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Change in Two Teachers' Conceptions of Math or Writing Instruction after In-Service

Training
Author(s): James H. Mosenthal
Source: The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 95, No. 3 (Jan., 1995), pp. 263-277
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1001934
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Elementary School Journal.

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Change in Two Abstract

Teachers' Conceptions In this study I documentchange in 2 elementary


teachers' thinking about instructionin reading
of Math or Writing or math after 11/2 years as participantsin in-
service programs(Summermathfor Teachersor
Teachers College Writing Project). These pro-
Instruction after In- grams are designed to promote constructivist
practices in teaching. I focus on the teachers'
Service Training conceptions of subject matter implicit in their
discussions about teaching a subjectby charac-
terizingmath and writingin termsof the tension
between seeing a subject as a coherentbody of
content and as a process of inquiry. Data from
James H. Mosenthal interviews conductedbefore and after teachers'
University of Vermont participationin the programsindicatedthat,over
time, teachersgave strongeremphasisto inquiry
as a component of a subject and as a goal of
instruction.This change was revealedin changes
teachersmade in organizinginstructionand in-
teractingwith students but was also implicit in
teachers'explicationsof their instructionand in
the questions they raised about interactingwith
students duringinstruction.

Over the past 15 years, in-service programs


designed to change teachers' conceptions of
what it means to teach a specific subject
have been developed. Often, changing
teachers' thinking entails making radical
changes in instructional routines. For ex-
ample, teachers in the Summermath for
Teachers Program learn to focus instruction
on alternative ways of solving mathematical
problems as opposed to emphasizing cor-
rect solutions. They learn to teach math
through conferences with individuals, pairs,
and small groups of students and through
using manipulatives to construct solutions
to mathematical problems. Teachers in the
Teachers College Writing Project learn to
The Elementary School Journal emphasize ways to solve writing problems
Volume 95, Number 3
that come up in students' writing projects
? 1995 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
0013-5984/95/9503-0004$01.00 as opposed to focusing on correct textual
264 THE ELEMENTARYSCHOOL JOURNAL

products. They learn to teach in a writing ject-matter knowledge and pedagogical con-
workshop dominated by conferences with tent knowledge. Subject-matter knowledge
students who are working on texts they is equivalent to disciplinary knowledge,
have chosen to write and to publish. Over whereas pedagogical content knowledge
time and with the classroom-based work of concerns how subject matter is represented
Summermath and the Writing Project staff, to students so that it is accessible to them.
these approaches to teaching math and According to Grossman (1990, p. 8),
writing become routine and are incorpo- "Teachers must draw upon both their
rated into teachers' instruction. knowledge of subject matter to select ap-
Though the more organizational aspects propriate topics and their knowledge of stu-
of classroom instruction are changed in the dents' prior knowledge and conceptions to
situations characterized above, it is not clear formulate appropriate and provocative rep-
how the teachers' thinking about a subject resentations of the content to be learned."
and related instruction is changed. In this In terms of the relation between subject-
study I attempt to characterize this change matter knowledge and pedagogical content
by examining how two teachers describe knowledge, Shulman and Grossman noted
their instruction before and after partici- the importance of considering content in
pation in the Summermath or Writing Proj- making instructional decisions. However,
ect programs. Given their focus on math or as Grossman (1990) pointed out, in teaching
writing instruction and on alternative in- situations, subject-matter knowledge and
structional routines, these programs pro- pedagogical content knowledge may not ex-
vide an optimal context for investigating ist as clearly separate types of knowledge
change in teachers' thinking about these in the minds of teachers. If teachers' con-
subjects and instruction in them. ceptions of a subject are developed through
teaching it, the subject matter may be so
Change in Subject-specific Pedagogy integrated with its representation to stu-
Shulman (1986, 1987) discussed the rela- dents that the two (conception and repre-
tion between conceptions of a subject and sentation) are indistinguishable. Such a sit-
its presentation to students in terms of sub- uated perspective on teaching subject
ject-matter knowledge and pedagogical matter is supported by recent work on sit-
content knowledge. He suggested that uated learning (Brown, Collins, & Duguid,
teachers' knowledge about a subject is 1989; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Newman, Grif-
bound up with other types of knowledge fin, & Cole, 1989).
operative in the teaching situation. For ex- In investigating change in teachers' con-
ample, following Schwab (1978b), Shulman ceptions of subject matter and subject-
(1987) argued that subject-matter know- matter instruction, I do not distinguish sub-
ledge interacts with knowledge of other ject-matter knowledge from pedagogical
commonplaces of a teaching situation such content knowledge. Rather, I describe
as knowledge about the learner, teaching, teachers' conceptions of a subject implicit
and the context of instruction. This know- in their talk about teaching it. In the present
ledge of the teaching situation is the teach- study, the teaching situation is radically
er's pedagogical content knowledge and de- changed by the in-service program in which
termines how a teacher represents a subject the teachers participate. By implication,
to learners. (On pedagogical content know- how a subject is represented to learners is
ledge, see also McDiarmid, Ball, & Ander- also changed. One might expect, therefore,
son, 1989; Wilson, Shulman, & Richert, a complementary change in teachers' con-
1987.) ceptions of a subject over time.
Grossman (1990) built on Shulman's In documenting this change, I borrow
ideas in discussing the relation between sub- Schwab's (1978a) distinction between the
JANUARY 1995
TEACHERS'CONCEPTIONS 265

