Ambitious Pedagogy by Novice Teachers: Who Benefits From Tool-Supported Collaborative Inquiry into Practice and Why?

Jul. 10, 2011

Source: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 7, 2011, p. 1311-1360.


The authors tested the hypothesis that first-year teachers could take up forms of ambitious pedagogy under the following conditions:
1) that reform-based practices introduced in teacher preparation would be the focus of collaborative inquiry throughout the first year of teaching,
2) that participants use analyses of their students’ work as the basis of critique and change in practice, and
3) that special tools be employed that help participants hypothesize about relationships between instruction and student performance.

Eleven secondary science teachers engaged in tool-supported collegial analysis of their students’ work over two years, spanning pre-service and in-service contexts.

Research Design
The authors used a qualitative multi-case study approach, incorporating videotapes of collaborative inquiry (CFG) sessions, classroom observations, student-created artifacts, interviews, and field notes.


More than one third of the group developed elements of expert-like teaching, with the greatest gains made in pressing their students for evidence-based scientific explanations, a practice that was the focus of their regular examinations of student work. For a majority—those who initially held the most problematized images of the relationships between teaching and learning—the system of tools (rubrics and protocol) was critical in allowing deep analyses of students’ work and supporting a shared language that catalyzed conversations linking “what counts” as scientific explanation with the re-calibration of expectations for students. This, in turn, helped participants envision more specialized forms of scaffolding for learners.


Those who begin their careers with a problematized view of the relationships between teaching and learning are not only more likely to appropriate sophisticated practices early, but also to benefit from evidence-based collaborative inquiry into practice. This study also highlights the potentially powerful role of tools and tool-based routines, tailored to the needs of beginning teachers, in fostering ambitious pedagogy.

Updated: Oct. 27, 2011