Negotiating Pedagogy in Context

What I'm Learning

The following questions reflected what I initially hoped to learn via my students' participation in this assignment:

�€� What does students' participation in this assignment reveal about their emerging views about literacy, learning, teaching?

�€� What understandings/perspectives/experiences do my students draw on when making sense of the video clips they viewed?

�€� Where do these understandings/perspectives/experiences originate?

The data sources I planned to draw on in addressing these questions included students' written responses to the assignment and students' video recorded discussions of Jenn Myers' web site. For these discussions, I randomly organized students into dyads and asked them to go to a computer lab near our classroom to view and discuss the websites using the prompts that were part of their assignment to guide their discussion. Prior to the discussion, I had asked students to view the websites at home and to come to class prepared to discuss the website with their colleagues. ( Later I found out that a third of the class, about 8 students, were unable to view the website from their home computers.) I asked two dyads for their permission to video record their discussion. Both dyads were selected at random and recorded in our classroom where it was quiet. The remainder of the class worked together in the computer lab where it was quite noisy. Students spent the entire class session discussing the website and working collaboratively or individually writing reflection papers about what they had viewed and discussed.

During our next class session, I initiated whole group discussion by sharing students' comments on Jenn's website on an overhead and asking proponents of a particular view or perspective to further elaborate on the reasons underlying their perspectives. Those who made these various comments shared their reasons with the large group and those who did not agree with them offered counter perspectives and evidence. I found my self cautioning students from making overgeneralizations when I felt that the discussion was moving toward hard and fast rules about how to engage with youngsters. For example, one student's concern that Jenn did not engage students in enough wait time after asking questions elicited general agreement from the large group. (Later I learned that wait time had been the subject of much discussion in the student teaching seminar that had preceded our class). In getting students to consider alternative views about wait time, I asked them to discuss their perspectives on why wait time was important and also to consider occasions when teachers may not "wait."

In their written reflections, students highlighted aspects of Jenn's practice that they endorsed, thereby revealing approaches to teaching and learning that they advocated. The following represents a sampling of these approaches:

�€� Moving students toward problem solving dispositions

�€� Equipping students with many tools for making sense of reading

�€� Differentiating instruction based on careful assessments of students' needs

�€� Helping students to understand their reading processes

�€� A classrooms environment where students are comfortable with one another; there is no competition in this classroom.

�€� Students view themselves as readers.

�€� Jenn demonstrates the importance of learning to read by reading.

�€� Jenn wants her students to feel empowered.

Students also raised the following concerns or questions about Jenn's practice that were also revelatory of their own emerging pedagogies:

�€� Students are quiet obedient; they do not want to be there.

�€� Students are sharing answers as opposed to their thoughts.

�€� Texts are not connected with students' lives.

�€� Jenn assessed students in front of others which stigmatizes individual students.

�€� Jenn is abrupt; she does not allow for wait time.

�€� Jenn does not allow students to relate their own meanings to text.

In their written responses to the assignment, students referred to course readings and perspectives that we raised in class. Many viewed Jenn's practice as examples of the literacy events highlighted in Sharon Taberski's On Solid Ground, which was a required reading for the class. Others related their analyses of Jenn's class to concepts addressed in other courses that they were taking or had taken prior to Fall quarter. This was evident in the repeated references to zpd and the importance of engaging students' funds of knowledge (concepts that are highlighted in the two summer courses that preceded our class). Students also took up concepts and topics that were raised in other courses they were concurrently taking with my course in their written reflections on Jenn's website.

But what struck me as most interesting was how their roles as teacher or student teacher mediated their reading of the website. That is to say, perhaps not surprisingly, much of the meaning students made of Jenn's practice is through their stance and emerging identity as teacher or student teacher and through the lens of their practice teaching. This is apparent in the following video clips taken from Ruth's and Mary's discussions of Jenn's website.

Ruth and Mary Discussing Jenn's Website, Clip 1 

In this clip Ruth relates what she sees Jenn do to what she is able to do in her student teaching placement as well as to her classroom practice. In so doing, she filters her critique of the constraints that she faces as a student teacher through Jenn's practice.

Ruth and Mary Discussing Jenn's Website, Clip 2 

Again students filter Jenn's practice through the lens of teacher and student teacher. Here Mary expresses her concern as a teacher about the kind of classroom management that must be in place to utilize the classroom practices she has viewed on Jenn's website. Ruth agrees, but also raises the issue of the goals of classroom instruction when critiquing the relationship between management, instruction, and student learning in her placement.

Ruth and Mary Discussing Jenn's Website, Clip 3 

In this clip Mary and Ruth relate their practice and that of their cooperating teachers to Jenn's practice. In so doing, both ponder how and why teachers do what they do, finding this aspect of their cooperating teachers' and even their own practice, in the case of Ruth, somewhat mysterious.

After repeated viewings of the two student conversations, I was struck by the civility of students engagements with one another. Indeed, this was something that characterized much of our in-class discussion throughout the quarter. When working in small groups or dyads on tasks, students worked together in what I term a consensus-oriented way. They listened respectfully fo what each other had to say, usually building on one another's contributions. Often times they distributed their work (if not asked to do so by me) so that participants took primary responsibility for different aspects of a task. The following video clip involving Amy and Karen illustrates this pattern.

Karen and Amy Discuss Jenn's website 

Here Karen and Amy take on distinct roles as they engage in the task of jointly writing their responses to the assignment. As they address the prompts that are part of the assignment, one person, offers an oral response to which the other concurs. Karen's talk dominates when it comes to responding to questions, and Amy takes on the role of editing as well as transcribing their discussion.

This electronic portfolio was created using the KEEP Toolkit™, developed at the
Knowledge Media Lab of The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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