substantive and syntactic aspects of disci- National Center for Research on Teacher
plinary knowledge. Substantive knowledge Education, Michigan State University
refers to the knowledge of concepts that (NCRTE, 1988). Eleven programs repre-
help to organize the actual subject matter senting the main types of teacher education
of the discipline. Syntactic knowledge refers (preservice, induction, alternate route, and
to a knowledge of the processes by which in-service) were studied to learn about the
knowledge (new concepts) is constructed relative effects of teacher education on
within the discipline. There is a necessary learning to teach. Researchers followed
relationship between these two aspects of a each program's participants over time to
knowledge of a discipline. Substantive track changes in their knowledge, skills,
knowledge functions as a foundation on and dispositions in order to learn teachers'
which more knowledge is constructed. Syn- reactions to a program and to explore its
tactic knowledge is knowledge of the meth- effects on practice. Questionnaire, inter-
ods of construction. view, and observational data were collected
Schwab's (1978a) distinction between from teachers while they participated in the
substantive and syntactic knowledge is sim- programs. Similarly, researchers observed
ilar to contemporary descriptions of the program staff in their work with teachers
subject matter of math and writing (Ball, and interviewed staff to learn about their
1991; Hillocks, 1991). At issue in the char- purposes and rationale for what they were
acterization of subject matter generally, and doing.
the particular areas of math or writing, is The two in-service programs relevant to
the tension between content or substantive this article are Summermath for Teachers,
knowledge of a subject and the process of Mount Holyoke College, and the Teachers
inquiry or a syntactic knowledge of the sub- College Writing Project. Given their sub-
ject. It is a tension between knowing a de- ject-matter focus and the contrast in the two
finable, coherent set of concepts and prac- subjects, these programs provide appropri-
ticing a process of inquiry in which students ate contexts for studying change in teachers'
construct concepts in autonomous mathe- conceptions of the subjects they teach. Ten
matical or compositional activity. participants in each in-service program
This study was based on my assumption were studied as part of the NCRTE project.
that teachers' discussions about their instruc- Baseline data from the Summermath Pro-
tion in a subject imply a conception of the gram were collected in the spring of 1987
subject that can be characterized in terms of and from the Writing Project in the fall of
the balance or tension between teaching 1987. Posttraining data for both programs
content and teaching the inquiry process. were collected in the spring of 1989. Al-
Given this frame for looking at teachers' con- though the programs still exist, staff in both
ceptions of math or writing, I asked two programs are continually revising and ad-
questions: (1) To what extent do the teachers justing the content and structure of the pro-
represent the subject matter as inquiry into grams. My analysis draws on data gathered
problematic situations based on substantive from 1987-1989 only.
knowledge? (2) How do the teachers' con-
ceptions of the subject change during their The In-Service Programs
in-service training in that subject? The Summermath and Writing Project
programs represent sophisticated ap-
Method proaches that provide intensive, classroom-
Overview of the Larger Study based, long-term in-service training. Both
The interview data for my study come programs hold summer institutes, conduct
from the Teacher Education and Learning year-round staff development, and promote
to Teach study (TELT) carried out by the adventurous teaching (Cohen, 1988). I de-
266 THE ELEMENTARYSCHOOL JOURNAL

scribe this adventurousness in greater detail vision classrooms in which students use
later. In training, teachers learn alternative manipulatives regularly to represent and
ways of organizing instruction and inter- solve problems, where word problems are
acting with students when they teach in or- common tasks, and where much more of
der to promote instruction in which stu- the class period is spent with pupils work-
dents exercise more autonomy in exploring ing in pairs and small groups. Staff also as-
ways of expressing themselves in writing or sume that all of these activities are aimed
ways of solving problems in mathematics. at promoting the development of concep-
(See Mosenthal & Ball, 1992, for a detailed tual understanding, not just procedural
discussion of the programs.) skill.
Summermath for Teachers. Summer- Teachers College Writing Project. The
math is based on a view of mathematics work of the Writing Project is premised on
learning explicitly labeled by the program the writing workshop-a way of organizing
staff as "constructivist," which holds that the classroom for writing. Teachers learn to
individuals must construct their own un- think about the workshop as a new way for
derstandings of mathematical principles them to interact with students. The work-
and concepts. According to this view, stu- shop is meant to provide a predictable en-
dents must be actively involved in problem vironment in which students can write, dis-
solving, and their engagement must move cuss, and share their writing with peers and
from the concrete to the abstract if they are their teacher. Typically, this structure con-
to develop conceptual understanding and sists of a teacher-directed minilesson, a stu-
the ability to solve mathematical problems. dent-directed writing and conferencing
Applying mathematics to novel situations, time, and a time in which students share
inventing strategies, and assessing the rea- their work-in-progress (Atwell, 1987; Calk-
sonableness of one's solutions are among ins, 1986; Calkins & Harwayne, 1987;
the hallmarks of understanding. Telling and Graves, 1983).
explaining are less the teacher's trade in this In principle, students exercise a great
approach. Instead, the teacher serves as a deal of autonomy in the workshop. They
guide, facilitating students' learning by pos- choose and develop topics for texts and re-
ing problems and asking questions of stu- ceive guidance and feedback from their
dents to clarify their thinking (e.g., "What teacher and peers. One of the staff ex-
are you trying to do?" or "What does the plained the purpose of writing instruction
1/2 refer to here?"). in this approach: "To see kids defend a
Describing a teacher who was doing piece of writing, to make it their own, to
well, one of the program directors outlined articulate, talk, question-that, for me, is a
three key features of the kind of teaching purpose."
they were trying to foster: "One is the in- This autonomy of the student, to a large
creased use of manipulatives, . .. second is extent, defines the facilitative role of the
that questioning is really improved ... to teacher. In the workshop, the teacher learns
the point where she is asking the kids ques- about the student through the student's
tions that really get them to thinking about writing. One of the project staff remarked,
the 'why' behind what they are doing, and "You have to know how to read students
[third] she is giving problems that challenge and be interested in them. [By 'reading stu-
kids that aren't just routine exercises, and dents' I mean] understand that they have a
she is starting to think about extensions to history and the moment of writing that they
problems." Summermath's vision of good do is attached to their whole history [as]
teaching puts teachers in the unfamiliar role writers. That they are frequently very smart
of guiding students to explore and make and know where they are going [in their
sense of mathematics. The program staff en- writing] and [that you] have to find out
JANUARY 1995
TEACHERS'CONCEPTIONS 267

