School of Education
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
This paper is a report of a study of the ways in which a group of secondary school teachers have engaged in a curriculum reform effort in the US. The curriculum was developed by a team of university faculty in collaboration with several of the teachers. Although all of the teachers in the study agreed to implement the curriculum in their classrooms, the level at which it was implemented varied significantly among the teachers, from the insertion of a few activities of the new curriculum into their existing ones, to a complete implementation of the new curriculum. In this paper I review the available models that can be used to account for the behavior of these teachers. I argue that the prevalent models -- reliance on a knowledge base (e.g. Shulman, 1986; 1987) and practical reasoning and reflective practice (Fenstermacher, 1986; Schön, 1983) -- are incomplete. This incompleteness is due to a reliance on the Cartesian separation of object and subject that results in each of these models being computational in nature. I then turn to a model of what it means to teach and to be a teacher that is social constructivist in nature (Clandinin and Connelly, 1992), in which teaching is viewed as a way of being (Stengel, 1996; Helms, 1996), and teachers as meaning makers immersed in educational situations (Feldman, 1995). I then re-examine the teachers' use of the curriculum materials through the perspective of this model of teaching.
Minds-On Physics (MOPs) is a year-long physics curriculum for high school students designed to develop and integrate conceptual knowledge within problem solving contexts. Students are expected to interact with other students and the teacher to use concepts to analyze and solve open-ended problems, to explore the meaning of concepts through inquiry and hands-on activities, and to organize their conceptual knowledge in ways that highlight the major ideas in physics. The curriculum materials -- student activities, a student reader, and a teacher's manual -- were developed so that they have a firm basis in the findings from research in the learning of physics done by the development team, a group of faculty and research scientists in the physics department of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst: William Gerace, Jose Mestre, William Leonard, Robert Dufresne. On a day-to-day basis MOPs students work with text material called "activities." Each activity begins with an introduction to the student outlining the purpose and goals of the activity and the prior knowledge needed to complete the activity. The remainder of the text of each activity consists of questions that refer to particular physics situations.
In the original plans for the development of this curriculum, it was envisioned that two sets of teachers would be involved. The first set, the "alpha teachers," would review and test the curriculum materials, and help with a workshop about teaching MOPs for the second group, or "beta teachers." The beta teachers would use the materials in their classrooms, provide the development team with limited feedback, and provide a basis for an evaluation of the curriculum.
The teachers became involved in the project through professional connections and serendipity. Three of the alpha teachers had been involved with the development team on an earlier pilot study that led up to the development of MOPs. Most of the local beta teachers joined the project after attending a workshop given by Gerace and Mestre on constructivist teaching methods. No systematic attempt was made to have the sample of teachers representative in any way.
MOPs has been implemented in a variety of high schools in two regions of the US: New England and the South. Teachers in seven high schools and one community college in New England, and seven high schools in the South have used the materials. The high schools are in urban, suburban, and rural school districts. The student populations in the schools vary from almost entirely of European-Americans to schools that are comprised almost entirely of students of color. The schools also vary by the social class of their students.
Methods of the Study
This study is a part of the evaluation of the NSF-funded MOPs project. The majority of the evaluation relies on ethnographic methods, including observations, audiotaping, and videotaping of classes and workshops; interviews of teachers, focus groups with students, and a series of survey instruments on teachers' opinions of MOPs; students' attitudes towards physics; concept webs and a card sorting task with which to probe teachers' conceptions of the discipline of physics; and interviews of the development team. Qualitative data has been coded using preconceived categories based on the development team's goals for the curriculum, and was also coded using emergent categories. Survey data was analyzed using Excel.
Cases of Experienced Teachers Using MOPs
In this paper I look at two beta teachers and how they have interacted with the MOPs materials. I have chosen these two teachers, Bob Jones and Dave Smith, because of the similarities in their backgrounds and in their schools, and because while Jones had become an enthusiastic supporter of MOPs and is using it as his physics curriculum, Smith has remained ambivalent in his opinions about the program and has used it only sparingly in his classes.
Both Jones and Smith are in their 29th year of teaching. Each teaches in an old "mill town" in New England. Both men see themselves as physics teachers, having had that as their primary teaching responsibility for many years. Jones has an undergraduate degree in chemistry from a well-known engineering college. Smith was an undergraduate at the state university where he double majored in physics and education. Both men have master's degrees: Jones's is in education and Smith has a master's degree in computer science.
Despite these similarities, it was evident by the first interview and class observations that these two teachers were in different places when it comes to MOPs. By the end of October, Smith had used 5 of the MOPs activities. After that trial, he felt that MOPs was not what he wanted in a physics curriculum. He saw it as a tool for preparing students to study physics in college or to be engineering majors while he saw his job is to keep kids motivated in science.
Jones was first interviewed at the end of September. He was using the MOPs activities with all three of his physics classes, and found that it was in consonance with his desire for a method of teaching physics that would allow him to know his students' level of conceptual understanding. He had taught in a traditional didactic style for his entire career but had been concerned that there were many of his students who had difficulties with physics that were not being addressed. He saw MOPs as an answer to that problem.
