Shared Planning Time: A Novel Context for Studying Teachers’ Discourse and Beliefs About Learning and Instruction

May. 20, 2009

Source: Teachers College Record ,Volume 111 Number 5, 2009.


Although teachers’ core instructional beliefs are difficult to accurately measure, they provide a framework for understanding the thinking that underlies important curricular and pedagogical decisions made in the classroom. Previous research has primarily used self-report to study teacher beliefs, but self-report is better for reporting explicit cognitions rather than implicit ones, such as beliefs.

Focus of Study: The purpose of the study was to examine teacher talk during shared planning time to provide insight into the rationales behind teachers’ decision making that may be related to their underlying beliefs about subject matter, teaching, learning, and their students.

Setting: Xavier Middle School is located in a suburban area of a midsized progressive city in Florida and has a teacher-student ratio of about 1:19. It serves sixth- through eighth graders, and 28% of the student population are minority students.

Participants: A team of 4 eighth-grade mathematics teachers at a suburban middle school in the southern part of the United States agreed to participate in this study.

Research Design: A qualitative case study of eighth-grade mathematics teachers’ discourse was conducted during their weekly shared planning time during the course of one semester.

Data Collection and Analysis: A tape recorder and field notes were used to record the team’s lesson planning discourse. After reviewing the written field notes, scenes of rich dialogue from the audiotapes were selected to be transcribed. Data from the transcripts were coded and assigned to relevant domains based on semantic relationships.


The authors compiled all the domains related to teachers’ rationales or teachers’ thinking about learning and instruction and organized the data in a taxonomy supported by relevant examples from the transcripts. The authors found that these rationales and cognitions mapped onto six categories consisting of beliefs about pedagogical content, general pedagogy, subject matter, curricular choices, resources/textbooks, and students’ thinking. A consistent theme was found that reflected underlying beliefs in a traditional transmission model of instruction and learning.


The study supported the hypothesis that teachers’ collaborative planning time discourse provides a unique lens for understanding teachers’ beliefs. Furthermore, teachers’ planning time provided a forum for teachers to display the rationales underlying their decision making, rationales that are usually hidden from view, especially from the view of a researcher. Teachers’ normally hidden planning process was thus rendered visible, and hence open to investigation.

Updated: Mar. 16, 2009