where they are going before [you] have any- teachers in Bonnie's school were involved
thing intelligent to say to them." with the Teachers College Writing Project,
Concern for the student's autonomy and Bonnie had observed a number of col-
during the workshop underlies the adven- leagues who had implemented the writing
turousness of workshop teaching. Much as workshop. Thus, at baseline, Bonnie had al-
Summermath's teachers learn to give up re- ready started to experiment on her own
sponsibility for getting the student to give with the writing workshop in anticipation
the correct answer, so Writing Project teach- of her participation in the Writing Project.
ers give up control of decisions made in the
Interviews
process of writing a text.
In the interviews, teachers were asked
Teachers to discuss their background and experiences
In the present study I examine interview in teaching as well as to respond to scen-
data from two teachers, one a participant in arios in the teaching of math or writing.
the Summermath for Teachers Program and These scenarios made up most of the in-
the other a participant in the Teachers Col- terviews and involved common tasks of
lege Writing Project. These teachers were teaching: planning, appraising curriculum
chosen for detailed analysis because they materials, responding to students, evaluat-
illustrate cases of change in thinking about ing students' learning, and so on. In re-
subject-matter instruction. It is important to sponding to these scenarios, teachers con-
note that the teachers' responses I discuss structed their own picture of teaching or
in this article are not meant to be repre- teaching situations, revealing the relative
sentative of all teachers in the programs, nor emphasis they gave to such factors as sub-
am I interested in comparing teachers based ject matter, the learner, teaching, and the
on their programs. Rather, through the in- classroom context. As I noted, Schwab
terviews, I try to document change in teach- (1978b) characterized these factors as the
ers' conceptions of math and writing. "commonplaces" of teaching situations. The
In what follows, I use female pronouns purpose of the interviews was to ask teachers
to refer to the teachers as well as the staff to discuss common situations of teaching
of the two programs in order to protect their and so reveal teachers' views of the situa-
anonymity. Both elementary teachers had tions and the interrelations among them
undergraduate degrees, were in their third (McDiarmid & Ball, 1987, 1988). Thus,
year of teaching, and taught in self- teachers' responses to the scenarios reflect
contained classrooms. their thinking about a subject and its con-
The math teacher is Judith. At the time nections to other commonplaces of teaching.
of the interviews, she was a primary-grade Teachers were given a two-part inter-
teacher in a suburban school. She was over view. The first part included questions
30 years old. At the baseline interview, she about the teachers' background and expe-
was unfamiliar with the details of Summer- riences. The baseline questions in part 1 of
math's program. Her baseline interview oc- the interview focused on the respondents'
curred during the spring of 1987 prior to backgrounds in teaching, whereas the post-
Summermath's summer institute, which she training questions focused on teachers' ex-
attended, and prior to follow-up classroom- periences in the respective in-service pro-
based work that began in the fall of 1987. grams.
The writing teacher is Bonnie. At the The second part of the interview asked
time of the interviews, she was an upper- the teachers to respond to various teaching
elementary-grade teacher in a New York scenarios. These scenarios differed depend-
City school. Bonnie was under 30 years old. ing on the program in which a teacher par-
At the time of the baseline interview, other ticipated (writing, math, etc.). The scenarios
268 THE ELEMENTARYSCHOOL JOURNAL

presented to Summermath teachers and the following scenarios were presented to


Writing Project teachers remained constant the Summermath teachers:
at baseline and posttraining. Below, I pre-
sent a sampling of the questions asked of la) How would you solve the problem,
the teachers in both programs. 13/4 divided by /2?
At baseline, teachers in the Writing Proj- ib) Whatkind of real-worldsituationor
ect were asked background questions from story problem could you create to
representthis problem?
the first part of the interview such as the ic) What is difficult about dividing by
following: fractions?

