Designing for the Future: How the Learning Sciences Can Inform the Trajectories of Preservice Teachers

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Designing for the Future: How the Learning Sciences Can Inform the Trajectories of Preservice Teachers
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Document Transcript  Journal of Teacher Education online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0022487111428454 2012 63: 147 srcinally published online 13 January 2012 Journal of Teacher Education  A. Susan Jurow, Rita Tracy, Jacqueline S. Hotchkiss and Ben Kirshner Designing for the Future: How the Learning Sciences Can Inform the Trajectories of Preservice Teachers  Published by: On behalf of:  American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)  can be found at: Journal of Teacher Education  Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: What is This? - Jan 13, 2012OnlineFirst Version of Record - Feb 10, 2012Version of Record >>  at UNIV OF COLORADO LIBRARIES on April 29, 2014 jte.sagepub.comDownloaded from at UNIV OF COLORADO LIBRARIES on April 29, 2014 jte.sagepub.comDownloaded from    Journal of Teacher Education63(2) 147  –160© 2012 American Association of Colleges for Teacher EducationReprints and permission: http://www. 10.1177/0022487111428454 Over the past 20 years, the interdisciplinary study of learning, teaching, and the design of educational environ-ments, hereafter referred to as the Learning Sciences, has extended our understanding of the social and cultural organi-zation of learning and methods for studying it in situ (Sawyer, 2006). Though still in its early stages, the impact of the Learn-ing Sciences on the field of education has been profound. A review of the websites of educational psychology programs at U.S. universities reveals that a growing number of these pro-grams are shifting their foci to the more expansive view offered by the Learning Sciences. What this shift means con-cretely for how faculty in Learning Sciences programs pre- pare teacher education students remains an open question. For example, although educational psychology is typically offered in U.S. teacher education programs, little attention has been given to how insights from Learning Sciences research should be incorporated into teacher preparation.In this article, we consider the impact of principled changes we made to our educational psychology course for  preservice teachers based on Learning Sciences research. In  particular, we focused on two strands of Learning Sciences research, cultural processes of learning and informal learn-ing environments. We begin by articulating two claims about learning derived from these strands that have been central to redesigning preservice teacher education courses in educa-tional psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The redesign of our course had multiple, interrelated goals, including exposing students to learning environments where children and adults share responsibility for organizing learning and teaching, engaging students in reflection about their assumptions about marginalized populations, and developing their dispositions toward teaching as a form of public work/service. In this analysis, we focus on how community-based practica, where our students worked with youth from underrepresented racial and linguistic popu-lations, created opportunities for our students to develop their views on learning and teaching. We present two case studies documenting how students engaged with the rede-sign of our course to consider the power and limitations of our revision. We conclude with a discussion of what these cases suggest more broadly for using insights from the Learning Sciences in teacher education. Two Key Claims About Learning Claim 1: Learning Occurs as People Participate in Social and Cultural Practices Traditionally, educational psychologists studied learning  processes as if they were independent from the settings in 1 University of Colorado, Boulder, USA Corresponding Author: A. Susan Jurow, University of Colorado at Boulder, 249 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA Email: Designing for the Future: How the Learning Sciences Can Inform the Trajectories of Preservice Teachers A. Susan Jurow 1 , Rita Tracy 1 , Jacqueline S. Hotchkiss 1 , and Ben Kirshner  1 Abstract In this article, the authors discuss how they redesigned an educational psychology course for preservice teachers using insights from the burgeoning, interdisciplinary field of the Learning Sciences. Research on the situated nature of learning and the value of out-of-school contexts for supporting children’s development informed their decisions to require preservice teachers to work with children in community-based settings, frame their interactions with children as “service” rather than as explicit preparation for teaching, and conduct research on the social, cultural, and cognitive nature of these experiences. Two case studies illuminate preservice teachers’ learning trajectories in relation to course practices. Analyses suggest that the course created opportunities for preservice teachers to develop views of learning as inherently cultural and not limited to the acquisition of academic content. Emerging findings point to the potential of using Learning Sciences research as a touchstone for reorganizing educational psychology courses for preservice teachers. Keywords case study, elementary teacher education, field experiences  at UNIV OF COLORADO LIBRARIES on April 29, 2014 jte.sagepub.comDownloaded from   148  Journal of Teacher Education 63(2) which they took place. The dominant perspective in psycho-logical studies of learning treated cognition as an individual, mental process that took place apart from social interactions with other people and tools in personally and culturally meaningful circumstances (Lave, 1988; Rogoff, 2003). Learning Sciences researchers challenge this decontextual-ized view of learning. Drawing on theory and research from anthropology, cultural psychology, and sociology, they