TEIS Newsletter - Volume 25 Number 1 (Plain Text Version)
In this issue:
RECONCEPTUALIZING THE MICROTEACHING SIMULATION FROM A SOCIOCULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
According to the presenters, prior approaches to microteaching, such as the Stanford Model or Reflective Teaching Movement, resulted in artificial teaching experiences. In addition, there is a lack of evidence demonstrating the impact of microteaching experiences on teacher candidates' cognition development. Sociocultural theory that examines teacher candidates' cognition development through their participation in teaching and learning cultures, contexts, and activities was suggested as the viable alternative, particularly because this perspective had not been used before to explore the impact of a microteaching simulation on teacher candidates' cognition development.
The underlying claim of the presentation implied that safeguarding the boundaries between subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge did not lead to vital teacher learning. Therefore, the proposal was made to merge the two in the representation of pedagogical content knowledge, emphasizing that "the interdependence between what is taught and how it is taught is crucial to the processes of learning-to-teach and the development of teaching expertise" (Presentation Handout, p. 1). Calls for integration in teacher education have been made before (Britzman, 2003); however, the innovativeness of this project lies in providing practical applications of how it can be done and in collecting evidence of teacher candidates' cognition development.
The core of the presentation focused on the data collected during an extended team-teaching project in an MA TESOL program. The project consisted of several steps, many of which were video- or audio-recorded and transcribed. Data analysis focused on "teacher candidates' emergent understandings ofwhat they were expected to teach and how they were expected to do it." The what of the lesson was "nominalization" and the how was identified as "orienting"-activating students' schemata and making the content of the lesson salient and relevant for them.
The presentation included extended transcripts of the data accompanied by video excerpts. Both of those exemplified strategic mediation, or the process of teacher candidates' participation in interactions, discussions, and negotiations of the key concepts: "nominalization" and "orienting." The teacher candidates first encountered the concepts during their group lesson planning session. Follow-up negotiations about the concepts occurred during the microteaching of the lesson to peers with immediate feedback from both the instructor and the peers. During their actual teaching, they presented these concepts to a group of students. Finally, teacher candidates were reminded of these concepts during the stimulated recall session and demonstrated their internalization by revisiting them in their written reflections.
The conclusion drawn from the study pointed out that teacher candidates developed the understanding of the concepts that they were lacking at the beginning of the project through strategic mediation and engagement in the actual activity of teaching. This conclusion was used to underscore the importance of the initial key points of "interdependence between what is taught and how it is taught" and to call for the integration of subject matter and pedagogical knowledge.
Session participants had multiple questions and comments, many of them revolving around several issues. Would the same internalization of concepts be evident when teacher candidates finish the methods courses and enter actual teaching situations? How are the points of pedagogical reasoning selected? Does the concretization of teacher behaviors lead to the creation of a checklist that can just be ticked off if certain behaviors are present? What was the students' response to the lesson and what did they actually learn from it?
In general, the framework and the approach of this study are intriguing. Nevertheless, the focus on only two aspects of teacher knowledge, even though necessary for manageable input, may possibly present teaching in a somewhat simplistic manner. The complexity of teaching lies in having to teach unrehearsed lessons while being engaged in multiple, simultaneous reasoning processes: "What am I teaching? Why? How? Is this working? How are the students responding to it? Where do I go from here? Who misplaced the dry-board eraser?"
In addition, the nature of data is worth careful examination. About 70 percent of the utterances presented in the transcripts are the commentaries and explanations given by the teacher educator who is also the primary investigator in this research project. Apart from being a classic example of the observer's paradox, it contributes to the simplistic picture of learning to teach. One of the challenges of learning to teach lies in learning to find answers yourself rather than relying on the teacher educator to provide them for you.
From the data presented, one can draw the conclusion that there is evidence of change in teacher candidates' cognition; however, it is proof of only two concepts that have been internalized in a semester-long project heavily aided by the teacher educator. How much change would a teacher candidate undergo in four semesters of MA-level teacher education programs, if he or she consistently moved at this pace?
According to sociocultural theory, learning occurs in a cultural context (Johnson, 2006). By being a social activity, teaching invariably involves students as participants in mediations and negotiations of knowledge construction. It is their voices that are markedly absent from the study. Furthermore, even though a college classroom acts as a representation of a teaching and learning context, it is not its exact replica and it presents only a slice of the reality of a teacher's life. It is daily contact with students and colleagues, the culture of the school, the overall environment of the institution, the sense of belonging to a community, and the elements beyond the teacher's control that affect teacher learning. Those are exactly the aspects of teaching that are hard to replicate in a lab-like setting of a college classroom. Those are also the aspects that have raised the concerns about the artificial nature of microteaching when examined through the lens of previous theoretical frameworks.
Overall, the session presented thought-provoking material. The presentation could have been strengthened by addressing the multifaceted and complex nature of teaching and its social and communal life. Like any other research project, only if the same results can be achieved by replicating the study in other contexts and minimizing the effect of the observer's paradox can one confidently state that the claims have been given sufficient proof. Many can now look forward to Dr. Johnson's forthcoming edited volume that may answer some of the questions raised by this presentation.
Britzman, D. (2003). Practice makes practice: a critical study of learning to teach. Albany, NY: StateUniversity of New York Press.
Johnson, K. (2006). The sociocultural turn and its challenges for second language teacher education. TESOL Quarterly, 40(1), 235-257.
Olena Aydarova is a doctoral candidate in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education Program at MichiganStateUniversity. Prior to this, she conducted teacher training at EmiratesCollege for Advanced Education in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and at the College of Humanities and Sciences of NortheastNormalUniversity, Changchun, China. Her research interests include language teacher content knowledge, preservice teachers' identity development, and borrowed teacher education curricula.