Have you changed your approach to Following a discussion of textbook ap-


teaching writing in the past year? proaches to teaching subtraction with re-
grouping in second grade, Summermath
Early in the fall the principal of your teachers were asked:
school meets with each teacherto discuss
the teacher'sgoals for his or her students.
When you meet with your principal, How would you approachteachingsub-
what would you say would be the most traction with regroupingto students in
important things you would try to ac- second grade?
complish across the year in writing?
Teachers were told that the purpose of
At baseline, Writing Project teachers the TELT study was to learn about the ef-
were presented scenarios such as the fol- fects of teacher education programs on
lowing: learning to teach. The interviews were con-
ducted by three-person teams from NCRTE.
Here is a paper a fourth-gradestudent Teachers in the Writing Project were inter-
wrote in response to an assignment that viewed by a different team than teachers in
asked him to read about dolphins and
fish and to write a report about them. Summermath. Each teacher was inter-
How would you respondto this student? viewed by the same interviewer at baseline
and posttraining, with each interview last-
At posttraining, Writing Project teachers ing approximately 2 hours. Though most
were asked background questions that fo- questions had some scripted probes, inter-
cused on their experience in the program. viewers did much probing on their own.
For example:
Analysis
Now that you have completed the Writ- Initially, the 40 baseline and posttrain-
ing Project, are there things that you ing interviews of the Summermath and
would like to know moreaboutor be able
to do in teaching your classroom? Writing Project participants were tran-
scribed by NCRTE staff for analysis. After
What would you say are the most val- reading the interviews, I ranked teachers
uable things you learned in the Writing within each in-service program based on
Project? the contrast between their talk about sub-
ject-matter instruction at baseline and post-
At baseline and posttraining, Summer- training. I selected the interviews of four
math teachers were asked the same ques- teachers, the two top-ranked teachers from
tions from the first part of the interview as Summermath and the Writing Project, for
were the teachers in the Writing Project, but further analysis.
with respect to the teaching of math. The Following the principles of Glaser and
scenarios to which they responded were Strauss's (1967) constant comparative
about the teaching of math. For example, method, I coded these four interviews for
JANUARY 1995
TEACHERS'CONCEPTIONS 269

themes that were dominant in the teachers' writing] as a load on my back and having
talk. In the case of Bonnie, these themes to mark all these papers and go through
included grading, conferencing, writing in each detail and tell them where they-what
genres, and interactions among students. they're doing wrong. [In the writing work-
Themes in Judith's responses included shop] the kids, when they share, they come
"natural" teaching and learning, a math up with a lot of good suggestions." The in-
curriculum, and meeting students' needs. terviewer did not explore what Bonnie
Within themes, I coded responses for re- meant by "each detail," but she seems to be
flecting a conception of the subject based referring to details about writing products
on coherent content and/or inquiry. that can be evaluated based on correctness
I coded the two baseline interviews be- (e.g., spelling, punctuation, and organiza-
fore the posttraining interviews and alter- tion). Bonnie's response also suggests a
nated the Writing Project and Summermath movement toward teaching through student
interviews within baseline and posttraining. interactions. Rather than determining what
Based on the clarity of contrast, and to allow is right and wrong in her students' writing,
detailed presentation of responses, I se- Bonnie invites students' peers to suggest im-
lected the interviews of Bonnie and Judith provements. Without Bonnie's exhaustive
for analysis in this study. The responses feedback, these suggestions appear to take
presented in this article represent dominant on an authority that makes the social pro-
themes in their talk. cesses in writing a legitimate part of the sub-
ject matter of writing instruction. (See
Results and Discussion Graves and Piche, 1989, for a review of the
In what follows, I discuss the baseline and aspects of a knowledge base in writing.)
posttraining responses of Bonnie and Judith Bonnie's response implies two goals of
in terms of the subject-matter frame I dis- instruction: to have students respond to the
cussed previously. I examine how, over writing of their peers, and to have students
time, the teachers balanced a concern for learn to discuss their writing. For example,
content coherence with a concern for in- when asked whether students' suggestions
quiry in their thinking about instruction in and questions came naturally or whether
writing or math. she taught them about asking questions,
Bonnie responded, "I told them [that] if you
Bonnie have a question ... [if there's] something
Baseline:A reaction to traditional con- that you don't understand that wasn't clear,
tent. As I noted, at baseline Bonnie had be- ask a question. I go, 'But when you ask a
gun experimenting during the first month question, try not to make a yes or no ques-
of school with the writing workshop ap- tion.' ... [I'd ask,] 'How could we get
proach in anticipation of her participation whoever was sitting there to tell us more
in the Writing Project. Throughout this in- about their story? Instead of asking yes or
terview, she referred to the tedious and no, ask something that's going to make
unrewarding demands of grading papers as them speak.' " Here Bonnie focuses on
the reason for moving to "writing pro- teaching criteria for responding to other stu-
cess"-the approach to writing instruction dents' writing in order to have students talk
promoted by the Writing Project. When about their writing. A similar focus on in-
asked whether she had changed the ap- teraction seems to characterize her thoughts
proach she had used in the past to teaching on conferencing with students: "I've been
writing, Bonnie explained, "I think proba- testing out [the writing workshop] in my
bly my attitude has changed a little, the fact room.... You know, talking to the kids. I
that knowing that I will be doing writing read them a few stories about just simple
process.... I won't think of it [teaching narratives, and they like it. And then I let
270 THE ELEMENTARYSCHOOL JOURNAL

