Beyond Knowledge: Exploring Why Some Teachers Are More Thoughtfully Adaptive Than Others

Feb. 28, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), p. 161–171. (January/February 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

As teacher educators, the authors have observed that knowledge alone does not lead to the kinds of thoughtful teaching they strive for. Puzzled by differences in the teaching practices of teacher candidates having similar professional knowledge, the authors explore what might account for these differences.

The authors address what is necessary, beyond traditional forms of professional knowledge, to support the development of thoughtful teachers who are responsive to students and situations. The authors provide four perspectives, each drawn from areas in which the authors conduct their research, and suggest a need to move beyond knowledge in teacher education. Their aim is to explore questions about preparing thoughtful teachers and to challenge others to do the same.

Four Perspectives on Why Some Teachers Are More Thoughtful Than Others

Perspective 1: Teachers’ Beliefs and Personal Practical Theories (PPTs) Beliefs are closely related to the study of teacher knowledge, especially practical knowledge that guides teacher behaviors (Verloop, Van Driel, & Meijer, 2001).
There are many different kinds of beliefs, including beliefs about knowledge (epistemology), about the performance of teachers and their students (attributions, locus of control, motivation, test anxiety), about perceptions of self (including one’s self-worth, self-concept, self-esteem, and sense of agency), and about confidence in one’s performance (self-efficacy).

There are many ways to study beliefs including narrative, biography, life history methods, and metaphors. One major way is a process called personal theorizing (Cornett, Yeotis, & Terwilliger, 1990), which purposefully turns tacitly held beliefs into explicitly stated personal practical theories, or PPTs.
Because a personal theorizing process allows teachers to make their beliefs explicit and, therefore, available for conscious examination and action, PPTs may help us better understand why some teachers are more responsive to students and situations whereas others are not.

Perspective 2: Vision
Vision is a teacher’s personal commitment to seek outcomes beyond the usual curricular requirements. teachers with a vision may strive to be more thoughtfully adaptive because they have a driving personal commitment to impart more than just what is required. In this sense, vision may take teachers beyond knowledge, instilling in them a commitment to inspire students to be something more than just academically competent.

Perspective 3: Belonging
The enactment of these personal and professional perspectives takes place in physical, local spaces in the actual classrooms, schools, communities, and systems in which teaching occurs. Therefore, as teachers attempt to implement the particularities of teaching and their individual perspectives (i.e., their beliefs/PPTs and vision), they are influenced by situational value systems.
Viewing teacher development through this lens suggests the importance of preparing teacher candidates for the potential tension between their individual perspectives and educational contexts. The degree to which teachers are prepared to navigate such discrepancies may be central to whether school is a place characterized by disidentification and frustration or a setting in which one’s vision can be creatively engaged. Individuals who learn to negotiate a sense of congruence with their context (i.e., creating for themselves a sense of belonging) may more easily enact thoughtful teaching practices because the self-efficacy and motivation required to act on their own perspectives and ideas will be supported.

Perspective 4: Identity
Theories of identity, as sociocultural ideas about the influences that shape individuals across their lives and contexts, add a poststructural twist to our exploration of what is needed, beyond knowledge, for teachers to become responsive to students and situations.

For teacher candidates, the overlapping and competing worlds of the university, the local schools, and home communities contribute to how they perform specific identities. In this sense, contemporary theories of identity explain that teacher candidates may maintain, resist, or transform teaching practices because context, history, culture, discourse, power, and ideologies influence their work.

The authors postulate that self-knowledge and a sense of agency with the intent of purposefully negotiating personal and professional contexts may be as important, if not more important, than the more traditional conceptions of professional knowledge.

Cornett, J. W., Yeotis, C., & Terwilliger, L. (1990). Teacher personal practice theories and their influences upon teacher curricular and instructional actions: A case study of a secondary science teacher. Science Education, 74, 517-529.

Verloop, N., Van Driel, J., & Meijer, P. (2001). Teacher knowledge and the knowledge base of teaching. International Journal of Educational Research,
(5), 441- 461.

Updated: Apr. 27, 2010