The department’s philosophical framework is the community of inquiry, which encompasses the ideas of community and inquiry in relationship. At the heart of that relationship are the means by which human beings convey and create meaning together. Words are a primary means of communication, but other artistic media find their way into communities comprised of diverse individuals working together to create and share meaning. Common to all means of expression is the necessity of careful thinking, vision, and personal integrity. We believe the community of inquiry is an appropriate framework for Berea’s Teacher Education Department because we share its assumptions about the nature of human beings, the nature of learning, and the nature of knowledge:
- Human beings are born with the capacity for wonder.
- Human beings are social beings who learn from and with others.
- Human beings construct their understandings over time by connecting the new to what is already known.
- Human beings have a multiplicity of intelligences.
- All knowledge is connected.
- Wisdom comes from the way in which knowledge is held.
- Thinking is central in coming to know.
- Communicating is the matrix of thinking.
- Teachers are also learners, and students are also teachers.
- All students can learn.
Consistent with these assumptions, we believe that the goal of education is to help people become reasonable, just, compassionate, and creative beings who will seek to determine what is of constant value in the world and to live accordingly. The purpose is the same at every level, preschool through post-graduate. Education requires knowledge, but transcends knowledge. It requires reason, though reason without imagination is insufficient. Education requires wonder, without which there can be no awe. Finally, education requires participation in the human community, as we come to truth in dialogue with others. The goal of education may best be described as the development of a permanent disposition: a disposition to ask questions and to seek understanding with reason and wonder; a disposition to search for truth through ongoing inquiry into our common and differing experiences as human beings; a disposition to think for ourselves, while knowing that it is through engaging in the pursuit of truth with others that we find hope and the strength to work toward good for all.
The teacher education department at Berea College seeks to prepare teachers who will manifest the values and commitments, the understandings and knowledge, and the skills and abilities necessary to cultivate the disposition of judicious inquiry in themselves and in their students. We believe that it is teachers’ values and commitments which direct their work with students in the classroom. We seek evidence in all prospective teachers of the following commitments, and we seek to nurture and extend these commitments through every facet of their preparation:
- Teachers should be committed to the value of all individuals as unique, responsible, and worthy human beings.
- Teachers should be committed to the intellectual, social, emotional, artistic, and moral growth of all learners.
- Teachers should be committed to the worth of knowledge and to the value of all ideas as worthy of consideration and reflection.
- Teachers should be committed to role of inquiry and to reasoned discourse in the search for truth and wisdom.
- Teachers should be committed to the value of judicious and compassionate action in relationships with other human beings and with the environment.
- Teachers should be committed to an ethic of service through teaching that extends beyond the classroom.
- Teachers should be committed to the understanding and value of discursive practices that construct meaning from culturally diverse perspectives, especially with respect to the articulations of pedagogies and school culture.
To enact these values and commitments in their classroom and school communities, P-12 teachers must be both knowledgeable and skilled. They must seek continually to deepen and broaden their understandings of children and of content, of teaching and of learning, and they must be able to act on those understandings in humane, educative, and efficient ways. To guide our students’ development toward these ends, we have established the following seven performance goals for student teachers in Berea’s Teacher Education Departments:
- Teachers demonstrate their understanding of the centrality of inquiry in a learning community; the critical role of communication in inquiry; and the confidence that grows with the development of our ability to participate in a community of inquiry.
- Teachers demonstrate both a general knowledge of all subject matter in the school curriculum, in order to understand the interrelationships among disciplines, and an in-depth understanding of the subject matter for which they are directly responsible, including the origins, development, and structure of each discipline; its core concepts and principles; its pedagogical framework; and its application to daily life.
- Teachers demonstrate that they understand that authentic learning requires experience (direct and vicarious), inquiry, time, interest, self-correction, and external criticism.
- Teachers demonstrate understanding of the foundations of education through their ability to plan, implement, and assess developmentally appropriate learning experiences for all students.
- Teachers demonstrate their understanding of the importance and role of cultural diversity in constructing meaningful pedagogies for all children.
