Opportunities to Develop Adaptive Teaching Expertise during Supervisory Conferences

Jul. 01, 2012

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 28, No. 5, (July, 2012), p. 768-779.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Adaptive teaching expertise is a critical component of quality teaching.
University-based supervisors should employ specific supervision styles and discourse types during post-lesson observation conferences to help student teachers develop adaptive competencies such as, justifying decision-making, balancing experimentation and risk to pupils, and discussing instructional adaptations to address pupils’ contextualized-needs.
The purpose of this study was to identify the supervision styles and types of discourse used when addressing or failing to address the three specific problems.

The participants were three student teachers and three university supervisors from the same public university on the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States of America.
Data collection instruments were developed based on the work of Harrison et al. (2005), which described five supervision styles: telling, active coaching, guiding, inquiry and reflecting.


The findings revealed that the first supervisor's use of the guiding and reflecting supervision style resulted in conferences, which yielded the most discussions of novice problems and opportunities to develop adaptive expertise.
The third supervisor’s use of guiding, reflecting, and telling supervision styles and the second supervisor’s telling supervision style each resulted in less than half the amount of opportunities afforded during the first supervisor's conferences.

These results suggest that the telling conferencing style is not strongly related to opportunities for discussing novice problems in ways that contribute to the development of adaptive expertise.
The findings also suggest that student teachers and supervisors do not use critical discourse to capitalize on opportunities to develop adaptive teaching expertise.
Critical and justificatory discourse types are necessary to use when a supervisor requires that a student teacher articulate internal decision-making processes and judge the value of decisions.
These types of discourse are aligned with guiding and reflecting supervision styles.

The author used three problems as a framework to learn how university-based supervisors helped student teachers engage in conversations around these common experience-based problems.
These three common and well-researched problems which novices encounter during field experiences that hinder the development of adaptive expertise were (1) unquestioned familiarity, (2) dual purposes, and (3) context .

1. Unquestioned familiarity
When a student teacher thinks that what is a familiar practice is what is most appropriate, the unquestioned familiarity problem occurs.
This problem damages opportunities to develop adaptive teaching expertise because student teachers do not make deliberate decisions in their application of teaching methods or instructional techniques.
Rather, they use what is familiar, missing out on learning how to strategically adapt their understanding of teaching and learning, a major tenet of adaptive teaching expertise.
If student teachers are not prompted to justify their decisions opportunities for developing adaptive expertise are lost.

2. Dual purpose problem
The dual purpose problem is obvious due to the dual purposes of the practicum classroom: the simultaneous education of student teachers and their pupils.
The student teacher needs opportunities to discuss ways in which they have practiced balancing these two purposes while minimizing risk to their pupils.
Experimenting with instructional decisions in the classroom promotes teacher learning.
The need to balance student teacher experimentation and ensure positive pupil learning is difficult and forces the student teacher to recognize the duality of purposes.

3. Context problem
The context problem occurs when the novice student teacher is not aware that a variety of contextual aspects, such as student characteristics, physical classroom environment, cultural factors, and community setting, will likely impact his or her pupils’ engagement with the instructional content.
An adaptive expert teacher will acknowledge and make decisions based on contextual factors.
Due to the design of this particular university’s teacher preparation program, student teachers had a unique opportunity to recognize deep contextual shifts because they all completed two eight-week placements in different schools.

Findings show that even though supervisor and student teacher pairs address certain problems during some conferences, they miss the opportunity to discuss the same problems during other conferences.
This finding suggests that if adaptive teaching expertise is a learning goal, supervisors must be consistently aware of the types of problems which, when discussed, are opportunities to learn how to develop adaptive teaching expertise.

The author concludes that this study generated support that supervisors can purposefully employ discourse types and supervision styles so that student teachers learn to articulate their rationales and justifications for decision making, balance their own learning while managing risks to pupils, and deliberately use contextual and pupil cues to make adjustments to their instructional decisions.

Updated: Dec. 07, 2014