Conceptualizing Dispositions: Intellectual, Cultural, and Moral Domains of Teaching

Dec. 26, 2009

Source: Teachers and Teaching, Volume 15, Issue 6 (December 2009), pages 719 – 736.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Dispositions equate to the teacher's internal filter affecting the way she or he is inclined to think and act on the information and experiences that are part of his or her teaching context. This filter is shaped by a teacher's prior experience, beliefs, culture, values, and cognitive abilities, which affects the teacher's ideas about the nature of students, teaching, and learning.

Awareness is the essential first step in the development of dispositions as it facilitates deliberate actions. The authors’ goal is to explore how teacher candidates are inclined to think through and subsequently act upon issues of content and pedagogy, the cultural backgrounds of their students, and the values driving their moral reasoning.

The authors use a small sample of teacher candidate journal entries to ground the discussion of each disposition domain.

The authors provide a heuristic that organizes dispositions around three domains - intellectual, cultural, and moral (ICM).

Intellectual dispositions

Intellectual dispositions involve the filter used in making decisions about content and pedagogy such as the learning expectations teachers establish for all students, what they teach and do not teach, and how they teach it. Intellectual dispositions take account of candidates' perceptions about and inclinations to act upon their understanding of the nature of knowledge and their fundamental conceptions about how children learn.

Cultural dispositions

Cultural dispositions involve the filter through which a teacher approaches his or her own cultural identity, the cultural identity of the teacher's students, and the interaction therein.
More specifically, cultural dispositions operate as a point of convergence representing the teacher's perception of self, others, and society based on his or her lived experiences and background in relation to culture. Cultural dispositions also operate as a point of inception by guiding how a teacher responds to situations based on his or her own cultural identity.

Moral dispositions

The filter of one's moral dispositions equates to a value-laden consciousness concerning the assumptions and consequences of one's decisions as well as the responsibility to care for others by understanding them and helping them meet their needs. This consciousness originates internally, stemming from one's profoundly personal beliefs about the world. How one is inclined to think through and act upon his values in specific contexts is a significant facet of his moral dispositions.


The purpose of the ICM heuristic is to provide teacher educators and candidates a tool to examine assumptions that explicitly and implicitly influence the inclinations and actions of teaching.

The ICM heuristic also provides an opportunity for teacher educators to consider candidates' experiences and development of their dispositions across the full period of preparation.

Updated: Jan. 31, 2010