersÂ’ concerns about content coverage and learning outcomes [Are you doing it just because it's there? I mean c ould you just decide Â“I'm not interested, so I'm not going to do this?] You could do that. You could do that.
19 of 38 It's up to the person I guess. But then that would be in your conscience because if you don't do it, you're making the kids lose out. [Ms Abundo, 3rd grade science, 2 years experience][So you could probably teach whatever you wanted.] But then I'd be doing a disservice to the seventh grade teacher who want to do their job too. Then they wouldn't have anything to build on. If everyon e below me taught what they were supposed to, heck, it'd be a lot easier t o teach them. [Ms Joiner, 6th grade writing, 3 years experience]As a teacher in North Carolina, we have to stick to the standard course of study, and I follow those guidelines. . ItÂ’s no t a structured type of thing as long as weÂ’re teaching the standard course of study . . So my job is sticking to that standard course of study. And yes, itÂ’s goi ng to show up at the end of the year with the assessments that weÂ’re doing. Yes in first and second grade in literacy and in math. So those particular things are the things that IÂ’m looking at from year to year to see how well IÂ’m te aching those concepts and how well my students are getting those concepts. An d the results IÂ’m getting at the end of the year show that theyÂ’re, theyÂ’re g etting what the state expects them to get and to move on to the next grade level. [Ms Fosnot, 2nd grade math, 7 years experience]So when I look at kids and IÂ’m saying they're comin g in and they're not reading where they should be reading, so IÂ’m going to have to work extra hard to get them on grade level and I have two year s to do that and there is a urgency. There is a urgency when kids are in 5th an d 6th grade and there not reading on level yet. Instructionally, they might n ot get as much instruction as they move on through the system out of the elementa ry school, so there is a urgency. So these particular kids for reading, this is really important for them now in there life and I do believe with instruction that theyÂ’ll be ok. That is where the urgency comes in. [Ms Jaeger, 5th grade r eading, 8 years experience][ So at the beginning you said you do this, repeati ng in unison, kind of chanting almost thing that is going on, because. Yo uÂ’re trying to accomplish what by doing that?] They want the kids to learn th e sounds that these letters make without having to think about it. It becomes a utomatic. And if they give them a key word, especially with the ---(?) because those change so much. They give them a keyword so that-for instance in the tape, I think itÂ’s the tape is playing, the sound is when I say. At the en d we do what is called the quick rule, quick drill in reverse, where I, instea d of saying the letter and giving the key word and sound, I say Â“what says 'ah '?Â” And I often get the kids on that, because they want to say a, when itÂ’s really o. And I gave them the key word there, o octopus ah. And the key word is there so that if they forget they can remember the word and hear the soun d o in it. [Ms Temple, 5th grade language arts, 18 years experience) An important matter within this area of concern is the difference between content itself and teachersÂ’ articulation of learni ng outcomes. Even when content is held constant, teachers can articulate a variety of different learning outcomes for that content. To see this distinction, look at the intentions expressed in Box 5, all of which came from math tea chers in grades 5 or 6. Box 5: Examples of teachersÂ’ desired learning outco mes in upper elementary mathematics
20 of 38 [Math] is a whole different language. ItÂ’s got itÂ’s own language, and itÂ’s own set of symbols. And sure itÂ’s about numbers, but yo uÂ’ve got to understand what to do with those numbers. And in Vermont anywa y, thereÂ’s a major emphasis on using math language, and accurately app lying math language. And yeah itÂ’s about numbers, but youÂ’ve got to know what to do with them. And I think a lot of kids where they run into a pro blem is with problem solving. They donÂ’t know what to do with those numbers when theyÂ’re confronted with a problem. What operation do I use. I spend a lot o f time at the beginning of school, I spent a lot of time. [Mr James, 6th grade math, 6 years experience] They really have not completely mastered metrics, a s far as IÂ’m concerned, in any year that weÂ’ve done it. TheyÂ’ve gotten it enou gh to surface-satisfy the requirements and move on. Hopefully theyÂ’ll master it at some other point. But this is really the first year they get into met rics and I, I really donÂ’t go for mastery at this level. [Ms Todd, 5th grade math, 20 years experience] I wanted them to realize whether what she was sayin g made mathematical sense or not and if I say Â“thatÂ’s a good ideaÂ” then everybody is going to think, Â“Yep, yep, so sheÂ’s right, and letÂ’s just do what s he does.Â” Because that happens a lot. If I make a judgment, then they just .Â– So I try really hard, especially since theyÂ’re older, for them to be the judge. ThatÂ’s why I asked them, Does that make sense to you, or Does that see m like a reasonable way to think about how we could find area. ThatÂ’s w hat I always try to do. [Ms Toklisch, 6th grade math, 6 years experience]OK. On morning math, there came up a problem where we were trying to find common denominators, and then I had called on a stu dent who knew the common denominator, but he couldnÂ’t tell me how to find the equivalent fraction. Say the number is 1/3, and heÂ’s changing it into 79ths because thatÂ’s going to be his common denominator. He could nÂ’t tell me what 1/3 would be equal to in 79ths [e.g., 26/79] and what t hat was called. And really I was wanting him to put a term with it. He really di d know the process, but he just couldnÂ’t put a term on it. And because of the review, I was trying to remind everyone of the steps in the process, not ju st the answer. [Ms Taswell, 6th grade math, 14 years experience] Despite the content similarities, the learning outc omes these teachers sought were remarkably diverse. This phenomenon was not un ique to mathematics. Within each school subject, the learning outcomes t hat teachers defined addressed many different aspects of that subject. I n the case of mathematics, some teachers were more interested in mathematical language and symbols, others in mathematical reasoning, others in mathema tical procedures and conventions. In other subjects, though, similar var iety was apparent. TeachersÂ’ discussions of content, as an area of con cern, reveal several important points about their intentions. One is tha t their thoughts about content are often based on a sense of obligation to their s tudents and colleagues to cover the content that is designated for their grad e level. Another is that they had their own ideas about what was important for st udents to learn about the designated content, and the values they placed on t heir content were remarkably various. Yet another important point abo ut their intentions regarding content is that they rarely denied the importance o f any content or learning outcome. In our interviews, we often inserted devil Â’s advocate questions, asking they why not do something else. In the case of cont ent, we often asked teachers why not teach some other content. The most frequent respon se was that the other content was also important, or that it would indeed be taught in some other situation, but that in this situationÂ–for these par ticular students at this particular