Observations were made several times of both teachers' classes during the fall. Jones's classes had been using MOPs consistently in small groups since the beginning of the semester. The students were given the responsibility to read the instructions to the activities and attempt to come up with answers to the questions through collaborative conversations. On a regular basis during the class period, Jones would have two students from each group of 4 switch to a different group. He did this to encourage fertilization of ideas and critique across the groups.
Smith's honors classes also worked in groups when they did MOPs activities. However they did not consistently participate in groups when other instructional materials were used. Smith's students worked well in groups, showing responsibility and initiative, but did not have the same fluidity as Jones's classes. This may have been due to their lack of familiarity with the MOPs activities.
Both Jones and Smith were interviewed again and their classes observed at the end of November. Jones's class began smoothly with the students knowing exactly what to do when they entered the room. As one group wrote their data on the black board, Jones went around the room, asking students questions and answering theirs. At times he would address the whole class to point out difficulties that several groups were having. After a half hour of work, he asked the students to stop and to share data with one another. After the students had copied the data from the blackboard, he had them begin on the next activity, working in pairs. The students work on the new activity until the end of the period, showing no signs of boredom.
Smith's class was observed on the following day. They, too, were working in groups on a MOPs activity. The students were actively engaged during this double period. The students were quite articulate as they argued their points as they discussed their answers to the MOPs questions. It was clear that these honors physics students were quite capable of working in groups independently of Smith's direct instruction.
The mid-year interviews showed that both Jones and Smith were thinking about MOPs in ways similar to when they were interviewed earlier in the academic year. Jones reiterated that he was trying to prepare his students for college. He was excited about the use of cooperative groups and students struggling together as they worked through the 43 activities that they had done. He stated that he would never go back to his previous way of teaching. He finds this approach superior to lecturing and it is "more fun for the students. They like to work with one another, talking with other kids in the group. It makes them think differently, to look more deeply into things ... these kids are never asleep, never daydreaming, or looking out the window." He has found that his use of MOPs is an effective way to get students to change their minds about physics concepts.
Smith began the mid-year interview by explaining why he was not enthusiastic about using MOPs:
I am not comfortable with this less is more philosophy.
I do not know how much less is acceptable. That is a major problem for
me. I may be losing on both ends [problem solving skills and content coverage].
I'm not sure that my role is to prepare students for college physics. This
is a survey class ... I need to catch the students' attention. ... How
many of my students won't go into science in college because they haven't
had more experience in high school?
Smith was concerned about the "unduly amount
of time" spent on a limited amount of content in the early MOPs activities.
He's not sure that the development of deep conceptual understanding is the
appropriate goal for high school physics if it means sacrificing content
coverage, especially if he has no guarantee that these instructional methods
will prepare his students as well when it comes to problem solving skills.
Smith did, however, recognize that there were real advantages to using MOPs activities. His honors physics class has 30 students in it, and MOPs allows him to get around and work with individual students in a way that does not occur with his regular way of teaching. He also recognized that the MOPs activities were presenting physics content to him in ways that he had not considered before, even though he had used two non-traditional physic curricula -- PSSC Physics and Harvard Project Physics.
Both of these teachers were interviewed for a final time in June. As with many high schools in the state, seniors had completed their studies early, so these teachers had more unscheduled time than usual. They were relaxed and comfortable as I talked with them about their year using MOPs.
It was clear from Jones's response that the MOPs materials had become his physics curriculum, and that he felt that all students would benefit from the MOPs approach In addition, he felt that the use of MOPs this year had changed the way that he thinks of himself as a teacher:
My old idea of teaching was tell students stuff. My new approach is listening to them and guiding them -- modifying their thinking rather than telling them. I find it hard to do that. Every once in awhile I find myself in front of the blackboard with a piece of chalk in my hand, and I say, "Whoa -- I don't want to do that." The old teacher I was had chalk in hand all the time. Now I rarely do. If something goes on the blackboard, the kids do it.
Smith's honors physics class had completed one-third of the activities by the end of the year. He told me of the students' frustration and disenchantment with MOPs, and of his frustration and disenchantment with them. His frustration was related to the amount of time that the activities take to use, which prevented him from covering other, more interesting material. He felt that MOPs was for only his best students. He also felt that as a result of his participation in the MOPs project that he thinks of himself differently as a teacher. He now wonders if he needs to be more of a facilitator than an instructor. He always had the feeling that kids need to get involved in their own education. MOPs has reminded him to pay attention to that. It has also provided him with a tool to uncover students misconceptions.
I also asked Jones and Smith whether they would use the MOPs materials again next year. As would be expected, Jones is fully committed to the use of MOPs materials. Smith's future plans for MOPs are not so clear. He responded to my question in the following way:
I don't know. I'd like to use some of them because
they're good. I feel frustrated when I use them. They develop the ideas
but they take so much time. I won't use them for entire topics. I'll spend
some time during the summer going through them to select which I'll use.