them go back and write. And I'm working whose purpose is to change the relationship
on talking to them about their writing. I'm between teacher and students and free them
not too good at that yet.... But they like from traditional roles such as those inherent
it. You know, just begin to write about what in grading. To the extent that the workshop
they like. And I don't grade them." It is not helped Bonnie to view writing as a social
clear what goals Bonnie has when talking process, she saw the subject matter of writ-
with students about their writing. In con- ing as something other than a correct textual
ferences she may focus on the same details product.
she did when grading papers-in other Posttraining: Confronting content and
words, she evaluates papers without grad- process. During the 11/2 years of Bonnie's
ing them. Given her difficulty with confer- participation in the Teachers College Writ-
ences, however, and her familiarity with her ing Project, two events significantly affected
colleagues' writing workshops, it is just as her view of writing and the writing work-
likely that she is trying to discuss with stu- shop. First, the Writing Project involved
dents their writing without dictating the teachers in genre writing (Calkins & Har-
substance of the interaction. wayne, 1991). Rather than basing the work-
Stressing interactions during the writing shop on writing personal narratives, the
workshop, however, may produce a conflict project focused on helping teachers assist
between Bonnie's standards for correctness students to write in genres such as picture
and the new pedagogy of social processes books, autobiography, poetry, and nonfic-
in the workshop. This is implied in her re- tion. In her first year in the project, Bonnie's
sponse to the fourth grader's paper on dol- class had completed a major project in pic-
phins and fish. Bonnie seems to focus on ture book writing; in her second year, the
criteria she used to use in grading students' class wrote on a science topic just prior to
papers, in this case, the paper's organiza- the posttraining interview.
tion: "A lot of it is repetitive. He jumps In addition, in the second year of Bon-
around.... He starts paragraphs and, I nie's participation in the Writing Project,
don't know if this is a new paragraph.... her pupils had already been writing in the
I think he needs like an organization on workshop from the previous year. She
what he is going to say about his dolphins. stated that teaching writing was no longer
You know, dolphins [and] where they live, a question of "making the workshop run,"
and tell me about that. Dolphins [and] why since the students were already familiar
they are not like fish. Why they are like fish. with the routine.
You know, set it up in different categories. These two events, writing in genres and
That kind of organization is very helpful in teaching students who were already famil-
a report like this.... This would be a good iar with the writing workshop, provoked
paper if it was just organized a little. He has Bonnie to ask herself a number of questions
the facts." Bonnie gave this response to a about teaching writing in the workshop.
writing sample shown to her during an in- When asked at posttraining what she
terview, and it may not represent how she needed to know in order to teach writing
would respond to her own students' writ- more effectively, she struggled to explain
ing. However, in her response she discusses her naive beginnings with the workshop
a student's report in terms of traditional cri- and changes in her thinking about her role
teria while moving toward a writing ped- in the workshop: "I think the biggest prob-
agogy in which these criteria for goodness lem with me is not knowing the next step
are no longer dominant. for these kids. Like I said last year, it was
At baseline, Bonnie reported that she easier to keep ... if you didn't have any
had tentatively implemented the interac- experience.... I went through basic skills,
tive, predictable routine of the workshop steps ... umm .... The conferences didn't
JANUARY 1995
TEACHERS'CONCEPTIONS 271

have to be that in depth, you know, it was tions are shaped by the genre in which one
just basically getting them to write, learn- writes puts Bonnie in a quandary about, as
ing, letting them learn to like writing.... she says, "next steps." When asked what
Now these kids have had it. I'm not exactly she found most or least valuable as a par-
sure where my minilessons should be ... ticipant in the Writing Project, Bonnie re-
my conferencing. They're very advanced called her concern for next steps and mov-
and me not being a writer myself makes it ing into the writing of autobiography: "As
a little harder." Bonnie understands that the far as autobiographies, I haven't read
activities of the workshop no longer answer enough myself. Finding autobiographies to
the question of how to teach writing. Her use with the class is a challenge. I guess I'm
comments recall those at baseline when she not comfortable with it because I'm not fa-
said she was trying to learn to talk with miliar enough with it, you know, the tech-
students about their writing. What is dif- niques.... The same thing with poetry....
ferent in her posttraining comments is that I'm not exactly sure how to get the kids
the workshop interactions are in place as involved with that, and I really would have
part of the routine of the writing workshop, to do some research myself, you know,
and she is now more concerned about the reading poetry.... I have to go back and
purpose and content of those interactions. look and see the techniques that a poet
She indicates this new awareness in elab- uses."
orating on what she would like conferenc- It is important to note that in Bonnie's
ing to become: "[I would like to be] able to comments the issue of genre writing brings
conference with them [so] that it'll really the text back into focus as a component of
make a difference in how they write. Not writing. It is no longer a text defined by
just the, you know, give more details.... criteria of correctness. Given the emphasis
[But] to let them see that they need to give on social interactions and students' inten-
the reason behind the details. You know, tions for writing, the text is defined by its
you have to give more details, but why?" genre, which shapes students' intentions for
At this point, Bonnie indicates an awareness writing and their interactions with the
that her role is to make students aware of teacher and peers. Bonnie's question about
their reasoning and to encourage them to teaching genre writing is important because
use it as a guide for writing. In the language it is her own question. Raising the question
of this study, writing has become more like represents significant change from her base-
inquiry. Expression of an idea is the goal of line concerns for implementing the inter-
writing, and Bonnie sees her role as one of actions of the workshop. This merging of
helping students to reach that goal-though knowledge about intention and genres rep-
she is not yet confident about how to enact resents Bonnie's awareness of what prob-
that role. Her criteria for goodness in writ- lems need to be solved in the act of writing.
ing are now primarily related to students' Intention and genre seem to come together
purposes for writing, and Bonnie is closer in the workshop to shape a conception of
to the point of view of the Writing Project the subject of writing built on social inter-
staff member who emphasized "find out actions that occur during the writing process.
where [the student] is going."
Bonnie's concerns are focused by the Judith
genre writing. She does not feel confident Baseline: Pursuing "natural," respon-
in the writing of autobiography or poetry sive teaching. In contrast to Bonnie, Judith
and so is hesitant to start working in one of was less burdened by the effort of grading.
these genres, though she is interested in Like Bonnie, however, she felt restricted by
trying. It is as if the interaction between stu- existing models for teaching math and
dents' intentions and the way those inten- pointed directly to the rigidity of the text-
272 THE ELEMENTARYSCHOOL JOURNAL