21 of 38 time, this content was more important.Strategies for Fostering Student Learning The second main area of concern reflected in teachers intentions was fostering stud ent learning. This is a concern distinct from concerns about the content itself, an d has to do not with what to teach, but rather with how to teach. Intentions that reflected this area of c oncern tended to take a strategic tone that included inten tions such as these: How or when to monitor student progress; Modeling problem-solving processes or thought proce sses; Defining learning goals that are appropriate for th ese students, or adapting the content to their needs; Helping students learn to monitor their time, stay focused, attend, etc. TeachersÂ’ intentions regarding fostering student le arning are probably closest to what most outsiders assume teachers think about. Th ey indicate an interest in keeping track of what students are learning and thi nking, and making sure students are responding in the way teachers had hop ed for. Box 6 provides some illustrative expressions of intentions in this area of concern. Box 6: Examples of intentions regarding fostering s tudent learning [ Why do you ask students to give thumbs up or thum bs down?] Well, one thing about the thumbs up and down is that you donÂ’ t really know if they know or if theyÂ’re just following what their friend is d oing. A lot of times I do have them writing things down and I walk around. ThatÂ’s another thing I like to do. I think maybe with the questioning itÂ’s just because itÂ’s some of the coursework that IÂ’ve done lately, um, and its so mu ch, thereÂ’s so much emphasis on problem solving and thinking skills and so the questioning, IÂ’m hoping, helps them to think, to get into different modes of thinking. So I guess thatÂ’s why I was with that, more. [Ms Majordom, 3 r d grade math, 26 years experience]Now, I purposely went to one of my harder words on my list because I did not want to lead this group of good spellers with the i mpression that we are going to work on easy words because that has been a gener al cry that I have heard of teachers who are working with more capable spell ers that the kids think the words are really easy. The words are too easy. [Ms Lafayette, 5th -6th grade spelling, 28 years experience][Why did you pick that moment out in the tape, you said go to this moment?] This is the first time that this group of kids has worked together and IÂ’m going to ask them right after this to share with their gr oup. ItÂ’s going to be really important to me as their teacher to know what they have written on that paper. If you taught for any number of years, you k now that anything could be on those papers. So you really want to be aware of whatÂ’s there so before you turn them loose in a group situation where they 're sharing and commenting and asking questions or whatever might h appen in that situation, so I thought it was important, I think instructiona lly to me, itÂ’s important to recognize that we need to keep track of where kids are along the process, not to just instruct and move on, that you need to know where each kid is individually. [Ms Jaeger, 5th grade literature, 8 y ears experience] As an area of concern, fostering student learning i s particularly important for teachers. Intentions in this area justify many of t he strategies, techniques, and devices that teachers might draw upon to move stude nts toward a learning goal. Reforms that concentrate on the content itself, rat her than on how to help students learn content, are leaving this important problem entirely in the hands
22 of 38 of teachers.Maintaining Lesson Momentum As an area of concern, lesson momentum gets almost no attention from reformers. Yet in our conv ersations with teachers, we found numerous references to the importance of keep ing things moving along, avoiding distractions, making sure everyone was on the same page, and so forth. Maintaining momentum was clearly a very impo rtant area of concern for teachers and included such diverse intentions as th ese: Making sure materials were ready and available; Making sure students understood what they were supp osed to be doing; Monitoring student behavior and preventing disturba nces; Adjusting procedures to accommodate student readine ss and understanding; Making sure everyone was on the same page. The most prominent specific intention within this a rea was avoiding distractions Almost to a person, teachers indicated a strong des ire to avoid distractions while they were teaching. They said that small dist ractions tended to escalate into larger ones, that escalation could cause them to lose control of the lesson, lose the momentum of the lesson, or lose studentsÂ’ attention, and that these disruptions often meant that they needed to go back and start all over because students forgot everything that had happened prior to the distraction. They worried that the classroom would dissolve into chao s. Much of the discussion about maintaining momentum used the language of avo idance and included a strong sense of urgency that gives one the sense th at the need to move through the planned events in an orderly and stable way was urgently important to teachers, not just because disruptions took time aw ay from learning, but also because they created emotional distress for the tea chers themselves. It might be easy to assume that concerns of this so rt plague mostly novice teachers, and that they would not appear in intervi ews with experienced teachers, but that was not the case. Almost all tea chers seemed to believe that the potential for a major disruption was always present and that they had to be ever-vigilant to avert these disruptions. Moreover, the fear of losing control was articulated even among teachers who appeared to be quite composed. Often, the things they saw that triggered this concern wer e so tiny that they were not even visible on the videotape. They were often not visible to me even on re-viewing the tape numerous times. Yet these small