Developing Teachers as Critical Curators: Investigating Elementary Preservice Teachers’ Inspirations for Lesson Planning

October - November 1, 2020

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume: 71 issue: 5, page(s): 518-536

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to answer the following questions:
(a) What inspired one university’s pre-service teachers (PSTs) in their elementary lesson planning?
(b) How did PSTs justify the selection of resources used in their elementary lesson planning? By understanding the resources PSTs use in lesson plans and activity creation, teacher educators (TEs) can begin to identify ways to guide critical consumption of instructional resources.
This study specifically examines the selection, use, and reflection on resources in elementary lesson planning.

The study utilized grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006) as a way of guiding the methodic gathering and analysis of data.
This inductive methodology allowed the researchers to determine what resources PSTs used in their lesson plans in hopes of developing a theory related to how TEs can begin to identify ways to guide critical consumption of instructional resources.

Context and Participants
The participants in this study were 158 PSTs in an undergraduate program at a university located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, from two different programs in the College of Education: Elementary Education (ELED) and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (IECE).
The PSTs were involved in field placements where they spent one full day each week for a full semester in classrooms.
Each PST was required to meet with their instructor to discuss their ideas of their lesson plan.
Before implementing their lessons in the field, PSTs were required to provide their cooperating teachers (CTs) and university supervisors a draft of their plan, including references of sources and inspiration.

Data Collection
In this investigation, the authors collected 158 PSTs’ lesson plans and reflections over one spring semester to determine what inspired their plan.
The PSTs were asked to include information identifying the source of their inspiration for the lesson.
From this prompt, they were able to determine from where the PSTs curated their resource(s) for direct use or for subsequent adaptation.
Participants were also asked to reflect on their planning and teaching.
The PSTs were provided reflection questions regarding their impact on student learning, plans for subsequent instruction based on assessment data they collected, revisions they would make if they were to teach this lesson again, understandings about how young children learn, and their own professional growth and development as a teacher.
Occasionally a PST provided rationale for selecting a particular activity.

Data Analysis
The authors’ analytic goals were to understand what inspired PSTs’ lesson planning and how they justified their selection of resources.
A constant comparative data analysis approach (Glaser & Strauss, 1968; Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2013) was used which included a three-step coding process (Merriam, 1998; Miles et al., 2013).

The data provide evidence that PSTs need support to become professionals who are critical curators, adapters, and creators, rather than technicians.
Some education programs may discourage PSTs from using certain Internet resources due to a lack of quality control.
They may require only materials sanctioned by boards of education, published books, or professional organizations that may charge dues, limiting access.
However, the authors value the dispositions of New Literacies in PSTs over an acceptance of scripted lesson plans.
Starting with Pinterest may be what some PSTs do.
Teaching can move toward mastery when professionals practice critical curation and adaptation to meet the needs of the learners in the unique classroom where they teach.
PSTs might continue to use Internet resources championed by others who they see as knowledgeable.
When we create a space in lesson planning that honors out-of-school literacies such as Pinterest use, two things can happen.
First, we encourage the valuing of critical curation.
We can ask our teachers to consider biases, to apply content in new ways, to select, and to reflect.
By doing this, TEs can help PSTs determine the quality of the curated ideas.
Second, we value distributed expertise and the literacies that will be different for teachers tomorrow.
In this valuing, we offer a metaphorical compass to our PSTs upon which they can rely as they navigate unknown educational environments of the future, no matter the context.
Curating content is a skill that develops with practice.
Critical Curation Theory, developed from this study, suggests that TEs can explicitly explore lenses of critical selection of curricular and instructional materials in an age of information overload.
When TEs do not support critical consumption of online resource use by future teachers, we may be setting them up to accept the next panacea offered to cure a perceived educational ill.
If future classroom teachers are prepared to follow a marketed scripted program instead of using professional research and judgment, they are no better than technicians, cogs in the wheel of the education machine.
Instead, we can accept that online resources are readily available, and that meeting students’ needs in the classroom is not going to happen with a few screen touches.
Rather, we harness the skills and dispositions of a PST guided by New Literacies, seeing the possibilities while building their identity as professional educators.
In a time when some suggest all materials should be outsourced, we risk losing the connection between students and locality and fall into a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. Formative assessment, critical curation, and adaptation best inform classroom practice.
Instead of championing prescribed programs and scripted lessons, the authors advocate for professional development and increased planning time for professionals to determine ways to harness the tools that are digitally available to meet the needs of the learners in their classrooms today.
Teachers who are grounded in relationships and formative assessment in their classrooms can be better prepared to curate curriculum and instruction that meet the needs of varied learners in their classrooms.

Charmaz, k. (2006). constructing grounded theory: a practical guide through qualitative analysis. thousand oaks, ca: sage.
Glaser, B. S., & Strauss, A. (1968). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. London, England: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education (Revised and Expanded ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldaña, J. (2013). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. 

Updated: Mar. 15, 2021