Theory Of Teaching

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Theory of Teaching

Theory of Teaching

Question 1

Teacher thinking is certainly relevant to teacher learning. No one can learn if they are not intellectually engaged with the topic being studied, and many investigators now believe that teachers can learn a great deal more from their own experiences in the classroom if they take time to reflect upon those experiences (Grimmet & Erickson, 1988; Schön, 1983). Indeed, reflection has become widely valued and is now encouraged in teacher education classes and included in assessments such as those used by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. These programs and assessments require teachers or prospective teachers to reflect publicly, through journal entries or essays, about particular teaching experiences. The belief is that making these thoughts visible fosters more learning.

Teacher thinking is also relevant to the ability to implement new curricula, assessments, or other policies. Even when teachers are following heavily scripted programs and curricula, they make numerous ongoing adjustments to their lessons based on their own judgments and thoughts about how their lessons are working and what students are learning. Teachers do not, then, implement curricula or other instructional devices exactly as they have been prescribed.

At the same time, efforts to influence teachers' thinking have been relatively unsuccessful. Beginning with the scientific movement in education in the early 1900s and extending through the mastery learning movement in the 1960s, education experts have offered prescriptions to teachers about how to plan and design instruction. These prescriptions tend to emphasize a rational approach to planning that begins with curriculum content, moves to goals and objectives, and continues linearly to resources, materials, instructional strategies, learning activities, and so forth. Many of these prescriptions are based on either no evidence or very thin evidence. Teacher education programs continue to prescribe specific approaches to planning, believing that some are better than others, even though we now have evidence that experienced teachers rarely use these strategies in their own planning. Findings such as these add another reason to care about how teachers think about their practice.

Research on teaching practice and how teachers think about their practice has existed for decades. One pervasive reason for our interest in teachers' thoughts is that thoughts are intertwined with practice, so if we want to better understand practice, we need to also understand the thoughts that guide practice. Thinking is not the same as acting, but teachers' thoughts interact with their actions every day in both large and small ways, influencing their ability to grow and improve their practice over time and influencing their responses to new policies, new curricula, and new ideas about practice as they arise.

Much of our interest in teacher thinking flows from a perception that teachers are not thinking about their practice in the way their critics think they should. Critics want to see different practices, and they assume the reason they don't is because teachers either are not thinking hard enough or are not thinking correctly. So along with articles about how teachers do think about their practice, ...
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