aberrations were signals to the teacher that a potentially disastrous situation could occur if action werenÂ’t taken immediately. Box 7 provides some examples of these concerns and intentions. Notice that these comments do not all c ome from novice teachers. Box 7: Intentions Regarding Lesson Momentum [What would it mean to lose a kid here?] Well, in t he small group, it wouldnÂ’t be a big issue, because IÂ’m in very close proximity to all of them, and all I have to do is reach over and touch somebodyÂ’s hand, and I bring them back in immediately. But, in a large group, you lose som ebody in row 2, pretty soon, theyÂ’d have their neighbor gone, and theyÂ’re playing with pencils or something. And itÂ’s not a huge issue, because you l ose kids all the time. All the time. IÂ’m not going to be able to keep everybod yÂ’s interest all the time. But there is a general thing where you donÂ’t want t o go off on a tangent, just lose everybody. [Ms Dawes, 4th -5th reading, 13 yrs exp] [So you said when you put them in groups they were out of control. What do you mean by Â“out of control?Â”] Very difficult to ge t them to listen, because they were sitting, you know, in groups of four at a table. Even like during
23 of 38 times when they were supposed to be silent reading, then theyÂ’re playing with one another and theyÂ’re fiddling at each others des ks and they're talking even when I was talking. It was just real difficult to stop. It was real difficult for them to stop talking and listen when they were in g roups. They feed off one another, and if it gets started--. They would get r ude and crude and nasty and mean and those were the kinds of things that were h appening. [Ms Awkler, 5th grade math, 9 years experience][ So whatÂ’s the trade off here between having them volunteer these things and not write them versus writing them up on a char t in front?] Well timing definitely is the trade off, and keeping them engag ed because when I write, well the kids have to wait till I am done writing. When you are writing then the kids tend to goof off ,you know. They start losing their interest and um or what the conversation is. [Mr Awles, 3rd -4th grade science, 9 years experience]We do have a lot of children that canÂ’t keep their hands off of someone else, rubbing up against someone, just touching them to s ee if they can start reactions. And theyÂ’re not, theyÂ’re just, theyÂ’ll s ay to you, if you ask them why they have their hands on someone else, theyÂ’ll say, Â“WeÂ’re just playing.Â” But to me thatÂ’s, itÂ’s not safe. The kinds of behaviors that the, just touching, putting your hands on someone else or, thatÂ’s just not safe. [What do you mean by Â“not safe?Â”] Well, then you have the potent ial for a fight, you have the potential for someone getting umÂ…hit in the bac k of the head. Someone getting knocked around, falling out of their chair sort of things. [Ms Taswell, 6th grade science, 14 years experience][What would be the problem with them slouching down or bumping into each otherÂ’s space?] It would cause problems, cause figh ts. Like today um I had a student, Keith socked Shane in the arm, and the rea son was Â“he was on my deskÂ” I guess he kept asking him to move over or wh atever. So thatÂ’s the problems we get. We get the swinging under the desk but if everyoneÂ’s sitting up straight and my feet are down, my legs a renÂ’t swinging. Then I get the Â“he kicked me from the sideÂ” but if their feet are this way. So it, it a lot of problems I could avoid if I had them to sit up corr ectly. [Ms Furth, 3rd grade language arts, 3 years experience] Many teachers seemed to believe that maintaining mo mentum was an important step in achieving their learning goals. How can stu dents learn, after all, if they donÂ’t get through the lesson? It is not simply a ma tter of covering the content; it is a matter of getting students through the learnin g activities, discussions, quizzes and so forth that are designed to foster le arning of the content. Yet one criticism reformers often make of American lessons is that they cover too many details, that big ideas are lost in the details and that students donÂ’t have an opportunity to intellectually engage with any of it Many of our discussions with teachers revealed a severe tension between the desi re to foster student learning, on one hand, and the desire to maintain l esson momentum on the other.Student Willingness to Participate The fourth area of concern reflected in teachersÂ’ intentions was student willingness to par ticipate. Teachers indicated the importance of student willingness through a num ber of specific intentions, including these: Keeping students focused; Encouraging and affirming students; Challenging and motivating students; and
24 of 38 Accommodating individual differences. Teachers tended to care about student willingness t o participate for two very different reasons. On one side, they understood tha t students could not learn if they didnÂ’t want to. On the other side they also kn ew that they could not entice 100% of their students 100% of the time to intellec tually engage with the content. Children are too various in their interest s and too easily distracted. So they frequently hoped for a lesser goal--that their students would at least cooperate with the lesson and learning activities and would not disrupt the rest of the class. The strongest desire for student will ingness to participate extended well beyond the desire to avoid disturbances: Many intentions addressed studentsÂ’ attitude toward classroom life in general or toward their own ability to participate successfully. In fact, the most prevale nt specific intention mentioned was that teachers wanted to respond positively to students There was a widespread belief among these teachers that student s would respond positively to the teacher if the teacher responded positively to them. Box 8 provides some examples of these intentions. Box 8: Intentions Regarding Student Willingness to Participate I think every child needs to feel equally important in the classroom. And that's why I shake their hands at the end of the day. I wa nt to make sure thereÂ’s a connection. I greet them at the beginning of the da y and make sure that I acknowledge all of them. [Ms Mines, 6th grade writi ng, 26 years experience] . thereÂ’s a lot of kids that, once they get sho t down, they stay down. So I didnÂ’t want to just deflate anyoneÂ’s bubble by sayi ng Â“no, thatÂ’s not what we were doingÂ” because there was a group that was read ing separately. [Mr Waffner, 4th grade history, 25 years experience]I try not to do anything that would be critical, ev en when they make a suggestion or do something thatÂ’s clearly not in th e right direction. . If I say, Â“ThatÂ’s wrong,Â” itÂ’s not OK. I donÂ’t think you shou ld tell that to a child. I donÂ’t thin you should say, Â“ThatÂ’s wrong. That wonÂ’t work .