book as a reason for making changes in her volved dividing by 2. After Judith stated
approach to teaching mathematics. In re- that she was aware of the contradiction, the
sponse to the same question about whether interviewer asked her what she does when
she had changed her approach to teaching she is "baffled." Judith responded:
math in the past, Judith stated:
[I] sort of go back and look at all of the
Yes [I have changed my approach to steps that you know already.I think that
teaching math. When I first came in the is why I start with kids looking at what
fall the textbooks]were here. And I said, we already know and where we can
you know, "Well,how do we do math?" go.... I am not sure [if this is a problem
... I had the idea that we [would go] my kids could thinkabout].I would think
through this. We cover what is in the probablyin [after]a couple of days work-
book. So for the first, well, throughJan- ing with fractions. We have done the
uary, we just plodded along throughthe whole idea for them to understandabout
book. And that was awful. So then pretty dividing.... Our example has been
much the idea came around that, you whatever the thing is that has been di-
know, whatever you want to do, do vided, let's think of it as all heaped to-
it.... We just sort of went with what gether. ... And then you would be able
went naturally.I had kids generate their to go through all the steps again. That
own problems,"Writeme a problemthat takingout a groupof 60 [when the things
you need to use division on." ... So we "heaped"are seconds]is the same as di-
got more into being able to understand viding.... And actuallythat works [with
it. the division by fractionsproblem]to say
that every time you [have]a half ... you
are going to take out halves .... I am di-
Judith seemed to move away from a
viding. I am takingout groups of /2. And
rigid conception of the content as it is rep- taking-out-groups-ofis the concept we
resented in the sequence of topics and ac- use here.
tivities in the textbook. Her motivation for
this appeared to be concern that students Here Judith is able to reason from a state
"understand" content and not simply cover of being baffled or uncertain to a state of
it. To accomplish this, Judith moved toward certainty based on the mathematical logic
a pedagogy that was "natural." It is not of her thinking. She uses multiple sources
clear whether by "natural" she referred to of information in constructing a solution
a more logical movement from one math- path for the problem. The division-by-
ematical concept to another or a movement fractions problem is connected to division
that was more responsive to student needs heuristics, a division concept, fractions,
in terms of the activities used. Whatever her groups, experience in other situations work-
concern, Judith appeared to address the is- ing with division, and so on. From knowl-
sue of how math is represented to students. edge in these areas, Judith is able to con-
Although her conception of the subject was struct a solution to the division-by-fractions
unclear at this point, her concern for stu- problem. It is this ability to reason from un-
dents' understanding implied a concern for certainty that she says she tries to teach her
enabling students to reason through math- students. The teacher's own problem solv-
ematical problems. ing, along with her concern for representing
Judith demonstrated her own capacity to the subject matter to students, implies a
reason through a mathematical problem conception of mathematics based on in-
when she was asked to explain the follow- quiry.
ing division by fractions problem: 13/4di- Judith's movement away from the text-
vided by 1/2. Initially she became confused book, however, presents some practical,
when she cited the invert-and-multiply pedagogical gaps for her. She is aware that
heuristic as a way of solving the problem, without the textbook she is not grounded
but then she gave a word problem that in- in a well-defined curriculum. Elaborating
JANUARY 1995
TEACHERS'CONCEPTIONS 273

