Professional Development for Field-Based Teacher Education Practitioners: Designing for the Development of New Tools and Concepts for Practice
Authors: Jessica Tunney, Elizabeth van Es
Presented at 2017 AERA
Abstract: Field experience is considered both an essential cornerstone of teacher preparation and highly problematic given historical disconnections and tensions between universities and schools (Anderson & Stillman, 2013; Darling-Hammond, 2006; Feiman-Nemser, 2001). This study describes an effort to improve field experience through attention to the specifics of local context, examining a professional development intervention designed for teacher education practitioners to develop a shared vision of ambitious mathematics teaching and a coordinated approach to mentoring through construction and implementation of a common tool to guide observations and feedback on teaching. Informed by Design-Based Intervention Research (DBIR) literature (Fishman, et al., 2013; Penuel, 2014) and Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) intervention approaches (Engeström, 2011; Engeström & Sannino, 2010), the driving purpose of the intervention was to support teacher education practitioners themselves in addressing the problems they identified in their direct work. Targeting “expansive learning” (Engeström, 1987; 2001), goals included enriched understanding of the sources of problems and construction of locally specific tools and innovations implemented into practice. In seven meetings over six months in the context of a university-school site partnership, the intervention brought together three university supervisors of student teaching and six classroom mentor teachers for a structured collaboration process. The intervention was designed for three phases: 1) identifying field-based challenges and analyzing the historical and systemic sources; 2) developing and implementing a potential shared tool; and 3) modifying the shared tool based on experience in practice. To enable pursuit of practical concepts attuned to specifics of the local context, central goals for each phase and related activities were planned ahead of time but topics for discussion and meeting agendas were determined based on the interest of participants and the focus of talk throughout the intervention. Facilitation practices featured managing participation to ensure multi-voiced discussions, highlighting emerging concepts and ideas for group consideration and discussion, and following up on participant ideas and suggestions. This paper presents excerpts from meeting transcripts and facilitator reflections, tracing the design choices made within and between intervention meetings as new concepts for practice developed. Results highlight unique learning outcomes that emerged: 1) the distinct roles of mentor teachers and university supervisors, in light of the different institutional forces they are subject to, must be accounted for to offer a shared vision of ambitious mathematics teaching in field experience; 2) mentor teachers are uniquely positioned to support pre-service teachers in learning to make the in-the-moment instructional decisions essential for ambitious teaching; and 3) a common language of teaching affords communication, coordination, and continued professional learning for the work of teacher education and classroom teaching. Importantly, these outcomes speak to both the local specifics of context in terms of the roles and practices of mentor teachers and supervisors and the broader systemic and historical issues related to teacher preparation and learning in the field.