Â” [Ms Buford, 5th grade math, 25 years experience][Why have you decided then to not correct it?] I wa nted to make him feel that he was making a connection. . So I was hoping t o kind of ease him and make him feel better about what he had done. [Why i s that important?] I really feel like their confidence is going to be be tter and theyÂ’re not going to be shy about answering questions. Every time they r aise their hand in class theyÂ’re taking a risk. And if they always take the risk and fail, I am afraid that starts to diminish their enthusiasm to participate. So, I always try, even if the child gives a wrong answer, I try to say Â“thatÂ’s re ally close, but letÂ’s look at it this way.Â” [Ms Mueller, 6th grade science, 3 years experience] I take, whenever the opportunity arises, the chance to say to children that all of us have capabilities, but they may be in differe nt areas. [Why do you think that is important?] Because there are so many kids that think theyÂ’re stupid, and dumb, because they canÂ’t compute well in math. Or because they are a divergent thinker, and they just plain look at the world differently. And kids need to know, Â“Yeah, you have an important role to play, here and in society in general.Â” [Ms Macciolino, 5th grade history, 35 years experience] [And what is it that you hope to accomplish with th is project as a whole?] That they have pride in their work. That when they put i t up they can be proud of themselves that Â“Gee, I did that.Â” You know, that t heyÂ’ll say to their mom, Â“Take a look at my five.Â” So I think you have to do those polishing kinds of
25 of 38 things at the end to show that its nice and its imp ortant and that they can be proud of the work they accomplish. [Ms Pass, 3rd gr ade writing, 25 years experience] Many teachers believed that if students did not fee l confident in themselves and their ability to succeed, they would not participat e in learning activities and consequently lesson momentum could be lost and the disengaged students would not learn. The notion that self confidence or self-esteem was a prerequisite to learning came up far more often tha n the notion that interest in the content or a desire to learn might be a prerequisite to le arning. Another theme running through these comments was th at fostering studentsÂ’ self esteem was an independent educational goal app arently distinct from other learning goals. Teachers wanted to encourage studen ts, to affirm them, and to make them feel good about themselves and about thei r capabilities. These passages also reveal an important tension between t he desire to affirm students, on one side, and the desire to foster lea rning on the other. Several references to the importance of affirming students came up in the context of a wrong answer. That is, the teacher asks a question to Suzy and Suzy provides a wrong answer. This answer provokes an immediate dil emma for the teacher because she canÂ’t let this answer go, but at the sa me time she canÂ’t do or say anything that might suggest that Suzy has a problem or is inadequate in some way. Because of their desire to encourage students teachers find wrong answers to be especially troublesome. Almost to a p erson, teachers abhorred the idea of telling a child that he or she was wron g. Yet, since students are novices at the subjects they are learning, they are likely to often be wrong, thus placing teachers on the horns of an often agonizing dilemma. Classroom as a Community The fifth area of concern has to do with the soci al atmosphere in the classroom. Teachers wanted to cre ate a particular kind of social climate in their classroom, and wanted stude nts to learn to interact with the teacher and with one another in particular ways For instance, they wanted order, cooperation, politeness, turn-taking, defere nce, and so forth. To this end, teachers mentioned one group of intentions that had to do with their own persona, and importance of providing a role model f or students, and another group of intentions that had to do with norms of be havior for students. The kinds of intentions they mentioned included these: Maintaining a particular persona Modeling civility and decorum; Being fair; Being honest; Maintaining personal integrity; Being likeable; Facing up to and addressing political and social is sues that arise in the classroom; Maintaining their own authority; and Reducing their own authority. Maintaining norms for students participation and in teractions, including Ensuring that everyone participates, Ensuring equal opportunity to participate, Taking turns speaking, cooperating, Demonstrating mutual respect, etc. Among these many ideas, the most frequently-mention ed intentions had to do with their own personae. A variety of intentions fo r persona were mentioned, and they were sometimes contradictory. One teacher wants students to respect
26 of 38 her authority, another wants to befriend students a nd diminish the distance between teacher and student. One teacher wants to b e calm and quiet, another to be enthusiastic and lively. Despite this variety a common premise running through these intentions was the belief that the te acherÂ’s persona influenced student behavior and student willingness to partici pate. Consequently, teachers tried to control their own movements, voices, and i nteractions with students in ways they believed would promote a more civilized c lassroom and a more stable learning environment. Box 9 illustrates some of teachersÂ’ intentions regarding their classrooms as communities. Box 9: Intentions Regarding the Classroom as a Comm unity One thing I try to do is be really open with them, and really tell them how I feel, and listen to them. [Ms Aires, 3rd grade lang uage arts, 3 years experience]If I tell William he canÂ’t, but I tell Marquise he can, they might not like it but those are--thatÂ’s what IÂ’m saying and IÂ’m the perso n in charge. ItÂ’s a self-confidence thing for me that IÂ’ve grown to res pect myself more, respect that I am the person in charge and that they in tur n respect me. [Ms Ames, 4th grade math, 1 year experience]I donÂ’t think respect is something thatÂ’s taught. W ell, itÂ’s something thatÂ’s taught through seeing. Because respect comes in ver y many different shapes and forms. But if the students see you showing resp ect to someone, they know that it is a proper situation for a teacher to be addressing someone that way, and then they may do it that way next time. [M s Damon, 3rd grade Spanish, 8 years experience]As a first year teacher, I want them to know that I am in charge, and itÂ’s scary when you release them to work on their own because anything can happen. And if someone walks into my room, I want them to k now IÂ’m in charge. And when you let them go, itÂ’s hard to just sit back an d let them go. [Mr Sadowski, 2nd grade math, year experience]I knew I had to accept it because again I canÂ’t val ue judge, and they bring what they bring to class. I canÂ’t expect them to br ing to class what I want them to bring. They bring what they bring. So if th atÂ’s one of their ideas, then I have to get it up there. Everything they bring. I guess if I start to say Â“No, IÂ’m not going to let you share that;Â” or Â“Yep, IÂ’ll let you share that,Â” then I become some judge of their thinking and then IÂ’m really no t teaching them how to think for themselves and decide whether things are reasonable or not. So I feel like I have to take everything they bring and they brought that. [Ms Toklisch, 6th grade math, 6 years experience]ThatÂ’s not my style, to be authoritarian. I donÂ’t w ant to be the dictator, to say, Â“you, you, you, you.