Theses Doctoral

A Phenomenographic Study of Pre-collegiate Conceptions of Teaching

Davis, William Jeffrey

Teacher educators generally agree that prior experiences with teachers and teaching are highly influential to understandings of teaching. Adopting a sociological model inherited by contemporary teacher education, they have frequently found this influence to be a hindrance to teacher learning; years spent observing schoolteachers’ teaching are thought to result in limited, simplistic, and personal views of teaching, views that are highly resistant to change despite teacher educators’ efforts to engage them. Thus, prospective teachers’ views of teaching have been framed as deficits in teacher learning, and, while these deficit views are not universally held among teacher educators, they appear more common than views of prospective teachers’ understandings of teaching as assets in learning to teach.

Through this study, I used the framework of conceptions of teaching to investigate the influence of prior experiences with teachers and teaching, and the assets and/or deficits prospective teachers might carry into teacher preparation. Employing a phenomenographic design, including interviews and participant created artifacts, I analyzed the descriptions of teachers and teaching of five high school students who were considering teaching as a career. Drawing on notions of consummatory experience related to learning to teach, I investigated individual descriptions of experiences with teaching––including links between these students’ prior experiences with teaching and teaching they were observing and/or doing––as well as variations of experiences across the cohort of participants.

My study revealed complex views of teaching amongst participants, characterized by an array of commitments and uncertainties. For the cohort, teaching was, at its heart, a convergence of various actors and events; approaches, routines, and patterns of teaching; relations; priorities held by teachers and/or students; and/or dependencies brought on by community and/or contextual factors. The study helped to illustrate potentially powerful assets young people may carry to teacher preparation, including their experiences teaching others and an awareness and understanding of their own learning as teachers. This study proposes that teacher educators (re)conceptualize their work, at least in part, as the cultivation of these, and other, assets, and that the influences of prior experiences be examined during transitions between pre-collegiate, teacher preparation, and professional teaching experiences.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Friedrich, Dani
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
January 22, 2020