Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Rachel Kulick
Foundational Skills and Dispositions in Teaching
Brandeis University

Sharon Feiman-Nemser

This website was developed by Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Rachel Kulick as part of the Goldman-Carnegie Quest Project, and can be accessed at the following URL:


(this link was valid on 10/31/06)


For Brandeis students, Ed 100: Exploring Teaching is the first step in a formal journey toward becoming a teacher. This required introductory foundations course is designed to (a) loosen the grip of unexamined beliefs about teaching that students have built up from attending school and growing up in this culture; (b) develop beginning skills in close observation and interpretation required for responsive and principled teaching; and (c) explore connections between concrete practices of curriculum and teaching and broad educational purposes and values. The first goal derives from the fact that students’ entering beliefs exert a strong influence on what they learn during teacher preparation and what they do as teachers and should not be left unexamined. The second and third goals reflect the kinds of intellectual habits and skills that teaching for understanding and social justice requires. By orienting the course around these liberal/professional goals, I am hoping to engage students interested in both the study and practice of public school teaching.

A central dilemma in the course is how to help undergraduate students in the early stages of their general and professional studies come to regard child study as a teaching practice not simply a course assignment. Good teachers are students of children and childhood, folding what they learn through careful observation directly into their teaching. As Patricia Carini points out, “…observing is something a teacher is always doing all the time that he or she is teaching” (p. 10). In Ed 100, child study is a vehicle for helping students develop an inquiry stance toward teaching and an attitude of care toward children, looking for capacities not deficits. It is also a means of learning to describe before interpreting and evaluating and learning to think about the particulars of curriculum and teaching in terms of one’s purposes and values and the particular learning needs of children.