Talking Teaching and Learning: Using Practical Argument to Make Reflective Thinking Audible

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [The Aga Khan University]On: 10 October 2014, At: 09:36Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Action in Teacher EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:</p><p>Talking Teaching and Learning: UsingPractical Argument to Make ReflectiveThinking AudibleRobert Boody a , Katheryn East a , Linda M. Fitzgerald a , Melissa L.Heston a &amp; Annette M. Iverson aa University of Northern Iowa , USAPublished online: 06 Jan 2012.</p><p>To cite this article: Robert Boody , Katheryn East , Linda M. Fitzgerald , Melissa L. Heston &amp; AnnetteM. Iverson (1998) Talking Teaching and Learning: Using Practical Argument to Make Reflective ThinkingAudible, Action in Teacher Education, 19:4, 88-101, DOI: 10.1080/01626620.1998.10462894</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Action in Teacher Education Wink.. i998, Vol. XIX, No. 4. pp. 88-101 </p><p>Talking Teaching and Learning: Using Practical Argument to Make Reflective Thinking Audible </p><p>Robert Boody, Katheryn East, Linda M. Fitzgerald, Melissa L. Heston, and Annette M. Iverson </p><p>University of Northern Iowa </p><p>Abstract According to Fenstermacher (1994), simply engaging in reflection is an inadequate way </p><p>to facilitate change in teaching practice. Practitioners must work together to consider whether their practicealigns with their intent. Faculty teachinga diverse variety of teacher preparation courses (child development, early childhood curriculum, classroom evaluation, educational psychology, classroom management, and school, community and family relationships) met regularly to discuss their beliefs regarding educational philosophy, teacher education, constructivist pedagogy at the college level, and authentic assessment. The structure of these discussions required us to make our reflections public and subject to review by the empathetic, but critical, others in the group. In this paper, we will describe the process we have used to explore our thinking about our teaching practiceand student learning. We also discuss how this process has made an impact on our practice and how we think about our practice. Implications for teacher educators are suggested. </p><p>Introduction In ancient Greece, knowledge was seen as a tripartite structure: a) the theoretical, </p><p>the understanding of abstract principles; b) the technical, the ability to use appropriate techniques to solve particular concrete problems; c) the practical, the process of reasoning about human action (Aristotle, 1947). In terms of teaching, each of these forms of knowledge plays a critical role. However, teacher preparation programs often seem to emphasize theoretical and technical knowledge (e.g., specific teaching skills and strategies), while giving relatively little attention to the practical personal and shared meanings that undergird teaching behavior. </p><p>Over the past year, we have engaged in a shared search for this practical knowledge, the often implicit and unconscious reasoning that informs our own teaching. This search has led to the creation of a small interdisciplinary community of teacher educators who talk critically about teaching and learning. We have used the process of practical argument (Fenstermacher, 1994) as a springboard for developing a reflective dialog (Kruse, Louis, &amp; Bryk, 1995) about the fundamental nature of the beliefs that guide our teaching decisions and classroom actions. In this paper, we describe the process through which our group came into being and the impact that our shared work has had upon our thinking and practice as teachers. </p><p>In the Beginning The group that participated in the process discussed here had its origin in two </p><p>88 </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>The</p><p> Aga</p><p> Kha</p><p>n U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>36 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>overlapping faculty groups. Two streams of participants separately pursuing examinations of their teaching practices and activities gradually merged to become one. In retrospect, it was a painful time for us. Some group members came primarily to socialize which annoyed those who wanted to work. Extended discussions were held in which participants described their goals for attending. In terms of a community-building process, this was a time of storming (Peck, 1987) which eventually resulted in the formation of a group norm explicitly oriented toward actively studying our own teaching practices and producing scholarly work. Although one member of the group viewed its function as meeting her personal needs for social interaction, this member eventually ceased to attend, as did members who were interested, but less motivated in pursuing a research agenda. The group achieved a stable membership, began to search for a methodology which would be useful to our efforts, and continued to meet with renewed interest and energy. </p><p>Group Membership Group members range in age from their 30s to as, and possess a wide variety </p><p>of background experiences. For example, A has extensive experience as a school psychologist; K has a background and teaching experience in special education; L has extensive involvement in school reform efforts and in studying early childhood programs in urban settings; M has a background in developmental psychology and early childhood education; and R has a background in philosophy and instructional technology. It is, in many ways, a rather heterogeneous group bound together by our shared interest in enhancing our teaching and improving the quality of teacher education in general. </p><p>The participants represent the content areas of developmental psychology (2), classroom evaluation (l), classroom management and school psychology (l), and early childhood education (1). Only one participant is tenured, and one participant is an adjunct instructor. Four of the participants are female, which actually caused some consternation among many male faculty members. There is a general perception that this is a womens group, and that men are not welcome, despite the fact that one member is indeed male; other men have been invited to join but have expressed regrets that workloads prevent their regular participation. </p><p>Practical Argument Rather than looking for a formula we could follow, we searched for a way to </p><p>structure our sessions which would allow us to continue using the strategies we had devised to date which worked well for our particular community. Anumber of options were explored and discarded when they clashed too significantly with our already established norms. Finally the group settled on Fenstermacher s (1986) practical argument as a way to structure our sessions. </p><p>In 1986, Fenstermacher proposed the use of practical