examining the unexpected sophistication of preservice teachers’ beliefs about the relational...
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Weinstein, 1989). In this literature, however, participants strongfocus on the relational aspects of teaching is often cause forconcern: ndings of these studies indicate that preservice teachersare simplistic and overly optimistic about the profession (Fajet et al.,
in addition to providing descriptions of effective teacher charac-teristics commonly identied in similar studies (e.g., caring, fair-ness, organization), participants in this study revealed surprisinglynuanced beliefs with regard to the role teacherstudent relation-ships play in instruction and classroom management. Usingexcerpts from interviews with six preservice teachers, I highlightevidence of unexpectedly sophisticated understandings about thecomplexities associated with being an effective teacher andconclude with implications for teacher education.
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Teaching and Teacher Education 25 (2009) 902908E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org that the relational domain of teaching plays a signicantrole in their classrooms on a daily basis, or that their professionalknowledge base is informed in part by the relational interactionsthey engage in with their students. When asked to indicate char-acteristics of effective teachers, practicing teachers have beenshown to strongly value relational characteristics such as caring(Johnson,1997; Murphy, Delli, & Edwards, 2004; Perry & Rog,1992).
Studies of preservice teachers beliefs about effective teachersalso reveal an emphasis on relational characteristics (Book, Beyers,& Freeman, 1983; Fajet, Bello, Leftwich, Mesler, & Shaver, 2005;
relational domain of teaching more deeply, particularly amongpreservice teachers.
In this article, I draw on ndings from a recent qualitative studyof elementary (prekindergarten-Grade 4) preservice teachersbeliefs and position their attention to relational facets of teachingas an early indication of professional knowledge to be rened anddeveloped with the support of teacher educators. Framed by theirpre-student teaching internships, university coursework, and lifeexperiences, my participants dened professional characteristics ofeffective teachers during semi-structured interviews. Interestingly,1. Introduction
Establishing and maintainingteachers is a fundamental factor inphysical, and intellectual developm1997). The prevalence of scholarshipof teaching (e.g. Goldstein, 1999; HarZembylas, 2007) signies the centraprofessional lives of teachers. Few0742-051X/$ see front matter 2009 Elsevier Ltd.doi:10.1016/j.tate.2009.02.015e relationships withrens social, emotional,Bredekamp & Copple,ed to relational aspectss, 1998; Noddings, 1984;e of relationship in theienced teachers would
2005; Goldstein & Lake, 2000; Johnston, 1994; Jones, Burts,Buchanan, & Jambunathan, 2000; Weinstein, 1989; Whitbeck,2000). These researchers are rightly concerned when preserviceteachers attention to relational traits of teaching eclipses cogni-zance of the hallmark of effective teachingdstudent learning.Indeed, as Fajet et al. (2005) have pointed out, education studentswho favor relational aspects of teachingmay deem pedagogical andsubject matter knowledge unnecessary. However, given its saliencein the literature, it seems appropriate to explore attention to theKnowledge base for teachingExamining the unexpected sophisticatioabout the relational dimensions of teach
The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, 1 Univers
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:Received 13 September 2008Received in revised form26 December 2008Accepted 24 February 2009
Keywords:Preservice teachersTeacher education
a b s t r a c t
Research on preservice teation to the relational dimesimplistic and overly optiteachers attention to teachndings of a qualitative stwere asked to describe prsurprisingly nuanced unde
journal homepage: wwwAll rights reserved.of preservice teachers beliefsg
tation D5700, Austin, TX 78712, USA
rs beliefs about professional teaching capabilities indicates strong atten-n; these studies have contributed to a portrayal of preservice teachers astic about the teaching profession. In this article, I position preservicestudent relationships as a form of professional knowledge. Drawing fromof U.S. elementary (prekindergarten-Grade 4) preservice teachers who
ssional characteristics of effective teachers, I suggest their beliefs revealndings about the complex nature of teaching.