Â” ThatÂ’s not my personal style. [Ms Eckhard, 4th grade language arts, 6 years experience] Satisfying Personal Needs The final area of concern that arose in these interviews had to do with teachersÂ’ own personal ne eds. This is another area of concern that is rarely discussed in reform literatu re, or even in hortatory literature, but it is important to teachers, for th ey are unlikely to remain in this line of work if they canÂ’t find ways to make classr oom life agreeable. Among the many intentions mentioned in this area of concern w ere these: Reducing mental burden of attending to too many thi ngs Reducing emotional strain
27 of 38 Holding students' attention Having some order and structure Being true to one's self Being interested in the work Having a sense of accomplishment Self improvement Being appreciated Even though personal needs were mentioned less freq uently than other areas of concern, they were nonetheless important to teacher s. Half the teachers participating in this study mentioned at least one personal need associated with teaching. Most frequently, they mentioned a need to reduce either the cognitive or the emotional burden. Both of these personal nee ds appeared to derive from feeling overwhelmed or confused by the number of di fferent things they were trying to monitor. Box 10 provides examples of thes e intentions. Box 10: Intentions regarding Personal Needs [Where did you get the idea of using a timer?] Well I have a timer because we do timed tasks for arithmetic. But actually IÂ’m using it for their work time because that way I donÂ’t have to pay attention to t he clock. That way I can just focus on what theyÂ’re doing and the clock is j ust running itself. [Ms Sesnerson, 3rd grade science, 5 years experience]ItÂ’s very hard [teaching in this school] because IÂ’ ve never had to go home holding things on my shoulders as I have here. ItÂ’s a terrible weight to have on your shoulders all night wondering if that kid i s going to come back to school tomorrow [Ms Damon, 3rd grade Spanish, 8 y ears experience] I like to have things ready because it just makes t hings easier for me, not running around finding, Â“Well, whereÂ’s this, whereÂ’ s that?Â” I feel out of control if I donÂ’t have those things ready. . ThatÂ’s not a good feeling, when IÂ’m not organized, running around looking for something and not being able to find it is not a good feeling for me. And when I, when I ge t organized, that makes me feel good. ItÂ’s something I donÂ’t have to worry about. ItÂ’s just less stress with that. So that, that helps me a lot. I think it makes me a better teacher just because IÂ’m not stressed, wondering where things ar e. I donÂ’t get rattled, and when IÂ’m, you know, if IÂ’m going to be rattled, itÂ’ s going to make it easier for me to maybe say the wrong thing, or just come off t he wrong way. [Mr Sadowski, 2nd grade math, year experience]Today they were helping each other with story probl ems. [One student asked] Â“Can I helpÂ” Â“Oh please go help! IÂ’m one person! Pl ease help them! [Ms Bowes, 5th grade math, 30 years experience] In a sense, these references to personal needs foll ow from the number and variety of other things teachers were trying to do. It is not surprising that teachers felt overwhelmed, given the variety of int entions outlined above. Teachers want to cover important content, foster st udent learning, keep their lessons moving along, increase student willingness to participate, be ethical and even-handed with their students, and encourage thei r students to interact with one another in a civilized way and to participate e qually in classroom activities.Summary of IntentionsBox 11 shows how frequently teachers mentioned inte ntions in each of these six areas of concern. The first thing that Box 11 revea ls is that teachers mentioned
28 of 38 more intentions having to do with fostering student learning and with maintaining momentum than with any other areas of concern. This prepond erance could reflect, at least in part, the types of practices w e tended to talk about, but it also indicates that these areas of concern are highly sa lient in teachersÂ’ moment-to-moment decisions. The third-most-frequent ly mentioned area was student willingness to participate. However, as tea chers discussed this concern, it was clear that they believed student willingness to participate depended more on self-esteem than on interest in the content or i n the learning goal. Notice, too, that first these three areas of concern all have to do, in one way or another, with manipulating students: how to maintain lesson momen tum, how to get students to cooperate, and how to get them to actually learn Box 11: Main Areas of Concern and Number of Intenti ons Mentioned within each Area 127 references to Content Coverage and Learning Outcomes including Obligatory content coverage, specific required cont ent or need to cover all chapters in the text; and Desirable learning outcomes such as acquiring factu al content, learning to reason, or developing appropriate attitudes towa rd the material 215 references to Fostering Student Learning including Specific teaching strategies such as selecting appr opriate content for students, adapting content to student interests or capabilities, modeling thought processes and language usage, and monitorin g and assessing student learning. Intermediate learning goals, such as helping studen ts learn to manage their time, to focus, to write notes or use other s tudy strategies, etc. 204 references to Maintaining Momentum including making sure materials were ready and available, making sure students unde rstood what they were supposed to do; monitoring student behavior, preven ting disturbances, adjusting procedures to accommodate student readine ss and understanding, and making sure everyone was on the same page.165 references to Student Willingness to Participate including keeping students focused; nurturing and affirming students, challenging and motivating students, and accommodating individual d ifferences so that everyone is willing to participate.123 references to the Classroom as a Community which includes concerns about The teachersÂ’ persona as kind, fair, receptive, enc ouraging, honest, strict, etc; and Students participation and interactions, including ensuring that everyone participates, ensuring equal opportunity t o participate, taking turns speaking, cooperating, demonstrating mutual r espect, etc. 103 references to Personal Needs including reducing emotional strain, reducing cognitive strain, need for order, quiet, s ense of accomplishment, need to look good to colleagues, etc937 Intentions mentioned across all six areas of concer n
