A Grounded Theory of Propective Teachers' Meta-Cognitive Process: Internalizing the Professional Standards of Teaching

Apr. 15, 2010

Source: The Teacher Educator, Volume 45, Issue 2 (April 2010), pages 96 - 117.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Purpose of the Article

The purpose of this qualitative research study was to examine 190 concurrent education students' case-based reflections from 2005 to 2008.
The article describes the use of constant comparison and theoretical saturation that identified two core categories emerging from participants' meta-cognitive analysis to describe how students internalized and interpreted the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession (Ontario College of Teachers, 2006).

The Ontario Context: The Standards of Practice
The Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) represents the governing body for the province's 200,000 teachers. The Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession (Ontario College of Teachers, 2006a) articulate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes expected of the College's membership as practicing teachers and administrators. The Standards of Practice describe the conceptual goals and aspirations of educators to represent the profession, while providing a framework (specific to Ontario) to promote common understandings of teaching as a profession.

In the context of the Standards of Practice, the OCT developed a case-based inquiry process using cases authored by teachers. Each case includes an intricate and dense combination of circumstances that challenge the case-subject teachers (Ontario College of Teachers, 2006b). The cases embody the complexities of ethical decision making in view of the implications posed by the standards.

The study employed grounded theory research to examine concurrent education students' meta-cognitive analysis of the case-based reflections. A grounded theory analysis was applied to 3,800 reflection logs. Participants investigated five cases.


The sample of this longitudinal study (see Denzin & Lincoln, 2003) consists of three cohorts of concurrent education students who were enrolled in their third year of a 5-year education program in an Ontario university in Canada.

Cohort A consists of 43 students who participated in the study between September 2005 and April 2006.
Cohort B consists of 79 students who participated in the case-pedagogy research study between September 2006 and April 2007, while Cohort C consists of 68 students who engaged in the research from September 2007 to April 2008.

All 190 participants were studying in the intermediate/senior division stream in order to be qualified to teach both middle school (grades 6 to 8) and secondary school (grades 9 to 12).
They ranged from 19 to 23 years of age.


The results of this study suggest that case-based teaching provides an opportunity for students to thoughtfully integrate course content, educational theory, and circumstantial practice. Further, it allows each student to bring their own experience to the case subject's decisions, and forces them to critically account for the pedagogical, institutional, societal, and ethical considerations implied by the standards.

By probing, elaborating, and analyzing case circumstances, concurrent education students can refocus their understanding of learned theory while being intrinsically interested and curious about topics that have tremendous potential relevance to their chosen profession. Through discussion and divergent questioning, students employ higher order thinking skills and problem-solving capacities to make sense of the ethical dilemmas that emerge in each case.


The core categories grounded in the data of this study represented participants' layers of critical thinking as they analyzed the case-based dilemmas. As their analysis progressed from the first to the fifth case, participants became proficient at examining the complex circumstances with more discernable critical voices. In fact, participants internalized the standards as objective truths.

This raised three implications for teacher educators employing a similar case-based pedagogy into their concurrent education programs.
First, participants' analysis became paradoxically narrowed given their uncontested reliance on the facticity and legitimacy of the Standards of Practice.
Second, the standards served to further embed and legitimize the self-evident institutional norms and expectations learned during participants' experiences as students.
Third, the unchallenged and accepted truths that the standards represented for participants set in motion their stigmatizing of case-subject teachers.

Denzin, N. K. and Lincoln, Y. S. (2003). The landscape of qualitative research: Theories and issues. Sage. , London

Ontario College of Teachers. (2006a) Standards of practice for the teaching profession Rev.) Author , Toronto, ON.

Ontario College of Teachers. Smith, D. and Goldblatt, P. (eds) (2006b).
Casebook guide for teacher education Author , Toronto, ON.

Updated: Jun. 29, 2010