- Teachers demonstrate understanding of and the ability to employ appropriate technological tools for developing students’ knowledge, understandings, skills, and dispositions.
- Teachers demonstrate responsibility for their own professional development and for their own learning as a lifelong process.
These goals, with supporting indicators, inform all Education Studies courses and experiences. They have been aligned with Kentucky’s nine New Teacher Standards and guide us in the structuring of experiences both in our college classrooms and in student teaching to prepare our graduates to create content-rich, inquiry-focused communities in their own classrooms consistent with Berea’s mission and with their own values and commitments.
The figure below is a graphic representation of our department’s philosophic framework.
Philosophic Framework of Berea College Teacher Education department
Students are introduced to the conceptual framework in EDS 200, Seminar: Thinking about Education, and they revisit the key concepts and their relationship in various contexts in subsequent classes. A representative segment from a handout in one section of EDS 200 scaffolds the meaning of the conceptual framework for students as follows:
A community of inquiry allows everyone to participate in constructing education. Thus, in a typical classroom, the teacher is not the only one who possesses knowledge; each student possesses profound knowledge, which the teacher must draw on to help build a learning community in the classroom. Note that a community involves different people who might come from various backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicities, and who might also have different views of knowledge and the world, etc. Therefore, in order for the community to educate itself, it has to draw on the experiences and abilities of all in the community to sustain itself well. Importantly also, a community must draw on other communities to help enrich itself. This same principle applies to a classroom; the teacher must understand the experiences and abilities of ALL students in order to help EVERY student learn. In addition, what happens in a classroom is not disconnected from other classes, the rest of the school community, and wider communities beyond the school.
The knowledge base for Berea’s teacher education departments is broad. It includes scholarship and research that inform the thinking and practice of program faculty, and works that are central in the professional education of prospective teachers. It includes institution-particular works which describe the history and commitments of Berea College as well as scholarship and research in general education, in the academic specialties, and in professional education. The knowledge base also encompasses the personal experiences brought by individual students and faculty to our common inquiry, and understandings created through that inquiry.
The ensuing discussion is divided into two parts. Section I focuses chiefly upon the thinkers and writers who provide the philosophical, psychological, and social foundations of our conceptual framework. Section II addresses the research and scholarship of those whose work supports our professional aims as we work with students in the areas of human development, learning, and motivation; content knowledge; instruction and assessment; and professional development and ethics. Although there is some overlap, the focus in Section II is primarily on research and scholarship consistent with our framework and supportive of practices we advocate.
Section I. The community of inquiry and its underlying assumptions are supported by traditional and contemporary scholarship and research in the fields of philosophy, theology, psychology, sociology, linguistics and language, women’s studies, cultural studies, and education. Among philosophers our greatest debt is to the thinking of John Dewey, whose metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics yield a philosophy which emphasizes the social and reconstructive purpose of education; the constructivist interpretation of learning; the importance of learning in community; the role of teachers as students of education; the wholeness of human experience as the beginning point for inquiry into any curriculum; the interrelatedness of knowledge, aided by the contrast of the logic of disciplinary knowledge with the psychology of learning; the motive force of interest which is both a sign of developing powers and a necessary characteristic of all educative experiences; and the centrality of inquiry and reflective thinking in all learning. We abjure interpretations of Dewey’s work which reduce the comprehensiveness and complexity of his thinking to advocacy of child-centered education in which curriculum is secondary. We also question readings of his ethics and metaphysics which claim that Dewey ignores moral development and denies the existence of truth. Instead, we find ourselves in sympathy with students of Dewey who find in his seminal thought on teaching as an integrative and creative act a basis for renewed emphasis on reflective inquiry in welding theory into teaching practice, and for renewing Dewey’s call to empower teachers as knowledgeable and deeply committed professionals.