I would have liked the program to have been developed so that it would
have been more flexible to use.
Ways to Understand Teacher Actions
How can we account for the differences in the ways in which these teachers have implemented MOPs? This question has saliency that goes beyond this study because if we are to encourage experienced teachers to change their practice, or encourage new teachers to teach in ways other than the ways that they have been taught, it is imperative for us to understand why teachers do what they do. In recent years, explanations of teacher actions have been individual cognitive models or socio-cultural models. Among the former we find models that rely on what I have called the teacher knowledge perspective (Feldman, 1993). Much of this literature has been derived from work done by Shulman and his colleagues on a knowledge base for teaching. In addition, there are individual cognitive models that view teaching as a process of decision making through reasoning processes (Fenstermacher, 1986; Sanders and McCutcheon, 1986), or through reflection-in or -on-practice (Schön, 1983). While the context within which the teacher acts is an important consideration in each of these models, and in particular the knowledge base can be envisioned as a compendium that exists in Popper's World 3, the teacher as individual is the locus of decision making in each of these models.
Views from both of these perspectives have been useful for reformulating the conception of teaching. The teacher knowledge perspective has focused research on teachers, and has allowed, and even encouraged, the university research community to recognize that teachers are thinking beings. As a result it has opened up a new field of inquiry that recognizes that teachers are experts at teaching, that they possess a unique type of knowledge -- pedagogical content knowledge -- and that they possess a wide variety of teaching strategies -- repertoires of teaching representations -- that they use for instruction.
The teacher reasoning perspecitve has also played an important part in changing conceptions of what it means to teach. It has suggested a vision of teachers as reasoning beings who make decisions about their practice, and that their expertise in doing so lies in their abilities to identify goals, to make defensible decisions based on practical and moral considerations, and to plan and carry out actions to meet those goals. It also suggests that good teaching requires that people who teach be flexible and able to act responsibly in particular spatial and temporal contexts. It allows for the possibility of multiple solutions to problems and recognizes the existence of insolvable dilemmas. And, it suggests that the role of researcher is appropriate for teachers.
Socio-cultural perspectives on teaching
In more recent years, researchers have begun to look closely at teaching as a contextualized activity. For some, teachers' beliefs, goals, behaviors, and the context of action comprise a theoretical framework in which the teacher and the socio-cultural milieu are assumed to interact dialectically (Tobin and McRobbie, 1996; Liston and Zeichner, 1991; O'Loughlin, 1989). Others view teaching as a process of curriculum negotiation (Clandinin and Connelly, 1992). What we see from this perspective is an interactional model between individual teachers and society that is influenced by teachers' beliefs about knowing, teaching, and learning. These beliefs are socially constructed in interactions that lead teachers to believe in certain ways and to conceptualize teaching and learning that add to the construction of their beliefs. Therefore, from this perspective we see teachers as individual beings acted upon and acting upon their social context.
In this social constructivist view, curriculum is constructed within the social context of the classroom or school. It has been, and is being, enacted or experienced through teachers' and students' joint negotiation of context and meaning (Doyle, 1992). In viewing curriculum in this way, the enactment of individual lessons can be seen to be an important unit of curriculum, and the curriculum as socially constructed events in which teachers and students engage to negotiate different aspects of the curriculum, including topics to be included, ways of approaching them, goals, and means of assessment (Doyle, 1992).
Teaching as a way of being
In previous writing (Feldman, 1993), I have argued that the teacher knowledge and reasoning perspectives rely on computational models of the mind. I now take a step further back in my argument, and begin by claiming that this is a carryover effect of Cartesian dualism, the conception of the self as distinct and separate from the world. In this conception, the mind is located in the brain, and thinking, as Hobbes suggested, is called reckoning because it is thought of as a manipulation of signs according to rules (Putnam, 1992). Both the teacher knowledge and teacher reasoning perspectives rely on this way of thinking about thinking, with the former emphasizing the operands -- the accumulated knowledge -- while in the latter, there is emphasis on the operations -- the ways in which the accumulated knowledge are manipulated through reasoning or reflection to reach decisions about actions. I am not suggesting that any of the teacher educators or theorists who support the se perspectives believes that we have computers inside our heads or even that the brain functions as a computer. However, I am suggesting that these perspectives rely on a way of thinking about thinking that can be modeled through computational methods.
The socio-cultural perspectives on teaching begin to reject Cartesian dualism because they focus on dialectic relationships between teachers and their social contexts. Proponents of these perspectives recognize that context influences the way we think about our social context, and that the way we think about our social context leads us to act in ways that shape it. This suggests that it is counter-productive to divide the world into a part that is independent of us and a part that is contributed by us (Putnam, 1992). However, the socio-cultural perspectives do not completely close the Cartesian divide because their conception of teaching as a dialectical relationship or as negotiation, almost by definition, reify the separation between the teacher and her social context
From these three perspectives, teaching is seen as a set of actions or activities that a person engages in in a particular context, usually a school. Acts of teaching are assumed to require certain knowledge or types of knowledge, that result from educational research, personal biographies and professional experience, and knowledge of the social complexities of schooling and the communities in which schools are immersed. Teaching acts are also assumed to require some sort of reasoning ability. It may look like practical theories or arguments, or reflection-in or -on practice. But from each of these views, the teacher is person who is doing teaching rather than being a teacher.