29 of 38 Box 11 is also important for what it tells us about the reform ideals. Two differences between teachersÂ’ in-the-moment intenti ons and reform ideals are apparent. One is that teachersÂ’ intentions cover a much wider swath than reform ideals cover. Even if all three reform ideals were present exactly as reformers would express them, these ideals would still be a s mall fraction of all the things teachers aim to do. The second important difference though, is that teachers did not express their intentions in the same way re formers express their ideals. The differences bear examination.One difference is that no teacher indicated a speci fic intention to ensure that the ideas they taught were inherently important. Instead, for teachers, content was important because it would be on a test, because it was in curriculum guidelines, or because they knew the teacher at the next grade level would expect students to know this content. Teachers seem ed very aware that their instruction fit into a larger system of instruction so the importance of any given content was defined according to how well it fit in to this larger system. This finding suggests that reform initiatives that focus on curriculum standards and student assessments might have more influence than those that focus on, say, professional development as their principal lever o f influence. Similarly, no teacher specifically mentioned intell ectual engagement as an important intention, but many talked of the importa nce of engagement in general and of the importance of student willingness to par ticipate. Numerous teachers recognized that they could not succeed if their stu dents werenÂ’t willing to attend and to take the instructional event seriously. The difference may seem slight, but it means that teachers may sometimes seek learn ing activities that will be fun rather than intellectually stimulating for they may seek any kind of engagement without necessarily focusing on intellectual engagement. This is an issue that cannot be addressed solely through curri culum materials, for different teachers can present the same content in wildly dif ferent ways, ranging from dreary to fascinating to amusing, and many of their strategies may succeed at sustaining students cooperation even if they donÂ’t succeed at engaging students intellectually.Finally, teachers did not discuss universal access to knowledge, but they frequently discussed universal participation in their lessons. Again, this difference is slight but could make a significant d ifference in how teaching decisions are made. Ensuring that all students are participating could be analogous to ensuring that they are all cooperating That is, the practices that teachers devise to achieve this intention may not i n fact ensure that students have equal access to knowledge .Interactions among Intentions Because different intentions and different areas of concern can conflict with one another, teachers frequently had to make decisions about which intentions to pursue. Many of the practices teachers discussed wi th us were constructed after weighing tradeoffs or reconciling dilemmas among co nflicting intentions, and teachers often described their thoughts using Â“on t he one hand, on the other handÂ” terms to explain their reasoning in particula r situations. The problem here is not the number of intentions, for even if they w ere cut by two-thirds, teachers would have difficulty balancing them if they all ad dressed different areas of concern. For example, imagine a teacher who focused only on the single most prevalent intention within each area of concern, th us reducing her cognitive burden from 20 intentions to six. This teacher woul d still be trying to do these six things simultaneously:
30 of 38 Avoid distractions and ensure lesson momentum; Cover content that prepares students for the next g rade level; Use teaching strategies that foster student learnin g; Affirm all students at all times to ensure their wi llingness to participate; Maintain a persona that will promote an appropriate classroom community; and Reduce the personal emotional strain that results f rom trying to do all the above. Even this abbreviated list of modal intentions woul d be difficult to manage, for they would not always yield the same decisions. Her e is a particularly telling example: Ms Chalmers was teaching her students abou t light and shadow. At one point, she mentioned that we couldn't have a sh adow unless we had have a source of light, at which point a student responded that indeed you could, because she had a kitten named Shadow. This comment created an instant conflict within Ms Chalmers because she wanted to r espond positively to all of her students but she also wanted to maintain the mo mentum of the lesson and did not want the discussion derailed by this commen t. I was thinking, yeah, it was sort of off the topic, and I was trying to acknowledge the fact that a cat could be named Shad ow, but what we were talking about was something else. Um, I gue ss I was trying to expand what she was saying, to move on to what w e were actually talking about, rather than to have it digress into something else, and to see what the kidÂ’s knew. What their understandin g was. . I guess my thought process was that I was acknowledgi ng and thinking that Shadow was a good name for a cat, and that we were talking about shadow in a different context. To sor t of move it to that and not say, Â“Oh, that was a silly thing to say, or that doesnÂ’t have anything to do withÂ—. . At that time, we were i n a little bit of a transition time there, and I did have a little bit of time, and I could give her that attention. But if it starts to be the kind of thing where everybody is telling a story. [Ms Chalmers, K-2 sci ence] It is by weighing the momentary importance of their many intentions that teachers construct their practices. At any given mo ment, one intention may become a more prominent concern in the teacher's re asoning. Across different situations, different patterns of intentions will e merge, and across time, different intentions may become more or less important