Another philosopher who has strongly influenced us as teachers of teachers is Alfred North Whitehead. In his Aims of Education and Other Essays , Whitehead emphasizes the dangers of “inert ideas,” information which is taught to students without any context or purpose which would have meaning for them. As each of us struggles with the explosion of information in our fields, and with all that prospective teachers ought to know about the world in general and about their own special contents and pedagogy in particular, Whitehead remind us that the construction of understanding takes time, and that we have to make hard choices if we are to help our students transform information into meaning which will truly inform their thinking and actions. Whitehead also helps us understand the profound truth that there is a spiritual aspect to all education responsibly undertaken; that the ultimate goal of education is wisdom,; and that wisdom comes not from the accumulation of knowledge but from the way in which knowledge is held:
The essence of education is that it be religious… A religious education is an education which inculcates duty and reverence. Duty arises from our potential control over the course of events. Where attainable knowledge could have changed the issue, ignorance has the guilt of vice. And the foundation of reverence is this perception, that the present holds within itself the complete sum of existence, backwards and forwards, that whole amplitude of time, which is eternity. (The Aim of Education and Other Essays, p. 14.)
The ideas of other philosophers and scholars who have informed our thinking as teachers include Martin Buber’s understandings of the nature of the “I-Thou” relationship and the significance of conversation, and Nel Noddings’ emphasis on caring, on stories that can save lives, and on the vital necessity of educating high school students for intelligent belief or unbelief. We appreciate Michael Polanyi’s explication of “tacit knowledge” and Noam Chomsky’s work on language and mind. Simone Weil’s elucidation of the crucial role of observation, holding back the self, and intellectual waiting in coming to know is important to us as we work with our students and with each other. We are influenced by Margaret Buchman’s development of the idea that “careful vision” lies at the heart of teaching as both an intellectual and a moral enterprise. We have learned from Maxine Greene’s critical understanding of the relationship among philosophy, the arts, and education; and from her emphasis, like Noddings’, on the motive role of stories in informing our lives as human beings and as learners. Robert Coles is important to us for his stories as well, and for the way he publicly addresses his need to unlearn looking at patients as objects. As Coles was taught by Ruby Bridges, so we want our students to learn to be taught by all children.
We have gained insight and perspective from the poetry and prose of Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer and author. Through Berry’s essays, novels, and poetry we have recognized the critical necessity of education both for a sense of place and about place. Toward these ends, we seek to teach for a disposition which values rootedness, simplicity, and place. In addition, David Orr has inspired us to consider all education, either through omission or commission, as environmental education. In this way, we are spurred to consider anew the possibilities within interdisciplinary curricula.
We have been moved by the thinking and by the presence on our campus of Ivan Illich. Though once widely recognized as a prominent critic of schooling, Illich has since focused on the counterproductive effects of an array of institutions. Through his words, we have been guided to think deeply about human nature, freedom, needs, and progress. Through the provocations and hope provided by Illich, we have reaffirmed the centrality of human relatedness in all endeavors.
We owe a special debt to Mathew Lipman and the late Frederick Oscanyan, whose understanding of the role of philosophy in the education of children bespeaks the power of children’s minds and the power of ideas explored in community. Until his untimely death fifteen years ago, Fred Oscanyan was a much-respected faculty member in the Philosophy Department at Berea, traveling internationally with Lipman in the service of the ideas which animate this program. The thinking of Fred Oscanyan and Mathew Lipman is very much a part of our knowledge base, and Lipman’s work, Thinking in Education, 2nd ed. (2003, 1991) has been of particular importance in the development of our conceptual framework.
In the social sciences, there are a number of researchers and scholars whose work informs our thinking as teachers of teachers. Erik Erikson tells us that life may be conceived as a series of challenges which can strengthen us and lead to wisdom if properly met; that human development takes place throughout our lives and involves mind, body, and spirit; and that our growth is greatly influenced at all ages by our relationships with others and our developing sense of self. Jean Piaget’s study of children’s cognitive development has helped us both directly and through the work of others – most notably Eleanor Duckworth , Margaret Donaldson, and David Elkind – to realize that we must observe and listen closely to our students in order to understand how they are thinking, for only through such careful attention can we know how to encourage further inquiry. Kieran Egan re-envisions both the purpose of education and our view of children’s cognitive capacities in order to avoid the pitfalls of superficial understandings. The work of William Perry reminds us that the concept of “developmentally appropriate” applies also to the education of prospective teachers. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and his related work on the arts and human development supports our belief in the existence and importance of multiple abilities in all students. Lev Vygotsky’s emphasis on the social nature of learning and the zone of proximal development is clearly consistent with our assumptions about the importance of language and community in learning. Jerome Bruner leads our thinking to the structures of the disciplines and relationships among the structures, effective pedagogy, and child development, and has given us, following the seminal work of Hilda Taba, the very helpful concept of the spiral curriculum.