Barbara Stengel (1996) has suggested the latter: that being a teacher is a way of being and that teachers are human beings for whom teaching is a way of being human. To Stengel, a person's way of being is the sum total of his or her experience, and the set of intentional states -- dispositions, talents, interests, fears, and visions --that locate the person and point him or her in one direction or another (1996).
Someone's way of being is the source of his or her ways of being. The human being who is a teacher has a way of being that is uniquely hers. One of her ways of being is that she is a teacher. She has other ways of being that include her relation to family, community, vocations, and avocations (1996). Stengel links these ways of being to ways of knowing. Ways of knowing may be unique to the way of being, or may cut across the individuals ways of being.
Stengel, in her important paper, has argued that this perspective has utility for teachers and teacher educators. In other papers, I have argued (Feldman, 1994; 1995) that viewing teaching as a way of being has two other important outcomes. It can eliminate the Cartesian separation between subject and object, and allows us to view teaching as a way of being of human beings that is at one with their educational situations.
My arugment ties together the work of John Searle (1984; 1992; 1995) and Heidegger's analysis of Being (1962), with reference to the later work of Dewey (1938). Searle's recent work are important to the study of teaching for two reasons: The first is that his suggestion that computational models of the mind are deficient conceptions of how people think implies that any attempt to understand teachers and the act of teaching through the use of computational models will also be deficient. The second is that consciousness and action are tied through the existence of intentional mental states, both prior and those in action, that operate relative to what he calls the "Background," "the set of nonintentional and preintentional capacities that enable intentional states or functions (1995, 129)." When he states that the Background enables intentional states, he means that it is a manifestation of neurophysiological structures that function causally in relation to the neurophysiological structures that are the intentional states (1995, 130). More recently, he has introduced the idea of collective intentionality, which is the capacity to share intentional states such as beliefs, desires, and intentions (1995).
It should be clear that from Searle's claims that human understanding, meaning, and interpretation are possible because of the shared Background and collective intentionality, that human actions, such as teaching and being a student, can only be studied within the constructs of culture and community. It also provides researchers with a way of examining teachers' beliefs, intentions, conceptions and other types of intentionality without being concerned with underlying cognitive mechanisms. This is just what researchers concerned with the notion of the situated nature of learning are attempting to do (e.g., Chaiklin and Lave, 1993), or in Bruner's recent work to develop as "cultural psychology (1990)."
Searle's analysis suggests that we can view teaching from a perspective that is non-computational and is socio-cultural. The non-computational aspects of his way of thinking about thinking set aside Hobbes linking of thinking with reckoning. The next step in my argument is to show how the interaction between teachers and social context can be dialectical without reifying the separation between subject and object. I intend to do this by laying out and explaining what I mean by being a teacher by making two distinctions. The first is between knowledge and understanding, and the second between context and situation.
Knowledge and understanding
I begin by distinguishing between what I mean by "to understand" from what I mean by "to know." In English, these verbs are linked together in the vernacular and are made distinct only through particular usage in philosophy. There is the philosopher's definition of knowledge as "validated true belief" and the more operational definition that has been used in the teacher knowledge perspective, that a person has knowledge when he or she "knows-how" or "knows-that." To understand tends to have the same meaning: a person understands when he or she "understands how" or "understands that." But I would like to distinguish between what I mean by knowledge and understanding by differentiating knowledge as batches of information that are a product of human activity from understanding that comes about through meaning-making in situations.
It is reasonable to think of knowledge as "chunks" of know-that or know-how that can be added to some sort of compendium. Much of scientific and academic knowledge is in these forms, and the information that is needed to run a business or govern a country is often categorical. But where this begins to lose its saliency is in trying to understand the actions of individuals and interactions among people. Understanding arises, however, through a shared, social background that is the basis for intentional human activity, and not explicit or tacit knowledge operated on by theoretical rule systems (Heidegger, 1992). In this way, understanding, which comes about through meaning-making in situations, is distinguished from the data-like nature of knowledge as commodity.
Meaning-making occurs in situations. By situation I mean more than the context within which people act. The context is their setting -- the backdrops in front of which they act. To speak of context conjures up an image of people as separate entities, distinct from their surroundings, and affected or acted upon by those other entities that make up the context, which is what reifies the Cartesian separation in the socio-cultural views of teaching. Instead, I would like to suggest that people find themselves thrown into situations constituted by all that has occurred in the past and from which they project themselves into the future (Heidegger, 1962).
In the study of teaching, the people of interest are teachers who are immersed in educational situations that are constituted of their settings within which they are situated -- their teaching context -- but also their past and possible future interactions with their students, colleagues, school administrators, and so forth, all within the milieu of particular human "traditions, institutions, customs and the purposes and beliefs (Dewey, 1938, 43)."