in gen eral. Teachers frequently face conflicting intentions, so that they are force d to choose which aim will take precedence in a given situation. The most frequentl y mentioned tradeoffs were these: Keeping the group on task vs responding to one stud entÂ’s confusion. Many teachers discussed the ambivalence they felt w hen it became clear that one student wasn't following the discussion. T hey feared that if they took the time to help that one student get back on track, they would lose the rest of the group. On the other side, they donÂ’ t want to lose the one student either. Maintaining consistent rules versus responding to i ndividual needs. Many teachers placed a high value on being fair and cons istent in their application of rules, rewards and punishments. At t he same time, they also valued accommodating individual differences and ind ividual needs and allowing that there are often extenuating circumsta nces involved in a transgression. Disciplining students or correcting them versus aff irming them. Allowing students to figure things out for themselv es versus giving them
31 of 38 an answer. The dilemma here is that teachers tended to believe that students need to work things through for themselves but they often feared that if they allow the time needed to do that, the momentum of the lesson would be lost or some content would never be taught Pursuing an idea that interests students versus mov ing on. Sometimes students become too interested in a particular idea and the teacher fa ces a trade-off between allowing students to pursue an idea versus maintaining lesson momentum. A close examination of these tradeoffs also suggest s that teachers tended to resolve their tradeoffs by focusing more on lesson momentum than on other areas of concern.So teachers have numerous intentions, more than one for most of the things they do. Though these intentions can be grouped acc ording to the area of concern they address, the groupings do not convey a ll of the relationships that exist among these intentions. Teachers have a varie ty of beliefs about how success in one area of concern promotes success in another, as well as how progress in one might create a setback in another. They also have different emotional commitments to different areas of concern and they have different ideas about how to weigh them all to derive at thei r ultimate courses of action. The landscape of teachersÂ’ intentions is both dense and complicated, and intentions sometimes conflict and sometimes complem ent one another. It should not be surprising that reformers have a hard time creating a prominent place in this landscape for their own intentions.DiscussionMany studies have tried to reveal the reasons why t eachers do not implement reform ideals. My aim here was not to shed more lig ht on why teachers donÂ’t engage in one set of practices, but instead to lear n more about why they do engage in other practices. This examination of teac hersÂ’ rationales for their practices suggests that there may be substantial me rit in the hypothesis that teachersÂ’ interpretations of classroom situations, and the beliefs and values that contribute to those interpretations, could account for their long-recognized failure to adopt reform ideals. Whereas a reformer may interpret a classroom situation as presenting an opportunity for intellec tual engagement, a teacher may interpret the same situation as threatening to disrupt lesson momentum. Whereas a reformer might interpret a particular stu dent idea as intriguing or challenging, a teacher might perceive the same idea as presenting a conflict between responding to one student versus keeping th e attention of all the rest. Whereas reformersÂ’ ideas could be summarized accord ing to three areas of concern, teachers intentions reflect at least six a reas of concern. Moreover, teachers hold numerous intentions within each of th ese general areas of concern and hold numerous intentions for most of th eir actions. Not only are teachersÂ’ intentions numerous and diverse, but they often contradict one another, so that it would not be logically possible for teachers to actually achieve all the things they intend to do.TeachersÂ’ intentions also had strong emotional vale nces. Teachers need a living environment that is stable and pleasant for themselves, they are obligated to ensure that students learn the content that is a ssigned to them, they fear distractions and disruptions that will get their le ssons off course and perhaps cause it to disintegrate altogether, and they hope to enlist studentsÂ’ willingness to participate and ultimately to foster student lea rning. These emotional attachments to intentions suggest that different in tentions carry different senses of urgency. For example, the fear of distractions w as strongly expressed by almost all teachers and appeared to dominate whenev er there were two or more
32 of 38 conflicting concerns within a given situation.The three reform ideals were also present in teache rs thoughts, but they were barely visible in the complex landscape of competin g intentions and the multiple areas of concerns that were important to teachers. Moreover, even when teachers intentions appeared to be very similar to reformersÂ’ ideals, teachersÂ’ intentions were expressed slightly differently than reformersÂ’ are. For example, teachers were often unable to reject alternative co ntent, and instead responded to our queries by saying that all content was impor tant, and that the content they chose to teach just happened to be most important a t this particular moment. Their acceptance of all potential content may sugge st that they have little or no basis for sorting out content or for ascertaining w hich is relatively more or less important. Instead, for teachers, important content was content that fit within the larger system of instruction.Similarly, teachers embraced the idea of engagement though virtually none of them used the phrase intellectual engagement. Moreover, even as they sought engagement, they also feared that too much engageme nt could hinder lesson momentum and could prevent them from finishing less ons on time. This tension between intellectual engagement, on one side, and t he pressure of time and momentum on the other, is something that reformers rarely address but that teachers must address. Teachers also indicated that engagement was not an easy thing to manage in a classroom with 25 childre n, any one of whom may derail a conversation by misinterpreting an idea or getting confusedÂ– or by, conversely, Â“getting itÂ” immediately and thus losin g interest while waiting for others to get it. As these dilemmas arise, the cloc k is ticking, and teachers feel pressure to move along. And when teachers faced tra deoffs among competing intentions, lesson momentum was most likely to be