This interview features the authors of “Getting Inside Rehearsals: Insights From Teacher Educators to Support Work on Complex Practice”. Dr. Elham Kazemi, Dr. Hala Ghousseini, Dr. Adrian Cunard, and Dr. Angela Chan Turrou share their insights from their research. Their article is published in the JTE January 2016 issue and is currently available online here.
Who we are and the ideas that motivate our work:
Our article, “Getting Inside Rehearsals,” shares several key insights gained through our work on leading rehearsals of mathematics teaching with novice teachers. We started working together because of our shared interest in better understanding what learning to teach means.
As a group, we are committed to teaching that is responsive to children’s thinking and to their identities as learners. For us, close attention to the quality of classroom interactions matters in efforts to create more equitable learning contexts for students from marginalized communities. We think it is partly our responsibility to prepare teachers who have commitments to social justice and have the skills, knowledge, and dispositions to foster day-to-day classroom interactions that can make schools affirming places for young people.
Preparing teachers well is not easy work, and the relevance of teacher education has a long history of critique. It is commonplace to say that ‘real learning’ happens in the field and more time in the field is often heralded as a key factor in successfully preparing teachers. We don’t think that more time in the field translates to more learning without considering how it is that we are using that time to get better at practice. While we agree that teacher education should be focused on practice, we think there is a lot to learn about what it means to do teacher education that is centered in practice. What do we really learn by engaging in different kinds of pedagogies and how do those pedagogies fit together to make a productive learning system for learning how to teach?
Focus on the teacher educator as a learner:
Developing pedagogies to make mathematics classrooms engaging and identify-affirming places for K-5 students requires positioning ourselves as learners in teacher education. Our work is situated within current efforts in the field to develop new designs to help prepare teachers who can make sense of their students’ experiences as learners, who can build productive relationships with students, and who can continually learn from their own practice and through collaboration with their colleagues. Rehearsals allow for deliberate practice, but it is not a silver bullet. The pedagogy of rehearsal has been a generative place not only of our students’ learning but also our own learning. We are careful not to present it as a static technique but to try to convey how it allows for learning in a number of ways over time for both teacher educators and beginning teachers. In fact, one challenge we experienced in writing about rehearsals is that we didn’t want to lose sight of the fact that it is anchored in a larger learning system. We would not advocate that teacher educators simply insert rehearsals into their courses but to think about whether and how rehearsals can support an intentionally designed learning system to help beginning teachers develop the knowledge, skills, and commitments to enact high quality teaching practices.
A message we hope to highlight from our work:
A lot of people are interested in what rehearsals can do in the learning process for novice teachers and for teacher educators. Since the publication of our first piece on rehearsals in JTE, we have gotten a lot of questions about how we conduct them and what informs our decisions. We do not think that readers will learn how to conduct rehearsals from this piece, but we hope to convey to teacher educators that it is worth working on practice collectively. We need more opportunities in the field to develop pedagogies that support learning for teachers and teacher educators and opportunities for us to actually learn them together. Practice can’t be learned from reading. Our use of the term “insight” actually is one way we tried to communicate this idea of teacher educator learning from practice. After a lot of deliberation, we decided to call the decisions that we have made in practice “insights.” Focusing on “insights” makes our paper not a typical empirical piece because we are sharing our own perspectives. We find this valuable because we want to highlight the importance of engaging in self-study and collective reflection as we learn from our experiences–in our case this meant watching and discussing videos of our rehearsals many times over and thinking through what beginning teachers confront as they learn to lead lessons.
Some ideas that have more potential:
An issue that we do not address at length in this article but that is central to our work is that good teaching depends greatly on the kinds of relationships that are built over time between teachers and students. In our own contexts, we pay a lot of attention to who our beginning teachers are and what we learn about them specifically. We pay a lot of attention to the specific contexts in which our students teach and the specific K-5 classrooms that we partner for methods instruction. We do not think good teaching can be boiled down to generic practices. Good teaching is always dependent on context and the quality of relationships that are developed between and among people.
Where we are heading next:
There are a number of ways we are extending our research. We are hoping to write more about the specific ways that novices, teacher educators and K-5 children learn together. We are collaborating with other colleagues through the Core Practice Consortium to study how teacher educators use pedagogies such as rehearsal to teach how to lead productive discussions in math, science, social studies, and literacy. We have been following our graduates into their first years of teaching to learn how they take up and continue to learn. We have also adapted and grown our understanding of an intentionally designed learning system in our work with practicing teachers and school-based learning communities for teacher learning. Our interests in selecting and designing instructional activities as a focal point for teacher and teacher educator learning has also been a focus of continued research and development.
We encourage new scholars in the field to find opportunities to collaborate with fellow teacher educators in studying the challenges and opportunities of preparing novice teachers. Listening to our own students and spending time with them in various aspects of the program and the field can be quite generative for identifying the kinds of research questions that would really advance our ability to improve teacher preparation. There is so much in the field of teacher preparation that we can build new designs for, examine and investigate together. This is how we can build a knowledge base for teacher education.
Contact the authors at:
Elham Kazemi, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hala Ghousseini, email@example.com
Adrian Cunard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela Chan Turrou, email@example.com