10 SES 07 D, Research on Values, Beliefs & Understandings in Teacher Education
Teachers are change agents in societies. Class size, administration, and resources are important, but it is teachers who have the most influence on student achievement (Brophy & Good, 1986; Cruickshank, Jenkins, & Metcalf, 2009; Darling-Hammond, 2000, 2006; Lasley, Seidentop, & Yinger, 2006; Tellez & Waxman, 2006). With technological and societal demands of the 21stcentury, effective teacher education is even more critical. Among other things, teachers need to be disposed to deal with rapid changes and innovations. Teachers’ dispositions are also important for many other aspects of students’ learning experiences. Dispositions have been linked to teachers’ behaviors and practices (Diez, 2007a; Fang, 1996; Serdyukov & Ferguson, 2011), to their beliefs, knowledge, and characteristics, and have long-lasting impact on instructional practices (Hong, Greene & Hartzell, 2011).
Given the importance placed on dispositions, it is little wonder that there has been a call for teacher education programs to foster constructive teaching dispositions. In 1992, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) and later in 2008, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education(NCATE) emphasized the importance of dispositions in teacher education programs. The Council of the European Union for teacher education included dispositions among its priorities for teacher achievement (Caena, 2011). Teacher education programs “can influence the creation and revision of dispositions” (Nelsen, 2015, p. 6). Therefore, it is important to understand what dispositions are and what contributes to their development.
In the current study, a teacher’s dispositionis considered to be comprised of clusters of mindful and thoughtful habits that can evolve through constructive experiences. To categorize habits, the authors relate to Habits of Mind as outlined by Costa and Kallick (2000) who identified and described the following 16 habits of mind: (i) applying past knowledge to novel situations, (ii) creating, imagining, and innovating, (iii) finding humor, (iv) gathering data through all senses, (v) listening with understanding and empathy, (vi) managing impulsivity, (vii) metacognition (thinking about thinking), (viii) persisting, (xi) questioning and problem posing, (x) remaining open to continuous learning, (xi) responding with wonderment and awe, (xii) striving for accuracy, (xiii) taking responsible risks, (xiv) thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, (xv) thinking flexibly, and (xvi) thinking interdependently.
The researchers refer to the Theory of Experience as described by Dewey (1938) to explain how dispositions are developed. In this theory, life can be viewed as the experiential continuum where every experience leads to change and growth (albeit positive or negative). As the experiences are repeated and enforced, individuals develop habitual ways of thinking to interact with the experiences.
The research questions that guided this study are as follows:
- Which significant life experiences, revealed from participants’ narratives, contributed to participants’ dispositions?
- What do the narratives of five teachers reveal about the contribution of participants’ significant life experiences to their dispositions?
- Based on the findings from participants’ narratives, in what ways didparticipants’ significant life experiences contribute to their teaching practices?
The researchers purposefully selected five female teachers who were observed by lead author to display some or all the sixteen habits of mind in and out of the work context. These observations were confirmed through a peer review of the participants. As Vazire (2010) suggested we are far from observing ourselves perfectly accurate and others (outsiders: friends, coworkers, family members) are at least as accurate as the self to describe what a person is like. Therefore, two close peers of each participant were asked to complete a survey asking which habits of mind they agreed were exhibited by the teachers. Another reason these participants were selected was because they were open to sharing their life stories.
Methodology This study used narrative inquiry as methodology to investigate the influences of significant life experiences on the dispositions and teaching practices of five female teachers. Significant life experiences are the ones that “personally affect the individual and are subjectively valued by the individual” and the significant experience results in “expansion of skills and abilities, sense of self, or life perspective, or it precipitates a transformation that involve the whole person” (Merriam & Clark 1993, p. 182). The narrative texts, which are the outcomes of interaction between the researchers and participants, were analyzed using a conceptual framework developed by Altan, Lane and Dottin (2017) in order to contemplate the influences of participants’ significant life experiences on their dispositions. This framework was created to provide theoretical grounding to Habits of Mind proposed by Costa and Kallick (2000). The authors drew upon intelligent behaviors associated with the habits of mind and used a review of the literature to identify established educational theories that explained the behaviors. Rather than seeking a cause-and-effect relationship between the significant life experiences and participants’ dispositions, the researchers used the conceptual framework to contemplate potential relationships between participants’ significant life experiences and their dispositions. Research design Using an iterative research process, the researchers returned to the generated texts of the participants to gain clarification and further insights into the study’s research questions. In addition to member-checking, the authors used expert validation, and reflection. Throughout the study, the authors met with an educational psychologist and other experienced teacher educators to discuss how to best interpret the data gathered before finalizing the findings. Finally, the lead author kept a reflexive journal. This reflective process helped build his capacity to record, interpret, and report narrative data before and during the research process. The first interview was designed to probe into participants’ significant life experiences, which constituted their life stories based on autobiographical memories. With this object at hand, the following open-ended prompt was given to all participants for the first interview: Imagine that your life has been a journey from birth until today. Talk about your life experiences at home, school, or as a learner during this life journey, which had an impact on or contributed to your ways of thinking. You can stop any time you feel uncomfortable. The second and third interviews served member-checking the narratives purposes.
Findings The results of the analysis of narrative data revealed that participants’ significant life experiences consist of experiences related to two categories: Learning Environments and Personal Attributes. Learning Environments refers to diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which individuals develop personally. More specifically Learning Environments refer to participants’ home and school environments, and the neighborhood in which the participants grew up. Personal Attributes are the attributes or characteristics of a person that may have acquired as a result of significant experiences that the person purposefully initiated. For each category, the authors examined the narratives and conferred with expert reviewers to identify underlying themes and key experiences. The researchers purposefully chose to discuss five life experiences in detail: the family environment and the four attributes related to travelling, having hobbies, reading, and spending time in nature. Conclusion Students need teachers who can prepare them for living in the modern world. More than knowledge and skills, teachers need constructive dispositions to support student learning and classroom management. For the purpose of this study, the authors viewed teachers’ disposition as clusters of habits that are sixteen habits of mind. It is possible that there are more dispositions that a teacher may have, which are beyond the framework used for the current study. Through narrative inquiry, the current study has shown how certain experiences may contribute to effective teaching dispositions as sixteen habits of mind. Whatever the target population, the authors emphasize the importance of listening to teachers’ stories and experiences; their narratives are key resources for the design of effective teacher education programs.
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