pro- pose that learning is situated in broad cultural, historical, and economic contexts and local interactions between people and tools in settings.A starting assumption from this perspective is that indi-viduals’ socioeconomic, linguistic, and racial backgrounds along with their gender and sexual orientations shape the opportunities available (or not available) for them to learn. Following from this is the fact that members of historically marginalized groups are confronted by systemic challenges to their academic achievement, social and emotional well- being, and future possibilities. Although these structural inequities are great, they do not determine what individuals can do. As Learning Sciences researchers have docu-mented, family, community, school, and religious practices are important resources for mediating and working around inequitable structures and processes located beyond the individual (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992; Nasir, Rosebery, Warren, & Lee, 2006). For example, after-school  programs have been shown to help young people from his-torically underserved populations develop strategies for  becoming academically successful, challenge discriminatory  practices in their communities, and imagine productive futures for themselves (Kirshner, 2008; O’Connor & Penuel, 2010). Confronting power structures and practices is by no means simple or easy, but localized efforts by individuals and organizations can effect desirable and sustainable change (Erickson, 2004).In addition to being situated in broad contexts, learning is also situated in moment-to-moment exchanges between and among people, as well as exchanges and interactions with  physical and representational tools (Erickson, 2004; Greeno & Hall, 1997). Language, the mediational tool par excel-lence, is especially valuable for thinking and communicating  because of its denotational   and interactional   functions (Wortham, 2001). It facilitates the accomplishment of indi-vidual and collective tasks by denoting or pointing directly to objects, people, and activities. This basic function of lan-guage is intertwined with its interactional function. That is, language can position people in interaction in particular ways in relation to the activity and to each other. As an example, consider the impact of prefacing a request for chil-dren’s participation in an activity with an encouraging versus a discouraging remark. This can affect whether the task gets done and opportunities for the student to engage in similar tasks in the future. Awareness of how these two functions of language shape how an interaction could unfold highlights the situated nature of learning and teaching.Learning Sciences researchers have built on these funda-mental insights about how learning is situated broadly and locally to investigate a range of pedagogical and theoretical issues including the nature of productive academic discourse  practices (e.g., Engle & Conant, 2002; Hand, 2010; Jurow & Creighton, 2005), the design of participant structures that explicitly aim to disrupt inequitable patterns of power and authority in learning environments (e.g., Cornelius & Herrenkohl, 2004), and the roles adults and other experts might play in learning/teaching interactions with youth and children (e.g., Kirshner, 2008). Viewing learning as situated in broad and local social and cultural contexts provides pre-service teachers with tools for reflecting on and reorganizing learning opportunities so that they can be more inclusive and  potentially transformative (Gutiérrez & Vossoughi, 2010). These insights can aid them in developing robust under-standings of children and youth that a focus on disciplinary content and pedagogy alone cannot. Claim 2: Children Learn Outside of School  Research on outside-of-school time (OST) is a central fea-ture of interdisciplinary Learning Sciences. Researchers have documented learning processes in a range of OST set-tings, including the family (Rogoff, 2003), workplace (Rose, 2004), and after-school programs (Kahne et al., 2001; Mahoney, Eccles, & Larson, 2006). A great deal of attention has been placed, in particular, on features of effective com-munity programs for youth, such as safety, belonging, cogni-tive challenge, and relationships with caring adults (Eccles & Gootman, 2002). One of the reasons that community youth programs have gained attention in the Learning Sciences is because of studies showing that they provide rich opportunities for learning and engagement for youth from nondominant backgrounds, which are often lacking in schools (Nasir et al., 2006).Although there is wide variation in program quality, effective community programs embody many of the prac-tices that are central to contemporary theories of learning (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999; McLaughlin, 2000). For example, such programs aim to create opportunities for youth to take active roles in organizing, directing, and facili-tating learning in program activities (Irby, Ferber, & Pittman, 2001). One way in which they attempt to do this is by draw-ing on the  funds of knowledge  (González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005) or assets that young people bring to program activi-ties. Activities in high-quality programs tend to be organized around cycles of practice, performance, and feedback, as novices work with veterans to accomplish authentic, open-ended projects ranging from theater performances to activ-ism campaigns (Larson, 2000; Larson & Brown, 2007; Kirshner, 2008). In so doing, youth participants gain access to mature community practices, rather than being restricted to age-segregated activities. Such opportunities enable youth to develop the kinds of creative, resourceful, improvisational at UNIV OF COLORADO LIBRARIES on April 29, 2014 jte.sagepub.comDownloaded from    Jurow et al. 149 thinking that is rewarded in an increasingly information- based economy (Sawyer, 2006).Despite the fact that there is a rich literature describing the opportunities for