2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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lsevier .com/locate/ tate
characteristics are rare (Murphy et al., 2004; Skamp,1995; Skamp &
her Education 25 (2009) 902908 9032. Teacherstudent relationships in the literature
The pervasive role of the relational dimension of teaching isevident in the vast body of literature it supports. Numerous scholarshave written on the topic of caring in teaching (e.g. Deiro, 2003;Goldstein, 1998; Hargreaves, 1998; Isenbarger & Zembylas, 2006;McBee, 2007; Noddings, 1995; OConnor, 2008). Others have sug-gested teacherstudent relationships are powerful inuencers ofstudent learning (Darby, 2005; Goldstein, 1999; van Manen, 1999).
In the literature, when experienced K-12 teachers are asked toidentify and/or rank characteristics of effective or excellentteachers, relational traits such as caring and warmth are amongthose consistently reported in the ndings (Johnson, 1997; Murphyet al., 2004; Perry & Rog, 1992; Walls, Nardi, von Minden, & Hoff-man, 2002). Such widespread attention to the relational dimensionof teaching among seasoned professionals is generally unquestio-neddteachers are expected to establish strong interpersonal rela-tionships with children to create and maintain learner-centeredclassroom environments (Noddings, 1984). Supporting this notionare studies suggesting teacherstudent relationships in earlyschooling affect student learning (Birch & Ladd,1997) and readinessfor school (Palermo, Hanish, Martin, & Fabes, 2007).
Researchers have also documented preservice teachersconceptions of effective teacher characteristics at the early child-hood/elementary level (Lin, Hazareesingh, Taylor, Gorrell, & Carl-son, 2001; Skamp, 1995; Skamp & Mueller, 2001; Yoder, Shaw,Siyakwazi, & Yli-renko, 1993) and in studies of elementary andsecondary preservice teachers (Fajet et al., 2005; Minor, Onwueg-buzie, Witcher, & James, 2002; Murphy et al., 2004; Strickland,Page, & Page, 1987; Walls et al., 2002). Findings suggest preserviceteachers at all levels identify interpersonal and strongmanagementskills as primary descriptors of effective teachers. Althoughsubstantial attention to relational aspects of the profession isconsidered acceptable and appropriate for practicing teachers,among preservice teachers this same attention is typicallyconstrued as a limitation (Fajet et al., 2005; Weinstein, 1988, 1989).Indeed, preservice teachers are only beginning to formulate thewisdom of practice (Shulman, 1986) that would enable them toconceptualize the incredibly complex processes of effectiveteaching. Researchers who interpret preservice teachers expressedbeliefs as evidence of their lack of knowledge tend to characterizethem as oblivious to nuances of teaching and unable to conceive ofteaching as a deeply complex profession.
Other researchers have suggested preservice teachers are capableofmore sophisticated thinking about teaching than theyare typicallycredited. For example, in her response to Kagans (1992) recom-mendation that preservice teachers should focus heavily on securinginstructional andmanagerial routines in their preparation programsbecause ofwhere theyare developmentally, Grossman (1992) assertsher belief that preservice teachers are capableofwrestlingwithmoredifcult questions about the ethical and intellectual demands ofteaching over and above procedures. Additionally, citing a review ofthe literature (Wideen, Mayer-Smith, & Moon, 1998), Hammernesset al. (2005) note preservice teachers beliefs and understandingsabout teaching and learning vary widely and are inclusive of beliefsthat are . more nuanceddand extend across a wider range ofpossibilitiesdthan many people had imagined (p. 369).
Despite a trend in the literature claiming prospective teachershold simplistic beliefs about teachingdespecially because rela-tional teacher traits are held in such high esteemdit is important toconsider the implications of methodological decisions that maymask deeper, more complex understandings obscured by heavyreliance on surveys and open-ended written questionnaires.Interviews with early grade preservice teachers who have eld
M. Bauml / Teaching and Teacexperiences to refer to as they consider effective teacherMueller, 2001; Weinstein, 1990). Findings that suggest simplisticnotions of teaching among preservice teachers may have beeninuenced by participants lack of eld experiences or by theabsence of probing for deeper understanding of participantsresponses via interviews. This study was designed to address thisissue by exploring preservice teachers beliefs in a way that allowsthe participants to justify and explain their thinkingdto tell uswhat they know descriptively from experience. Through an inter-pretivist lens, early childhood preservice teachers thinking abouteffective teacher characteristics is examined here from an experi-ential, qualitative perspective.
In this study, I set out to explore preservice teachers conceptionsof what it means to be an effective teacher. I conducted semi-structured intervi