Schoolhouse Teacher Educators: Structuring Beginning Teachers’ Opportunities to Learn About Instruction

Sep. 01, 2014

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 65(4), September/October 2014, p. 327-339.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors focus on inservice as distinct from preservice teacher education and explore how beginning teachers’ opportunities to learn about mathematics and literacy instruction are supported within elementary schools.

The participants were 24 elementary schools in two midwestern school districts.
A mixed methodology was used in this exploratory study, including social network and interview data analysis, to examine beginning teachers’ advice- and information-seeking behaviors related to mathematics and literacy.


The findings revealed that formal organizational structures inside schools, specifically grade level teams and formal leadership positions,were important in shaping who beginning teachers sought out for advice and information related to mathematics and literacy instruction.
That colleagues in the same grade level have to teach a particular curriculum in mathematics or literacy, and most preservice teacher preparation programs do not prepare teachers to teach particular curricula.
Thus, turning to colleagues in the same grade who have experience with teaching the prescribed curricula is a reasonable behavior for beginning teachers.
Still, beginning teachers sought out these individuals not because they had to, but because opportunities were structured in a way that they had access to these other teachers, and they chose to ask them for advice and information, especially related to instructional strategies.

The results also identified another aspect of the formal organizational structure as important in beginning teachers’ on-the-job education: formal school leaders.
School principals were engaged in supporting opportunities for beginning teachers’ learning.
These findings suggest that principals themselves are involved in the work of educating elementary teachers in the areas of literacy and mathematics.
Principals worked directly with beginning teachers to provide them with advice and information about mathematics and literacy instruction.
Furthermore, by brokering relations between beginning teachers and other formal leaders, such as instructional coaches, school principals indirectly enabled teacher learning about mathematics and literacy instruction.



These findings have implications for practice and policy.
First, given that school principals play an important role in supporting beginning teachers’ learning, it is important to consider the extent to which school principals are trained in the work of teacher education.
Second, these findings suggest that local school and district policies that support the development of organizational routines among teachers and between teachers and leaders can influence the opportunities that teachers have to learn in their first few years on the job.
Moreover, the creation of formal positions and an investment in leaders’ expertise can shape beginning teachers’ transactive memory in meaningful ways.

Updated: Dec. 22, 2015