When trying to understand teaching, we can therefore refer to the situation in which the teacher is immersed to go beyond the physical setting and the theoretical constructs of the social sciences to include human intentions that underlie actions and relations that arise from the teacher's past, that of her students, their families, other teachers, the principal, and the ways that they will act and relate in the future. While the situation is spread web-like through time and space, the teacher is being in it in the moment even as that moment shifts through space, time, and among relations.
The teacher's actions in that educational situation are related to her understanding of her being as a teacher in that situation. This relation shows the importance of situation to the meaning of understanding, and how it lies in the idea of Heidegger and Dewey that people, individuals, exist in the world as being a part of the world, and that understanding is related to that being-in-the-world.
Understanding arises from immersion in the situations that constitute our world, an immersion that is fundamental to and inseparable from human existence. It comes about through people making sense of the situations in which they are immersed, a making sense that can never be fully explicit and is part of background capabilities. What this suggests is that the understanding of one's own being can never be separated from the individual and can never be fully accessed because it is constituted by our being in the world.
This, then, is the basis of the perspective from which teaching is viewed as a way of being. It begins with the recognition that teachers are people in the role of teacher, who act as teachers, and teach in educational situations. It is in their being as teachers that their understandings arise through meaning-making in those situations, and why they act as they do. And it is also through their being in these situations, with their web-like structures that extend not only through time and space, but also across human relations, that teachers come to understand others through a hermeneutic interpretation of their interactions.
In the next section of the paper I analyze the interactions of the two experienced teachers, Jones and Smith, with MOPs from each of the several perspectives on teaching that I reviewed earlier to try to understand why they are at such different places in regards to the MOPs curriculum. From the teacher knowledge perspective, I examine changes in the teachers' knowledge of constructivism. From the teacher reasoning perspective, I focus on how reflection and deliberation has occurred in their decision-making about whether and how they would use MOPs. I then turn to the socio-cultural view and examine the interaction of each teacher with his social context. Finally, I turn to the perspective of teaching as a way of being to better understand how these two teachers have changed over the course of the year.
Analysis from Four Perspectives
Knowledge of constructivism
The MOPs curriculum materials were developed to help students make their prior conceptions explicit, to challenge them, and to help construct new ones that are more isomorphic with conceptions accepted by the physic community. If a teacher were to take up this curriculum voluntarily, and to use it in the manner hoped for by the development team, it is likely that he or she would share the constructivist bent of the development team. Was there a significant difference in Jones' and Smith's understanding of constructivism?
In each of the three interviews, the teachers were asked the same two questions:
Are you familiar with the term constructivism? If so, what does it mean to you?
Do you consider yourself a constructivist teacher? If so, give an example of what a visitor to your class might see that is an example of constructivism.
Interview 1 was done after the teachers had been exposed to the curriculum materials and to the development team's educational philosophy during a week-long workshop in August. Both teachers had used at least several of the MOPs activities by the time of the first interview. Given this, the responses made by Jones and Smith to the two questions during Interview 1 were quite remarkable. Jones basically said that he had no idea what constructivism is. Smith indicated that his understanding of constructivism was that it was equivalent to some sort of discovery learning model in which students discover for themselves the laws of physics.
By the second interview, Jones had a definition of constructivism that was in-line with that of the development team. He referred to uncovering prior conceptions and then using instructional methods to change students' conceptions. Smith's conception of constructivism had also begun to change by the time of the second interview. While construtivism still left "a bad taste in his mouth," he was aware that it had something to do with students constructing their own understandings of physics concepts.
By Interview 3 it appeared that Jones not only "knew" what constructivism is, but had internalized his own understanding of it. Smith's conception of constructivism also continued to change. He no longer began to talk about it with a negative comment. He talked about working through problems, putting together pieces, and students making sense out of information. From this it can be seen that for both Jones and Smith, their knowledge of constructivism and what constitutes constructivist practice grew through the year. What is not clear is whether this new knowledge initiated a change in practice, or whether changes in practice led to the new knowledge.
Reflection and deliberation
For both Jones and Smith the major question during the year was not whether to use MOPs, but how they would use it. Their decision to join the project was a commitment, and one that they felt obligated to fulfill to stick with MOPs through the academic year due to their sense of professionalism.
Jones decided to use the activities in sequence and to use them in the way that they were modeled by the development team during the summer workshop. In Interview 3, he provided me with four reasons for that decision: First, when he looked at them without reading them carefully, just shuffling through them, he saw that they looked a lot like what he was already doing. Second, again from his casual inspection of the materials, he suspected that MOPs was rigorous physics. Third, Jones believed that the only fair way to try out a new curriculum is to use it as intended. Finally, he had become disenchanted with teaching in a traditional manner.
