10 SES 07 E, Professional Knowledge & Teacher Identity: Self-efficacy
In this paper we discuss the concept of improvisation as a professional teaching skill. Our professional context is teacher education and our discussion is aimed at developing a categorized understanding, or rather a tentative typology, of what professional improvisation in teaching and teacher education might be. Undertaking such a bold endeavour has included a literature review and in-depth interviews with practicing physical education teachers. We argue that improvisation in teaching needs to be professionalized. We suggest that a tentative typology of professional improvisation should include sequential, dialogic and exemplary improvisation, and that a description and introduction of such a typology could be a first step towards making improvisational skills accessible to student teachers as part of their pre-service teacher education. We conclude by arguing that further research is needed within classroom teaching and teacher education contexts in order to explore how improvisational practices in teaching could enhance education, as well as student learning.
The backdrop and research context for this article is our participation in the research project ‘Improvisation in Teacher Education 2012-2016’ (IMTE), aiming at studying, developing and reforming teacher education programs at Stord/Haugesund University College (SHUC) in Norway. According to Boyd et al. (2009) ‘…there are fierce debates over the best way to prepare teachers…’. ‘Most agree, however, that we lack a strong research basis for understanding how to prepare teachers’ (Boyd et al., 2009: 416). However, recent international research on teacher education seems increasingly to focus on the importance of teaching quality rather than teacher quality maintaining that current trends in research on practice- based teacher suggest that “novices must learn to deal with uncertainty as teaching in this manner is partially improvisational” (Knight et al., 2015, p. 106 )
Our theoretical starting point is Bernstein’s (2000) theory on vertical knowledge construction and theories on professional improvisation in education (e.g. Sawyer 2011). Bernstein uses the concepts of ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ to describe knowledge construction arguing that the former represents discourses (in a wide sense) which are coherent, systematic and hierarchically organised whereas the latter is characterized by being everyday, common sense and local. (Bernstein 2000). Keith Sawyer (2004, 2006, 2011) builds on the writings of influential American educational theorists such as Elliot Eisner (1979, 1983), Sarason (1999) and others, who had strong connections to the performing arts. Although building on their achievements comparing teachers and artistic performers, Sawyer offers a constructive critique of this tradition, arguing that these writers to some extent have marginalized the importance of ”structure” and the domain specificities in educational practices.
We suggest that the qualities and distinctions characterizing professional improvisation in teacher education as experienced in the different aspects of the IMTE project, point towards professional improvisation as a form of knowledge construction that is more dynamic than Bernstein’s model for knowledge construction. We argue that improvisational repertoires as a key curricular concept in teaching and hence teacher education are highly influenced by educational and subject traditions, and that professional improvisation only can be described as a vertical knowledge construction when we are able to establish a typology of different forms of improvisation. Findings in our review studies and case studies suggest that such a typology could be tentatively structured around three overlapping, but still different pillars in a vertical knowledge structure: 1) Professional improvisation as responsive dialogue; 2) Professional Improvisation in the use of sequences in Teaching, and 3) Exemplary Improvisation: Improvisation in the choice of examples and forms of activation
References (most important) Berliner, P. F. (1994). Thinking in jazz: The infinite art of improvisation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bernstein, B. B. (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control, and identity: Theory, research, critique (Rev. ed.). London: Rowman & Littlefield Publisher. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21(1), 5-31. Boyd, D. J., Grossman, P. L., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2009). Teacher preparation and student achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 31(4), Holdhus, K., Høisæter, S., Mæland, K., Vangsnes, V., Engelsen, K. S., Espeland, M., & Espeland, Å. (2016). Improvisation in teacher education – roots and implications: A review of relevant literature. Published: 4 July 2016, Cogent Education, Teacher Education & Develpoment https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2016.1204142 IMTE, (2012-2016). Improvisation in Teacher Education, Retrieved from: http://prosjektsider.hsh.no/imte/ Knight, S. L., Lloyd, G. M., Arbaugh, F., Gamson, D., McDonald, S. P., Nolan Jr., J., & Whitney, E. A. (2015). Reconceptualizing teacher quality to inform preservice and inservice professional development. Journal of Teacher Education, 6(2), 105-108. Montuori, A. (2005). Literature review as creative inquiry reframing scholarship as a creative process. Journal of Transformative Education, 3(4), 374-393. Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods (3rd ed.). London: Sage.
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