Robert Coles’ study of children in crisis shows us that underneath the very real cultural differences that distinguish rich from poor, black from white, and rural from urban, lie hopes, fears, and joys which have a striking commonality. But stark social and economic inequalities conspire to smother the hopes and joys of poor children, and the fears of poor children in urban neighborhoods are often for their very lives. As Jonathan Kozol makes clear, these children’s promise, choked by poverty and low expectations, goes unrecognized and unaided by the very educational institutions charged with their care. Through his work with older students, Mike Rose shows how poverty, low educational expectations by teachers, and parents who are themselves uneducated and disenfranchised, combine to affect the lives of students who grow up “on the boundary” of traditional culture.
Against this reality stands the work of public school educators like Deborah Meier at Central Park East; Shelly Harwayne at the Manhattan New School; Dennis Littky and Elliot Washor at the MET school in Providence, Rhode Island; and Patricia Carini, of Prospect Center, who has been working for a decade to help teachers in urban schools use the practice of “disciplined description” which she and colleagues developed over the years at Prospect School, to refocus teachers’ vision and language on the individual strengths and promise of every child. These educators emphasize the importance of commitment to a democratic vision, to community, to inquiry, to every child, and to mutual respect and collaboration between parents and teachers. Such collaboration requires time and trust. Sarah Lightfoot describes the disparate worlds of parents and teachers that must be bridged for the good of those whose education is their common concern. Vivian Paley’s stories as a white teacher of diverse young children teach us that good intentions and sincere caring for every child do not eliminate unconscious misconceptions about children whose backgrounds differ from our own. She further teaches, again by example, that only through relationships with diverse parents and colleagues can teachers gain the understandings necessary to address the instructional and personal needs of every child.
Gloria Boutte, Courtney Cazden, Lisa Delpit, Paulo Friere, Shirley Brice Heath, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Vivian Paley, Ruby Payne, and Victoria Purcell-Gates address the language and cultural experiences which diverse children bring to the classroom. In her longitudinal ethnographic study of children’s language development in three different southern Appalachian communities as well as in her later work, Heath shows that teachers must be linguistically knowledgeable in order to be able to be educationally responsible. Cazden’s work on the nature of stories told by inner-city children reminds us that stories are vital in every culture, but their structure and the ways in which they are recounted are diverse. Purcell-Gates shows through the eyes of a young boy and his family the ways in which educational institutions can work against a child’s cultural strengths to create problems rather than to educate. Like Boutte and Ladson-Billings Lisa Delpit reminds teachers to take care that the pedagogical methods used to help young black learners attain literacy fit their needs. Like Paley, Delpit emphasizes that white teachers must be willing to seek out, listen to, and learn from what parents of diverse children and adolescents can teach them.
Scholars in other areas have also been important to us as teachers. Carol Gilligan has helped us to rethink the role of gender in human development. Belenky et al. in Women’s Ways of Knowing suggest that connected teaching best meets the needs of all students, not just women. Eschewing the widely-held dichotomy between subjective and objective, Parker Palmer asks us to seek the courage to teach in ways that reach the spirits as well as the minds of our students. Mary Rose O’Reilly argues for the importance of radical presence in the classroom, for leaving room for the silence that signifies human beings in thought together. As our conceptual framework implies, we find this emphasis on language in community, on thinking together with care, supportive and fruitful.
Many other scholars and researchers have been influential in our thinking about the work that we do as teachers of teachers. In Section II below, we discuss works that specifically support our professional practice.
