When Figured Worlds Collide: Improvisation in an Inquiry Classroom

Jun. 15, 2008

SourceTeaching Education, Volume 19, Issue 2 June 2008 , pages 123 - 136

Students and teachers inevitably enter classrooms with differing expectations and experiences; those differences provide opportunities for both conflict and growth. This article examines this phenomenon in an undergraduate teacher education course on reading instruction at the middle-school level, presents case studies of students' improvisations in the face of this tension, and makes implications for teachers and for teacher education regarding these types of conflicts.

Students in the course were middle-school education majors and speech pathology majors; the educational backgrounds and identities of these students presented lack of fit with each other and, for some, with the inquiry-based nature of the course pedagogy. Using Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, and Cain's (1998) concept of figured worlds, our case studies present one speech pathology major - Kathryn - and one middle school major - Allie - both of whom were successful in improvising their own ways through the conflict between their backgrounds and the differing requirements and content of the reading education course. We also provide implications for teachers and teacher educators who face similar disjoints between their own figured worlds and those experienced in classrooms

Updated: Nov. 26, 2008