Jones began on the first day of school with MOPs. He saw it as a way to get away from lectures, and using some suggestions provided by the development team during the summer workshop, he began to use collaborative groups as a way to get the students to interact during the class. As the year went on, he tried different ways to configure the groups and structure the MOPs activities, relying on his sense of what was working to know when and what to change. So for the most part, Jones had made a decision, based on an inspection of the materials and the apparent correspondence between his existing curriculum and MOPs, and his desire to have instructional materials that would allow him to lecture less and have students interact with one another more. In weighing the potential benefits of the program against what he was already doing, he decided to go with it.
While Smith had made the commitment to join the MOPs project and to try out the materials, he was not committed to using them as a major part of his physics curriculum. He also weighed the potential benefits of the program against what he was already doing as an experienced physics teacher. He saw that the MOPs activities could engender deep conceptual understanding of physics, and that some of the techniques used by MOPs, such as the use of multiple representations for problem solving and an emphasis on free-body diagrams, were a welcome addition to his honors and AP physics courses. But he was not convinced that a full immersion in MOPs would meet his goals of providing students with a varied exposure to physics. When he tried to use MOPs activities on a piecemeal basis, he found that it didn't work well, that each activity relied on other activities for cognitive coherence.
It is important to remember that Smith, as well as Jones, is a committed professional, and has a deep concern for both the subject matter and his students. Although he had basically stopped using the activities early in the fall, he decided to give them another chance after a one-day workshop in early November. He had just begun to work on forces with his students and so tried out the force and free-body diagram activities. He was also impressed by the success that Jones reported at that workshop, so he arranged for a substitute teacher and spent a day visiting with Jones. He saw how successful the MOPs program was in Jones's classes, and learned the techniques that Jones had perfected for group work. But while seeing Jones's success, he still was not convinced that MOPs would do for his classes what he wanted them to do.
So we can see that both Smith and Jones are reflective practitioners who spend time reasoning about how they want to teach and what their goals are for their physics programs. Based on his inspection of the materials, Jones made the decision that they were consonant with the ways in which he wanted to teach physics. As he used them in the classroom, he reflected on his practice, to make changes in his instruction.
Smith has also reflected on his practice and has made decisions about how and what to teach. Over the course of his 29 years of teaching he has been involved in trying out new physics programs, and has developed his own set of activities that he has found to be successful with his students. But he is looking for new ways to teach, and was attracted to what MOPs has to offer. In examining them and using the MOPs activities, he has found aspects of them that he thinks works. In fact, he was enamored enough with them to do what few teachers take the time to do -- to take some professional time to visit another teacher in another school to learn how he teaches. But Smith has had difficulty implementing MOPs because they are too inflexible for inclusion into his existing curriculum.
Life in schools: The socio-cultural context
A look at the socio-cultural context of these teachers can help to understand why they approached and interacted with MOPs in such different ways. Both Jones and Smith are immersed in the effects of more than a century of modern American schooling, and in particular, the American high school. This includes tracking, the compartmentalization of subjects in to 7-8 50 minute periods each day, and of faculty into discipline-based departments. Both teachers are aware of the recent actions of the state government that have placed demands on them to change the way that they teach.
How can the socio-cultural context be used to understand why these teachers have interacted differently to MOPs? A way to begin to do this is to follow on what Liston and Zeichner (1991) and Clandinin and Connelly (1992) have suggested: to look at the way the teachers have reflected on their socio-cultural contexts or negotiated within it.
For Jones, this reflection and negotiation has centered around his desire for students to struggle or wrestle with the subject. He wants his students to be actively engaged in lessons, so that there are few who are lost or who spend their time staring out the window. And so he has reflected on his practice, and, in some ways, agonized over his inability to engage his students in that manner. One of the reasons that he decided to take up the MOPs curriculum was that he had been unable to find a way to engage with his students in this manner, and it appeared that MOPs would be a vehicle for him to do that.
His acceptance of MOPs is also related to his desire for his students to be successful in college. When he first looked at the curriculum materials he was impressed by their rigor, which allowed him to take it on because he felt that he could take a risk with it. Without that rigor, what he called "real solid physics," he would not have taken the chance to compromise his students' future success as college students even though he didn't know whether his students would be "plowed under." Jones has struggled with his own goals for students, within the context of modern American schooling in an old mill town, to negotiate a physics curriculum that best meets the needs of his students in their socio-cultural context. This led him to try and to reject other curricula, to reduce the number of physics topics that he teaches, and finally, to fully adopt the MOPs materials as the basis of his honor physics course.
Smith's life in schools has also consisted in part of reflection and negotiation around the goals that he has for his physics students. He went through a period of what he called "soul searching" as he, and his fellow physics teacher, tried to negotiate a curriculum that included MOPs and met their goals. This turned out to be quite difficult for him to do. He was torn between two sets of goals: The first is to present students with an introduction to a broad spectrum of physics topics to both give them an exposure to a variety of topics and to encourage students to study more science by giving them an opportunity to maybe work with a topic that they would get especially excited about. His second goal is more consonant with MOPs: Smith want his students to have a thorough understanding of physics that aids in their problem solving, and "gets them to see things in ways that they haven't before." He doesn't just want students to memorize a set of equations and learn how to apply them. He wants them to understand what it is that they are doing.
