Examining the goal systems of student teachers




Hutner, Todd Lewis

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Understanding why novice science teachers use certain practices and not others upon entering the classroom remains an important question for those conducting research on science teaching and learning. Previous research suggests two important avenues for further study of science teachers: (1) more careful study of the student teaching semester; and (2) additional studies on the cognition of teachers. This study follows these traditions via investigation into the cognition of student teachers. The theoretical framework guiding this study draws upon goal-driven theories of cognition suggesting that teachers hold multiple goals that exist in goal systems. A teacher’s classroom practice is directed toward the satisfaction of one or more of these goals. Furthermore, goals can be reinforcing—the pursuit of one goal simultaneously satisfies a second goal—or goals can be conflicting—the pursuit of one goal inherently prevents the satisfaction of a second goal. Thus, a more careful study of the goal systems of teachers can lead to a deeper understanding of why science teachers use the practices they do in their classrooms. Given the theoretical framework, the research question driving this study is: what is the content of the goal systems of student teachers of science as they reflect on and plan for their first year of teaching? Qualitative methods, including interviews and document analysis, were used to investigate the goal systems of four student teachers at a large, southern state university during the spring of 2014. Findings from this study suggest novice teachers exit teacher education having integrated into their goal systems many, but not all, of the pedagogical approaches emphasized in their teacher education program. Findings also suggest that at the same time, student teachers have goals reflective of broader aspects of the school organization—goals such as teaching the state standards and collaborating with other science teachers. Finally, this study suggests that the goals student teachers hold with respect to the school organization may conflict with their pedagogical goals developed during teacher education, leading to movement away from the reform-oriented practices emphasized in teacher education. Finally, implications for teacher education and directions for future research are presented.



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