Changes in Understandings of Three Teachers’ Beliefs and Practice Across Time: Moving From Teacher Preparation to In-Service Teaching

Feb. 01, 2012

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 33(1), pages 38–53, 2012.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article is to illustrate some of the ways the relationship between beliefs and practice developed among three early childhood/elementary teachers across three consecutive studies.

The participants were three preservice teachers who enrolled to a 5-year childhood (Pre K-4th grade) teacher licensure program.
The participants included one male and two females.

The authors collected data three times over a 4-year period, beginning when the participants were preservice teachers, continuing into when they were interns or student teachers, and ending at the close of their 1st or 2nd year of full-time in-service teaching.


The findings reveal that the three preservice teachers grew from being uncertain about their beliefs to understanding how their beliefs informed their practice.
Specifically, the findings illuminate
(a) how, initially, the teachers’ beliefs were unstable and nascent,
(b) how a transactional nature between beliefs and practice emerged, as discovered in the second study, and
(c) how these transactions led to more deliberate actions, as evidenced in the final study.

The findings from this series of three studies suggest that teachers’ thinking about their beliefs and practice evolves as they experience changes that are influenced by biographies as well as recent personal and professional experiences.
Teachers’ thinking about their beliefs transforms and leads to deliberate actions as they recognize how their beliefs relate to their practice.

Across the 4-year time span of this project, the three participants began to experience distinctive processes of understanding that extended beyond their teacher preparation program experiences.

By Study Three, the participants revealed nuances of self-regulated practice by acting on their personal visions of what they believed was right and appropriate for children, while still respecting the policies and practices of their schools and administration.

In this study, the participants reached a level of purposeful decision-making and were able to more clearly articulate their beliefs and related practices. 

Rather than feeling that they could reach levels of complete understanding, two of the three teachers specifically described themselves as lifelong learners, continually evolving through participation in ongoing experiences.


This series of studies has implications for future research on teacher beliefs.
First, there is a need to investigate the complex relationship between beliefs and practice across time, bridging experiences in teacher preparation programs to in-service teaching experiences.

It is essential for preservice teachers to explore the beliefs that inform their classroom decisions from the beginning of their early childhood preparation programs as they strive to meet the cognitive, social, and physical needs of young children across a variety of practicum settings.

Furthermore, this article has implications for early childhood teacher preparation programs that aim to identify preservice teachers’ beliefs early on to act as agents of change.
Instead of encouraging preservice teachers to alter their beliefs, the authors argue that teacher preparation programs should focus on helping preservice teachers make explicit the connections between their beliefs and practice.

Updated: Oct. 20, 2013