Learning from Young Adolescents: The Use of Structured Teacher Education Coursework to Help Beginning Teachers Investigate Middle School Students' Intellectual Capabilities

Oct. 15, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education 61(4): 313-327. (September/October 2010 ).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors report on their effort to help beginning teachers learn from young adolescents in a teacher education course in the American South.
Specifically, the authors discuss findings from a case study in which beginning secondary social studies teachers interviewed young adolescents with the goal of unearthing and possibly challenging the teachers' beliefs about middle school students’ capabilities in social studies.

The research question that guided the inquiry was how can structured coursework influence beginning teachers’ views of middle school students’ intellectual capabilities and interests in social studies?


The participants were 13 beginning teachers at the secondary level (Grades 6-12) who enrolled to a master’s-level course titled Problems of Teaching Secondary Social Studies at a research university in the American South. The students had varying levels of experience in classrooms. The course included full-time graduate students who were pursuing teacher certification as well as first-year, full-time social studies teachers and full-time graduate students who had previously earned teaching certification at the undergraduate level.
The 13 participants had limited teaching experience, and most had limited experience with education coursework.

Data were collected through pre- and post-surveys, pre– and post–focus group interviews, classroom field notes, and teachers’ written analysis papers.

Conclusions and Implications

The results of this study suggest that the coursework showed potential for shifting teachers’ views of young adolescents’ intellectual capabilities and, in some cases, shaping new commitments to teaching middle school students. However, these teachers’ varied conclusions and sometimes inconsistent reasoning about instruction suggest that such coursework experiences alone may be insufficient for helping teachers develop commitments to teaching young adolescents in ways that capitalize on their intellectual potential.

The authors argue that teacher educators must carefully construct learning experiences that will help teachers learn about and make connections among purposes of social studies teaching, particular instructional practices that support those purposes, and the student capabilities that they can build on through those instructional practices.

Updated: Sep. 20, 2011