learning and development that children and youth experience in community programs, few teacher education programs purposefully situate preservice learning in such contexts. Doing so is important, we believe, because of its potential to help preservice teachers develop new teaching repertoires. For example, as guidance practices in community programs tend to be less obvious because they are distributed across adults and youth as well as built into activities, preservice teachers may then focus more on the learning environment   —its social, cultural, and physical organization—rather than on teacher behavior. They may also see nondominant youth positioned differently—in ways that avoid deficit orientations—than they are in schools (García Coll et al., 1996). Summary  The Learning Sciences encompasses a wide variety of views on what constitutes learning and how to design effective educational environments. We have considered research from two strands of the Learning Sciences to appreciate what research from this perspective says about how learning is organized socially, culturally, and historically and how it takes place in informal learning environments. In the next section, we discuss how we—as Learning Sciences research-ers, educational psychologists, and teacher educators—used these ideas in our courses to challenge and extend preservice teachers’ views of learning. Redesigning Educational Psychology for Preservice Teachers Over the past few years, the teacher education program at our university has undergone a variety of revisions including the creation of new pathways into teaching, new specializa-tions, and new courses. It is within this context of reform that we revised how we taught the educational psychology course. Prior to the revision, the educational psychology course focused on learning and teaching in schools. This was in part an artifact of the teacher education program’s design. The class, which Jurow had taught for 6 years before the revision, was part of a “block” organization where educa-tional psychology was taken in tandem with a science and a mathematics methods course; all three courses shared one full-day practicum at a school site. The practicum demands were high for the methods courses and focused on the pre-service teachers’ investigations of children’s disciplinary learning and the development and enactment of lessons  plans. Within the block, the educational psychology course helped students investigate the social and cultural organiza-tion of learning and teaching in classrooms, students’ social and emotional development, and community building. The course met these goals, but we felt that the program was remiss in not providing students with opportunities to take a  broader perspective on learning and teaching as it occurs outside of the school context. To address this gap, we, with the support of our teacher education program colleagues, made several changes to the course. Our decisions allowed us to build on key insights from the Learning Sciences.The first change we made was to separate the educational  psychology course from the content methods courses. Once this change was enacted, we had greater freedom to organize our own practicum experiences so that they could focus on learning   rather than on teaching.Second, we arranged to have students participate in community-based programs that primarily served youth from historically marginalized racial, linguistic, and socio-economic backgrounds. This was a change from having them complete their practica in predominantly White, middle-class, and monolingual English classrooms. By asking stu-dents to work with youth populations that have been historically marginalized in schools and society, we wanted our students to have the opportunities to confront and develop their views on culture, power, and educational equity. We thought that with guidance and opportunities for reflection, this experience could support powerful and expansive learn-ing that would better prepare teachers for understanding and becoming advocates for a diverse student population (cf. Armaline & Hoover, 1989).The third change we made was to partner with commu-nity sites whose social organization we hoped would prompt students to reflect critically on their assumptions about how teaching and learning should occur. Specifically, we wanted our students to participate in programs that embodied key  principles of a community of learners  model of learning and teaching. As Rogoff (1994) wrote,In a community of learners both mature members of the community and less mature are conceived as active; no role has all the responsibility for knowing or directing and no role is by definition passive. Children and adults are active in structuring shared endeavors, with adults responsible for guiding the overall process and children learning to participate in the management of their own learning and involvement. (p. 213)A community of learners approach has been identified as a valuable way for teachers to organize disciplinary learning (Engle, 2006; Gutiérrez & Stone, 1997) and has proven to be a productive way of engaging undergraduates in rethinking their views of what it means to teach and learn (Cole & the Distributed Literacy Consortium, 2006; Gutiérrez & Vossoughi, 2010). For these reasons, we drew on our con-nections in the local community to select sites that we thought enacted, or aspired to enact, a community of learners orientation and could use the extra assistance that our stu-dents could provide.  