on what she means by doing what comes cially in situations where students were
naturally, she described a situation where having difficulty.
students worked on multiplication but did Posttraining: From the subject to the
not understand the concept or the proce- learner. Over 1 year later, in her posttrain-
dure: ing interview, Judith appeared to have come
to terms with her concern for sequencing
So we startedbeing morecreative. .. and topics and materials. When asked what she
going into what naturallyseemed to fit. would tell her principal are the most im-
So we did some picking and choosing. portant things she would try to accomplish
And where we needed to pick up some in teaching math, she stated:
more practicefor multiplication,and we
knew division was not going to fit yet, I
I would have obviously in mind the ob-
put in a section on measurements,doing
all the metric measurements . .. and jectives.... All of the different areas
mathematical.... In some sense it cor-
really encouragedfamilies to put in the
practicetime with multiplicationto make responds with [ourmath textbook].That
them [students]ready for division. And the kids have a familiaritywith any num-
still with some people that did not work, ber of these topics. So it's certainlythat
so insteadof saying, "Okay,well too bad the kids would cover those topics. But, I
you do not have this," then in choosing guess my goal is that they really under-
what was going to come next-and for stand that it's useful for them .... The
next year ... I envision myself trying to skills that they learn,the way of thinking
formulatewhat sequence I want to fol- about math that they come away with,
is a style of thinkingaboutmaththatthey
low, what materialsI want to use for next
can plug into any situation.They can see
year. math problems all around them in the
world and why you need to have some
In this scenario, students are having dif- sort of facility with numbers.
ficulty with multiplication. Instead of mov-
ing on to division, the teacher inserts a unit It appears that Judith has come back to the
on metric measurement and turns to parents textbook as a guide to concepts to be cov-
to help students develop the multiplication ered, but she does not indicate that she fol-
skills required to move on to division. Pre- lows the textbook sequence and instruc-
dictably, this does not work for all students, tional plans. Rather, she keeps "in mind the
and Judith ponders the type of "natural" objectives" that "in some sense" corre-
curriculum that will help students develop spond with the textbook. This network of
the requisite knowledge in multiplication. concepts serves as a frame for the content,
She realizes she cannot ignore the problem, a frame not apparent at baseline, while al-
but she does not state what she did in lieu lowing Judith to move flexibly within it.
of ignoring it. It seems clear, however, that Given this frame, Judith reasserts her goal
she did not arrive at a solution with which to teach for understanding by anchoring the
she was satisfied. Rather, she identifies her study of these concepts in "useful," real-
need to develop a better curricular sequence world situations.
and to choose effective materials. Here, Judith's change is captured in her
In general, Judith's decision to do away perception of a balance between flexible
with the textbook and to work with what curricular content and situating mathemat-
comes naturally is, as with Bonnie, a move- ical activity in real-world problems. This
ment toward learner-centered instruction change is complemented by a greater con-
and away from the textbook. As I indicated, fidence in her approach to teaching math
however, this movement did not yield a that seems to result from using some of the
clear understanding of how to cover the constructivist practices promoted by the
content and what activities to use, espe- Summermath Program. Along with the
274 THE ELEMENTARYSCHOOL JOURNAL

greater emphasis on real-world problems, her interview response is not entirely dis-
she now uses manipulatives (which she de- tinct from baseline, what is different is the
fines quite generally as any set of physical degree to which she reports that a construc-
objects), justifiable alternative solution tivist routine has been put in place that im-
paths, and sharing strategies for solving plicates inquiry as a goal of instruction.
problems. When asked what has proven Judith is not overconfident in her ar-
most valuable to her in the Summermath guments about her teaching, however. The
Program, Judith stated, "In addition to us- balance between content and inquiry raises
ing manipulatives, instead of having math new questions about how she can be re-
just be some kind of calculation or com- sponsive to the individual students in her
putation ... it's also a way of ... sharing class, a concern that Bonnie also expressed.
strategies of solving math .... It's a way of In both cases, the goal is to help individuals
thinking that there isn't just a right answer. learn math or writing as a process of inquiry.
And that it is not the ultimate thing to This was a daunting responsibility for the
achieve the right answer. But to understand teachers. Whereas Bonnie confronted her
what it is that you're doing so that if you lack of subject-matter knowledge, Judith
have a math problem there's an apprecia- confronted the dilemma of knowing indi-
tion ... for what strategy you use to arrive viduals' states of knowledge in order to
at what you're solving." This approach to teach responsively. Her particular concern
mathematics teaching is evident in Judith's had to do with balancing group interaction
discussion of how she would approach sub- with individual attention.
traction with regrouping: When asked what she needs to know to
teach math more effectively, Judith stated,
I would do it with problems... that were "I do a lot of things with kids working with
related to something-I like to integrate each other.... I have to trust that out there
a lot of things. So if we're working on
will come some greater knowledge of how
hatchingchicks[Iwould connectthe sub-
traction to a problem about hatching to choose who should be working with who
chicks].... So I make a connection to at what time." This goal to have groups
something valuable. I would have ma- function effectively is embedded within a
terials available to represent these and concern to understand the individual stu-
availablefor everyone.... I would have
dent and what he or she knows. When
probably small groups of kids working
with materials,maybe initially introduc- asked to elaborate on what she needs to
ing kids by the point that you're doing know or learn, Judith stated, "That's sort of
double-digitsubtractionwhere you need one of my goals right now. To actually have
to borrow.I think they would all at that
more single interactions with kids. ... Sort
point have an understandingof how to
use the materials to represent what of set some priorities in each of the units or
[they're]showing. Then have kids work- in each of the topics that I'm working
ing with each other, demonstratingthis, with.... The other thing is, and I think it's
sortof figuringout the problemand come connected up with more individual time, is
backtogether.And I mightsay, "It'syour
responsibilityto know how [studentx] is assessing how kids are, how things are
going to do this. Be able to tell the group going for each child.... Assessing them in-
afterwardshow she solved this." dividually and making connections for
them.... [Asking] how can I make this
In this description Judith's actions are learning situation better for everyone or
consonant with Summermath's constructiv- better for the kids who are having diffi-
ist ideas about teaching mathematics: real- culty?" Her sense of what it means to assess
world problems, the use of manipulatives students' progress and make connections
to represent problems, group problem solv- between mathematical concepts is captured
ing, and sharing of solution paths. Though well in her response to a probe about grad-
JANUARY 1995
TEACHERS'CONCEPTIONS 275

