Culture of Teaching

Earlier, I blogged about a conversation Amy and I had in response to Ben Levin’s keynote at the IKIT Summer Institute 2005. In talking about knowledge building as an educational reform, Levin suggested that new graduates from preservice programs are not likely to change the educational system significantly (i.e. scale up knowledge building). This made sense to both of us. We agreed that new teachers joining the community of practice of teaching would find it difficult to implement innovative approaches like knowledge building. They would encounter resistance from the “oldtimers,” and scaling up new practices will be challenging.

This brought us around to talking about my research about how to scaffold progressive discourse among graduate education students, many of whom are inservice teachers. Amy, a practicing secondary school teacher and a Ph.D. candidate, wondered if I was asking my participants to engage in a practice that was not a part of the culture of teaching. Certainly, progressive discourse is something that researchers engage in more than teachers, but I think many of my participants are leaders in their schools and had decided to conduct graduate research because they are committed to improving their students’ learning and their own teaching practice. They are prime candidates for implementing reform, being more experienced but open-minded, and having more influence with their colleagues. Thus, my intent in asking them to engage in progressive discourse is not to ask teachers to abandon their culture of teaching and to embrace that of a researcher (see also Labaree, 2003; Neumann, Pallas, Peterson, 1999). Rather, I would like the teachers to see that research is a part of their identity, one that develops over time, and helps them attain their own learning goals and instructional goals for their students. Being able to talk to other teachers and researchers in a way that brings evidence to bear on ideas, to understand issues about educational practice and theory in a more meaningful way, I think is really important if we want scalability in educational reform.

Labaree, D. F. (2003) The peculiar problems of preparing educational researchers. Educational Researcher, 32(4), 13-22.

Neumann, A., Pallas, A.M., & Peterson, P.L. (1999). Preparing education practitioners to practice education research (pp. 247-288). In Lagemann, E. L. & Shulman, L.S. (Eds.), Issues in education research: Problems and possibilities. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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