He saw the MOPs activities as a way of achieving the latter goal while structuring the course to achieve his first goal. To do this, MOPs activities would be an add-in, something that he and the students would turn to on an occasional basis to develop their deep conceptual understanding. Unfortunately he found that to negotiate a curriculum that relied more on the MOPs activities would have required him to discount the importance of his first goal. And he found that difficult to do because he thinks of MOPs as a course for students who already see themselves as physicists or engineers, while, "2 out of 3 kids are not physics people."
Smith would like the MOPs program to be more flexible so that he could use the activities within the curriculum that he has negotiated with his students in his community over the years. Because it isn't, Smith finds himself in a dilemma that he trying to work through. He has seen that the MOPs activities can be successful with honors students to develop a deeper understanding of physics, but to do that would require him to change the other goals that he has for his course. It was that dilemma that sent him to observe Jones' classes. And it is because of that dilemma that he finds himself still deliberating about if and how he will use MOPs next year, and has him wondering if his lack of success with MOPs is indicative of his ability as a physics teacher.
Ways of being a physics teacher
I now turn to the teaching as a way of being perspective. As we have seen, from this perspective teachers are recognized as people in the role of teacher, who act as teachers, and are immersed in educational situations in which they teach. Jones and Smith's ways of being physics teachers have arisen through the hermeneutic interactions that they have with others in their educational situations.
It is clear that Jones and Smith have had very different ways of interacting with MOPs. While both teachers began with an interest in this new way to teach physics, at the end of the academic year we find Jones committed to the use of the materials and the types of pedagogy that it supports while Smith has used few of the activities and remains ambivalent about the curriculum.
How can this perspective that views teaching as a way of being help us to understand what has happened in the past year for Jones and Smith? For Jones and Smith, their ways of being physics teachers, and their self-identification as such (Helms, 1996) have been parts of their lives from nearly 30 years. Their ways of being include the sum total of their experiences, the sets of intentional states that points each of them in one direction or another, and the educational situations in which they are immersed. Therefore to understand these teachers ways of being, we need to go beyond an analysis of what they know and how they know it; beyond the ways that they reflect, deliberate, or reason about their practices; and beyond their social context.
A metaphor that may be helpful here is that of horizons (Feldman, 1994). For example, Jones's immersion in his educational situation has a horizon to it -- edges that shift spatially and temporally as his intentions change and he acts within that situation. His students are also human beings, who have their ways of being that relate to their roles as students in his classes. Each has a horizon that shifts spatially and temporally as his or her intentions change and he or she acts within their educational situations that include being students in Jones's physics classes. As a participant in the class, Jones affects the collective intentionality and the shared Background of all the other participants in the class.
An example of this can be seen in the way that Jones talked about the importance of his enthusiasm in Interview 3:
I think all teaching is enthusiasm. I started
off the beginning of the year with , "We're doing this, and I'm looking
forward to it, and I like the way it sounds." So I have to have a
mind-set, I have to say, "Okay, I'm going to do it and I'm going to
His enthusiasm, which he calls a "mind-set,"
is a manifestation of his way of being a physics teacher, and is seen as
his stance towards physics, physics teaching, the learning of physics, and
the purposes of high school physics.
It could be argued that Jones's enthusiasm is a product of the interactions of his knowledge, his beliefs about teaching and learning, and his interaction with his social context of schooling. From the way of being perspective, this is seen differently --Jones's enthusiasm is a manifestation of his immersion in his educational situation, and what is seen from the other perspectives on teaching are ways of understanding aspects of his way of being.
To understand what has happened with Jones and his students from the teaching as a way of being perspective, we need to pay attention to Jones's humanness, his intentions, and the hermeneutic nature of his actions and understanding in the classroom. Jones began the year enthusiastic about MOPs, that enthusiasm affected his and his students' educational situations, which led all of them to new understandings of the nature of MOPs, and the teaching and learning of physics. As they incorporated these new understandings into their ways of being, their horizons shifted, their educational situations changed, enthusiasm grew, and so on, until Jones's way of being a physics teacher had changes so much over the course of the academic year that he could state emphatically in Interview 3, "I will never lecture again in my life."
Jones also told me that other teachers' lack of enthusiasm can affect teachers' educational situations in ways that have impact on students' ways of being physics students. From this, Smith's ambivalence towards MOPs could be seen as a result of his lack of enthusiasm for it. But while enthusiasm for MOPs is part of Jones's way of being a physics teacher, enthusiasm, or a lack of enthusiasm, may not be an aspect of Smith's way of being a teacher. From this perspective, words that seem to be useful for understanding Smith's interactions with MOPs are affinity, rapport, harmony, and inclination.
It is possible to point at the lack of affinity that Smith has for MOPs, the lack of harmony between his ways of thinking about high school physics and that of the development team, and Smith's inclination to lean away from full-blown use of the curriculum materials.