argument, based on Greens discussion of practical reasoning in teaching (1976), as a way of studying teaching and discovering how teaching can be done better. Practical argument, as presented, is based on practical rationality-the assumption that people engage in a particular action because they believe that action will lead to a desired result (Fenstermacher &amp; Richardson, 1993). Practical argument then is a way to understand and explain </p><p>89 </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>The</p><p> Aga</p><p> Kha</p><p>n U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>36 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>particular actions or sets of actions. The process lays out a series of reasons that can be viewed as premises, and connects them to a concluding action (p. 103). </p><p>The process of actually conducting a practical argument is based on a series of post hoc discussions about an action or series of actions. The conversations take place between the actor, in this case a teacher, and the Other or Others. Because of the nature of the discussion in terms of personal beliefs, it is imperative that the Other or Others be individuals trusted by the teacher. </p><p>The discussion takes place over time and moves through two stages which wrap around one another and are not easily teased apart. Phase One is called elicitation. This is where the Other is drawing out from the teacher exactly what happened as well as why the teacher chose that action. Elicitation can be based on oral narrative, audio tape, or video tape, teaching artifacts, student products, and so on. The important thing is to make explicit the sequence of actions in all of its nuances. In this phase, the teacher explains to the Other what happened, what the desired goal was, and why the teacher thought this action would lead to that goal. Without judgment, the Other questions and probes the statements made by the teacher until the targeted instance is clear and consistently represented. </p><p>Phase Two is the reconstruction phase. At this point either the teacher or the Other begins to evaluate critically what has been laid out regarding rationale and action. This phase may be initiated by either participant and frequently is begun by the teacher in a self-evaluative vein. The role of the Other is to push the teacher for a full and consistent articulation of the argument as to what beliefs caused the teacher to feel the action taken would result in the desired goal. At this point, the role of the Other shifts somewhat to more pointed questioning. The role becomes one of exposing inconsistencies and helping the teacher bring the explanation and beliefs which led them to light. Here also, the Other and teacher raise potential explanations or extend the rationale as identified by the teacher. These explanations may be from a variety of sources (theory, research, and experience) as long as they are ways of giving meaning to the rationale. </p><p>As one can imagine, based on the complexity of teaching and teaching decisions, the process is not a straightforward one. In fact, the process is time consuming and messy. It most certainly is not a linear march to the truth, but rather an exploration of the development of teachers personal understanding of their teaching decisions. This understanding coupled with the introduction of current knowledge and theory is what takes practical argument beyond understanding teaching to understanding how teaching can be improved. </p><p>Our Basic Process Our discussions begin with business information that may be of interest to all </p><p>of us. In particular, calls for papers, relevant readings that weve come across since the previous meeting, and plans for pursuing small grants are shared. We audiotape each meeting and these tapes are transcribed, and edited for accuracy (e.g., Its Vygotsky, not Gotsky.). Copies of the transcripts are distributed to the members of the group. 90 </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>The</p><p> Aga</p><p> Kha</p><p>n U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 09:</p><p>36 1</p><p>0 O</p><p>ctob</p><p>er 2</p><p>014 </p></li><li><p>The focus of each meeting is identified in advance and we have established a pattern in which we take turns preparing, circulating, and informally presenting course syllabi, descriptions of assessment techniques, examples of learning activities, and brief thought pieces on a variety of topics. Because we have talked with each other so much both during regular meetings and in other contexts, we have developed fairly clear understandings of what we each do in our classes. Thus, during discussions, group members can act as informed Others, asking questions which challenge the presenter to clarify terminology., conceptual positions, and the ways those positions match the presenters actual practice. </p><p>We have a relatively implicit set of group governance rules. As is the case in many communities, these rules become evident to us only when they are violated. Our first rule is that the presenter and his or her material are the focus of the meeting. When we act in the role of informed Other, we ask questions, listen, and identify and describe ideas in the presenters discussion which seem particularly important to the presenter. Second, our goal is to help the presenter reflect further on his or her own practice in ways that he or she finds useful. We generally try to follow the lead of the presenter, pursuing his or her line of thought rather than our own. And third, we try to maintain the focus on helping the presenter make explicit the assumptions implicit in the written or oral text of the presenter, rather than on helping the presenter solve a problem in practice. </p><p>Despite conscious efforts to maintain the focus on the presenter, the transcripts often show that some point made by the presenter, or questions posed by the others, will trigger reflective statements by another group member about his or her own practice. What might look at best like a digression, or at worst stealing the floor from the presenter, actually serves an important purpose in the group. Rather than being violations of the practical argument roles, one can see these idea-sharing episodes as the group thinking together. </p><p>The thinking in our group meetings does not go on inside our individual heads but in the open space in the middle of the group. This socially shared cognitive space (Resnick, Levine &amp; Behrend, 1991) is one of the causes of the resistance we have had to a completely faithful implementation of the Fenstermacher model of a teacher and the Other(s). Rather than completely ceding the floor to the teacher with the Others speaking only to ask clarifying or focusing questions, and rather than the Other leading the teacher to higher understanding, the teacher and the Other work together. We envision ourselves as gar...</p></li></ul>