at UNIV OF COLORADO LIBRARIES on April 29, 2014 jte.sagepub.comDownloaded from   150  Journal of Teacher Education 63(2) In relation to these course changes, we also developed new assignments for the class. We required students to write fieldnotes documenting their work with children at the sites and two empirical research papers in which they needed to draw on their own and their peers’ fieldnotes as data sources to investigate questions related to course topics and site experiences. The assignments were intended to provide stu-dents with opportunities to consider, systematically, the rela-tions between theories studied in class and the practices at their sites. On each fieldnote and research analysis paper, the instructor provided detailed feedback for the students in the form of questions; explicit corrections of, for example, state-ments of theoretical principles; and suggestions for further readings. Feedback was meant to extend students’ thinking about their interactions with children, their understandings of theory, and the evidentiary basis for their interpretations of learning and teaching processes.Students attended their sites approximately 10 times total during the semester and were required to type detailed field-notes after three visits. The format we introduced for stu-dents to use to write their fieldnotes was modeled after the one used in research on the play-based after-school program, the Fifth Dimension (cf. Cole, 1996; Gutiérrez & Vossoughi, 2010). The fieldnotes had four main sections: (a) a general overview in which they provided a broad perspective on fac-tors that may have affected site activities (e.g., a holiday, an absent site supervisor); (b) a narrative of their site experi-ences that focused on the learning/teaching interactions they had with children at the site and highlighted the cognitive, linguistic, material, and social-relational resources that shaped them; (c) an analysis of the site experiences (dis-cussed in the narrative section) in which they explicitly used theories and concepts studied in class to make sense of their interactions with the children; and (d) a final reflection sec-tion where they were asked to write about what they might want to pursue on their next site visit or any concerns or insights they had about their site experiences.At the middle and end of the semester, the students used their fieldnotes and/or those written by their peers as data sources for analyzing learning processes at their sites. Most of the students chose to work in pairs or in groups of three and focused their attention on their group’s collective set of field-notes. For the midterm and final research analysis papers, stu-dents developed research questions about learning, made claims using evidence from their fieldnotes to answer their questions, and analyzed the meaning of their findings in light of theories studied in class. The first research paper was shorter than the final paper, in which students needed to include discussion of their site as a research setting, their approach to data analysis, and a discussion of the implications of their research. To facilitate this process, the instructor led a research and coding workshop in which she discussed and led hands-on activities related to developing a research question, coding data inductively and deductively, making evidence- based claims, and linking claims to theory and practice.The redesign of the educational psychology course, which included new types of practicum sites, different expectations regarding students’ roles with children, and course assign-ments, were meant to facilitate students’ critical reflection on learning/teaching. In the next section, we discuss our approach to understanding student learning in the course. Understanding Student Learning Trajectories in Our Course We take the perspective that learning involves an in-the-moment negotiation of one’s past and future. In other words, the question of “who do I want to be?” is related to and shaped by answers to “who do I think I am or  should    be?” Engagement with activities, ideas, and ways of com- porting one’s self thus takes shape as a trajectory that extends across time. In our educational psychology course, we designed a set of activities (described in the previous section) that were meant to prompt students to consider  particular ways of working with children, thinking about children’s cultural backgrounds, and imagining what this might mean in terms of a future career as a teacher. In our analysis, we examined how they used these resources to engage or not with these goals.We developed our courses with full knowledge that we could not predict what students would learn or how they would learn it. Following Wenger (1998), we did not think we could expect uniform learning trajectories, but we did think that we could design  for   learning in the sense that we could encourage, frustrate, and provoke it. We expected that students would enact diverse trajectories into and around the set of practices we offered them in our courses. For example, some students might enact “peripheral trajectories” wherein they would keep a distance from the aims of course activities whereas others might develop an “inbound trajectory” in which they would enthusiastically take the perspectives and goals offered by the course (Wenger, 1998). Student trajecto-ries would be shaped by their dispositions  or ways of being, valuing, and acting in the world that developed through their  prior participation in communities including school class-rooms, families, babysitting, and tutoring children (Bourdieu, 2004). Students’ understandings of how a teacher should teach and how students should behave would, for instance, likely be affected by their years of observing and participat-ing in school instruction (Lortie, 1975). Another influence on the students’ engagement with the ideas offered in our course would be their emerging understanding of their per-sonal and professional  scopes of possibilities  (Dreier, 2008). In other words, the ideas that students had regarding what they wanted to do in the future (e.g., ideas about the kind of teacher they thought they wanted to become) would influ-ence what they would see of value in our course and how they might pursue it (or not). Researchers studying learning transfer from a sociocultural perspective have found that these contexts of experience influence what learners notice, at UNIV OF COLORADO LIBRARIES on April 29, 2014 jte.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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