t he dominant concern. The reform ideal that was most widely mentioned in teachersÂ’ rationales was the ideal of universal access to knowledge, expressed b y teachers in terms of universal participation in classroom activities. Virtually all teachers in this study expressed intentions to include all their students, to encourage all their students, and to be fair in their treatment of all their stud ents. Even still, as we saw in the case of Ms Buford, this intention did not translate unilaterally into a practice that reformers would necessarily admire. For Ms Buford, universal participation meant that intellectual engagement had to be sacrif iced, and that classroom discourse had to be staid and dull so that a partic ularly volatile student would remain in the classroom. Few reformers have likely envisioned a situation such as BufordÂ’s, nor have they thought about how to res olve problems that arise when their own ideals conflict with one another.This examination suggests that reform ideals are in deed present in teachersÂ’ thinking, though in somewhat different forms, but i t also suggests that reform ideals compete with numerous other ideas, large and small, that teachers care about. Teachers interpret classroom situations in t erms of six different areas of concern, and rely on their own prior beliefs, value s and accumulated principles of practice to decide how to respond to situations as they arise. The problem reformers face may not be one of persuading teacher s of their ideals, but instead one of persuading teachers to weigh differe nt areas of concern differently as they make moment-by-moment tradeoffs .Notes 1. My colleagues in this study were Paula Lane, Brenda Neumann, and Rachel Lander, all former graduate students at Michigan St ate. 2. Since the focus on this study is on the pedagogical practices teachers use
33 of 38 within their classrooms, I do not address the pleth ora of reform proposals that address textbooks or course offerings, school organ ization, market incentives and the like. 3. Note that, even though we selected teachers who mig ht have been exposed to different reform initiatives, the study is quali tative and the numbers within each group too small to enable us to make systemati c comparisons across these groups. The sampling frame was intended to en sure a variety of reform contexts, not to make direct comparisons of them. 4. Because most teachers in this sample are females, I refer to teachers in general as Â“she.Â” 5. Ms Buford, 5th grade math, 25 years experience. 6. All of the ideas mentioned in the line of reasoning come directly from the interview. They are paraphrased in the chart, for b revity, but nothing is imputed. Every idea mentioned here was explicitly stated at some point in the interview. 7. Throughout this paper, I tend to refer to the numbe r of times an idea was mentioned by teachers. To arrive at these tallies I did not include single-line or single-sentence references but instead tallied idea s only when the teacher provided a relatively lengthier passage. That is, i f a teacher mentioned a goal or a constraint in passing I did not include it. The t allies I refer to here include only those places in the interviews where teachers provi ded a relatively well-developed passage discussing a particular goal or constraint or concern that was important to them.ReferencesAguirre, J., & Speer, N. M. (1999). Examining the r elationship between beliefs and goals in teacher practice. Journal of mathematical behavior, 18 (3), 327-356. American Association for the Advancement of Science (1989). Science for all Americans: A Project 2061 report on literacy goals in science, mathematics, and technology. Washington, D. C.: Author. Applebee, A. N. (1991). Informal reasoning and writ ing instruction. In J. F. Voss & D. N. Perkins & J. W. Segal (Eds.), Informal reasoning and education (pp. 225-246). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Argyris, C. and D. A. Schn (1996). Organizational Learning II New York: Addison Wesley.Artiles, A. J., Mostert, M. P., & Tankersley, M. (1 994). Assessing the links between teacher cognitions, teacher behaviors, and pupil responses to lessons. Teaching and Teacher Education, 10 (5), 465-481. Berlak, A., & Berlak, H. (1981). Dilemmas of schooling: Teaching and social change London: Methuen. Brickhouse, N. W. (1990). Teachers' beliefs about t he nature of science and their relationship to classroom practice. Journal of Teacher Education, 41 (3), 53-62.Brophy, J. (1989). Conclusion. In J. Brophy (Ed.), Advances in Research on Teaching (Vol. 1, pp. 345-355). Greenwich, CN: JAI Press. Bruner, J. (1996). The Culture of Education Cambridge MA: Harvard University
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36 of 38 Schwab, J. J. (1978). The "impossible" role of the teacher in progressive education. In I. Westbury & N. J. Wilkoff (Eds.), Science, curriculum and liberal education: Selected essays (pp. 167-183). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Stigler, J. W., & Hiebert, J. (1999). The teaching gap: best ideas from the world's teachers for improving education in the cla ssroom New York: The Free Press.Tyack, D., & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward Utopia: A century of public school reform Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. van den Berg, B. (2002). Teachers' meanings regardi ng educational practice. Review of Educational Research, 72 (4), 577-625. Wagner, A. C. (1987). "Knots" in teachers' thinking In J. Calderhead (Ed.), Exploring teacher thinking (pp. 161-178). London: Cassell. Waller, W. (1932/1961). The sociology of teaching New York: Russell and Russell.About the AuthorMary M. Kennedy 116 Erickson Hall Michigan State University East Lansing MI 48824 (517) 432-5549 Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgMary Kennedy is a Professor in the Department of Te acher Education at Michigan State University. Her research centers on the nature of teaching and on how it is influenced by external forces such as research, policy, or professional development. She has published two boo ks and numerous articles on these issues and has won four awards for her wor k. The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is epaa.asu.edu Editor: Gene V Glass, Arizona State UniversityProduction Assistant: Chris Murrell, Arizona State University General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, email@example.com or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State Universi ty, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: firstname.lastname@example.org .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin David C. Berliner Arizona State University Greg Camilli Rutgers University Linda Darling-Hammond Stanford University
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