Each of these words relates to Smith's dispositions and intentions, and are useful for describing his way of being in his educational situation that includes his students in his school, and the MOPs curriculum. Over the course of the year his inclinations towards MOPs changed. He began wary of constructivism and then became a supporter of it. He gave MOPs multiple trials and sought out Jones for advice, as affinity for and rapport with MOPs varied from September to June. However, at no time could one point to a harmony between his way of being a physics teacher and the type of educational situation created by a full use of MOPs. What this suggests is that for Smith to take up more of MOPs, his inclinations towards the materials must change, and that he needs to see a more harmonious arrangement between his way of being and what MOPs has to offer.
Discussion and Implications
We now return to the question that focuses this paper, "How can we explain the differences between these two teachers in the use of MOPs materials?" Each of the four perspectives suggests different ways to explain teacher change. For example, for the teacher knowledge perspective, teachers' knowing and understanding what constructivism means in their subject and knowing how to implement constructivist pedagogy is what is needed for MOPs to be successfully implemented. For example, it can be seen that Jones has gained both the "know-that" knowledge that consists of an understanding of constructivism that is consonant with that of the development team, and he has gained the "know-how" knowledge that is the pedagogical content knowledge of being able to teach physics in a constructivist manner. Smith has a different understanding of constructivism, one that may be considered a naive conception. That would suggest that to evoke further change in Smith's practice would require some sort of conceptual change on his part. It is not clear at this time whether that conceptual change would come about separate from that of his using constructivist teaching techniques.
Because it is apparent from the entire evaluation study that MOPs must be adopted as an entire curriculum for it to succeed, the teacher reasoning perspective suggests that the teachers must decide to do that. They need to be provided with reasons that they can believe, that will become part of their practical arguments or practical theories, and are apparent from reflection on their practice. Jones had those reasons, Smith did not. The question remains, how could Smith be provided with them?
Both teachers have negotiated curricula with their students in their socio-cultural contexts. The curriculum that Jones has negotiated is centered around MOPs. Smith has negotiated a curriculum that follows along traditional lines in high school physics, and because the MOPs materials are sequential and dependent on previous activities, he has found MOPs too inflexible to stay for long on the bargaining table. This negotiation is a complex process that includes much of what I have examined in this paper. It is influenced by the knowledge that the teacher has, reasoning and reflection about practice, and by beliefs about teaching. Curriculum negotiation is an ongoing process that can be influenced through any of the aspects that I have already noted.
It should also be clear that in trying to understand how we can evoke changes in teachers' practice, the socio-cultural perspective is at a level of complexity greater than that of the teacher knowledge and reasoning perspectives. This complexity makes it difficult to state exactly what could be, or should be, done to evoke teacher change. This can easily be seen in the examples here. It could be argued that any specific example action that could be taken by pre- or inservice teacher educators could be identified from the teacher knowledge and reasoning perspectives. But what Clandinin and Connelly's socio-cultural perspectives adds is the idea of teacher as curriculum negotiator, and that the negotiation, while appearing like an accumulation of knowledge or like individual reasoning, includes other people (students, parents, administrators, community members), and the cultural, political, and economic aspects of the teaching context. And so what this perspective leads us to see is that to evoke teacher change, we must find ways that allow teachers to see themselves as negotiators of curriculum, and to provide them with the resources to do so in an explicit manner. In some ways, Jones's and Smith's participation in the MOPs project has done just that. It is clear from the data that both these teachers see themselves as the assemblers of curriculum. There is no evidence they were aware of the socio-cultural elements with which they negotiated to assemble curriculum before they began with MOPs. But there is evidence that in the context of the MOPs project they have considered their interactions with students, parents, and administrators as they assembled curriculum. To a small extent MOPs provided them with resources as well as the context to make their curriculum negotiation explicit. The week-long workshop in the summer, the three one-day workshops during the academic year, and the opportunity to talk with other physics teachers, the development team, and with me were all resources for the teachers.
Finally, what does the teaching as a way of being perspective allow us to see about teacher change in these two cases. Again, it should be clear that we have gone to another level of complexity. The words that I used in my analysis are indicative of that: "enthusiasm," affinity," "rapport," "harmony," and "inclination." All of these words are examples of what Bernard Williams calls "thick concepts (1985)." The ideas that they embody are difficult to comprehend without an understanding of the situations that they are describing. They also suggest that any attempts to change directly a teachers' enthusiasm for; affinity, rapport, or harmony with; or inclination towards a curriculum would be quite difficult. Instead this perspective suggests that what can be affected is the educational situation in which teachers practices. By affecting their situations, which will then affect their inclinations and dispositions, practice could change.
The teacher as a way of being perspective also suggests a way to affect the educational situations in which the teachers are immersed. Returning to the metaphor of horizons, it becomes clear that for teacher educators (pre- or inservice) to act in ways that will evoke change in teachers, they need to work within the horizons of their educational situations, to shift those horizons in ways that result in a shift in the horizons of the teachers with which they are working. This suggests that a relationship needs to be developed between teacher educators and teachers that is supportive and authentic.
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