ing a student's subtraction worksheet. teachers articulate after training. The great-
When asked whether she would grade the est influence of the Summermath and Writ-
student's worksheet, Judith responded, ing Project programs may not be in the so-
"No. I would know what I need to teach." lution they provide for the initial dilemmas
of Bonnie and Judith but rather in the way
Summary and Conclusions the subject-matter instruction they promote
Change in Teachers' Conceptions of shapes the questions that evolve in the
Subject-specific Pedagogy teachers' thinking about instruction.
At baseline, Bonnie and Judith confront From this perspective, change in teach-
traditional approaches to the teaching of ers' conceptions of a subject and related in-
subject matter. Bonnie rejects the time-
struction represents a coming together of
motivation and the pedagogical
consuming tedium of grading student pa- personal
content vision that is the programs' basis
pers, and Judith rejects the script of the
mathematics textbook. In so doing, both for rethinking instruction. Wilson and Ball
teachers reject a conception of the subject (1991) refer to this growth as the merging
matter that defines instruction in terms of of ideas and experience in the creation of a
correct textual products, in the case of Bon- "patchwork" of practice. The creation, sig-
nie, and a fixed scope and sequence of nificantly, is the teacher's. As Wilson and
mathematical topics and activities, in the Ball (1991) argue, there is a paradox in
case of Judith. On their own, before in-ser- teaching constructivist practice, for the
vice training, both teachers had moved premise is that teachers construct their own
toward learner-centered instruction. Bonnie knowledge and practice and are not simply
of the programs' tenets. In the
struggled to cultivate the social interactions managers
of the writing workshop, and Judith at- present study, Bonnie and Judith create
their own patchworks of practice. Moti-
tempted to develop a more flexible, natural
instruction responsive to her students. vated by their own teaching situations, they
At posttraining, Bonnie's and Judith's borrow and synthesize from experience,
and training in the effort to resolve
conceptions of the subject matter come into practice,
the dilemmas of their teaching situations.
sharper focus. For Bonnie, genre writing
at a new set of questions or di-
provides the purpose for the writing and By arriving
interactions of the workshop. In the post- lemmas, they show themselves to have
training interview, she reveals a conception gained higher a level of understanding not
of the subject matter in which the interac- only of what they know but also of their
tion of intention, process, and genre not capacity to inquire into these new dilem-
only defines the coherence of the writing mas, these new situations of uncertainty in
it a
act but also characterizes as process of teaching subject matter.
inquiry in which the writer works to close
the gap between intention and expression. Study Limitations and Future Research
Similarly, Judith adapts the textbook cur- I selected the cases of Bonnie and Judith
riculum while incorporating the construc- because of the distinctiveness of the
tivist routines of Summermath. Her inter- changes in the teachers' conceptions of a
view responses reveal a conception of math subject and subject-matter instruction.
in which associations among topics are co- However, these cases are only suggestive
herent, and topics are bridged by a process and utilize a small portion of the data gath-
of inquiry in which the logic of alternative ered. To gain generalizability it would be
solution paths is central. necessary, in the TELTdata, to examine the
Changes in Bonnie's and Judith's views cases of all participants in the Writing Proj-
and practices are reflected in new dilemmas ect and Summermath programs. In addi-
about subject-matter instruction that the tion, though there is evidence for change in
276 THE ELEMENTARYSCHOOL JOURNAL

how teachers in the two programs interact programs in which they participated. Edu-
with students (McCarthey, 1992; Wilson & cators need to clarify the relation between
Ball, 1991), it would be necessary to observe subject-matter and pedagogical content
instruction regularly during in-service train- knowledge in order to determine the con-
ing and simultaneously to conduct teacher tent and direction of training in subject-spe-
interviews. cific pedagogy.
Given the potential for change docu-
mented in the cases of Bonnie and Judith,
future research should examine the efficacy Note
of subject-specific training in other in-ser-
vice programs and teacher education con-
texts. Several questions can be posed: Is This work was supportedin part by the Na-
tionalCenterfor Researchon TeacherEducation,
change a function of long-term classroom- Michigan State University. The NCRTE is
based training? Is it a function of the quality funded primarilyby the Office of Educational
of training or of subject-specific training per Researchand Improvement,U.S. Departmentof
se? What are the implications for preservice Education(OERI/ED).The opinions expressed
herein are mine and do not necessarily reflect
training in subject-specific pedagogy? the position, policy, or endorsement of the
Future research also needs to look at the
OERI/ED (grant OERI-G-86-0001).I gratefully
relation between subject-matter knowledge acknowledge the influence and comradery of
and pedagogical content knowledge. Shul- Deborah Ball, Patricia Daniels, Jim Gavelek,
man (1986) posed this question when he Sarah McCarthey,James Mead, Taffy Raphael,
asked how a beginning teacher changes Trish Stoddart,Teresa Tatto, and Suzanne Wil-
son in the writing of this article.I am especially
from being a student of a subject matter to
gratefulto DarrellMorrisand an anonymousre-
someone who represents subject matter to viewer for their comments on an earlierdraft.
others. In the present study, the primary
data were the teachers' interview responses
to questions about their subject-matter in-
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