Section II. The focus in this section is on those aspects of our knowledge base that pertain directly to the development of students’ professional and content knowledge. As the assumptions underlying our conceptual framework make clear, learning requires the construction of understanding in dialogue with others and within oneself by connecting the new to what is already known. We also believe that the process of coming to know is developmental; it takes place over time and requires reflection. Each time a learner encounters a question or problem previously met, or a book previously read, the response is different because the learner is different. If the response is unchanged, it is unlikely that the learner has learned anything of relevance since the first encounters. But if those previous experiences are truly educative, in the Deweyan sense, they affect not only what each learner comes to understand at a given moment, but also their subsequent experiences.
Because these same assumptions hold true in the education of teachers, we find Bruner’s discussion of the spiral curriculum to be a very helpful framework in which to view our professional education curriculum. In Bruner’s view, complex concepts are introduced to novices at the beginning of their education and then revisited in increasing depth and in varying contexts at later points in the curriculum. Consistent with this thinking, core concepts in teacher education—concepts such as knowledge, understanding, vision, discipline, interest, community, culture, inquiry, diversity, assessment, goals, strategies, lesson planning, and so on—recur as subjects for inquiry throughout Berea’s professional education curriculum so that students can, over time and with the benefit of developmental field and clinical experiences, construct an increasingly complex understanding of their meanings. For example, while students discuss Vygotsky’s thinking early on in the program, their understanding deepens when they revisit its implications for developmentally appropriate instruction in pedagogical content classes, in their field and clinical experiences, and in student teaching.
The notion of spiraling applies to experiences as well as ideas. When students in Berea’s introductory education courses observe and participate in elementary and secondary classrooms, they generally find quite different things to reflect upon than they will observe later when they are further along in the program. Their early written reflections will also be less probing—or they may in fact be descriptions rather than reflections. Similarly, students who are midway through their student teaching semester usually ask different questions of classroom teachers who visit their student teaching seminar than they would have asked before that experience—or they hear the responses to similar queries with quite different understanding. When Mike Rose visited a student teaching seminar at Berea several years ago, he said he was struck by the depth and sophistication of participants’ comments during a two-hour session in which the student teachers themselves had set and carried out the agenda. And yet, as Frances Fuller has helped us to recognize, there is a very clear developmental progression throughout the student teaching experience as neophyte teachers’ concerns shift from self to teaching to students over the course of the semester.
Thinking and communication are central to our conceptual framework, and recent research on thinking, teacher thinking, thinking in community, and reflective thinking is fundamental to our knowledge base. We are grateful for work by Christopher Clark, Bill McDiarmid, Tom Russell and Hugh Munby, and others on teachers’ thinking about teaching and learning. William Wilen’s edited work on teaching and learning through discussion has been helpful, and David Dillon’s book on questioning has reminded us of the lack of authenticity characterizing most teacher questions and the importance of helping students themselves to become the primary questioners in our classrooms. We regard Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon’s work, based on her experience in teaching students in two very diverse high schools through “conversation that turns the soul” as clearly consistent with our conceptual framework. The classroom teachers who have contributed chapters to Eleanor Duckworth’s edited work, Tell Me More, clearly understand the importance of students’ telling and teachers listening. We are struck by the force of Deanna Kuhn’s thesis that students are seldom taught in school how to do the kind of careful thinking and judging on which the rest of our lives will depend. We also value the work of Lauren Resnick, Harvey Sigel, and others on the central role of thinking in the construction of meaning throughout the curriculum.
We have been greatly helped to further our own understanding of the complex nature and role of reflection in teaching and learning through the work of educators and researchers like Kenneth Zeichner, Donald Schon, Alan Tom, Peter Grimmett, Gaalen Erickson, Mary Diez, and her colleagues at Alverno College, and Katherine Rasch and her colleagues at Maryville College. Reflection is essential if prospective teachers are to be able to sort through essential issues in their own education—such as the widespread but unexamined theory/practice dichotomy—so that they can draw on the thinking of others both present and past as they consciously formulate their own philosophies of education. A frustrated (and outstanding) upper-level student some time ago appeared at one of our doors and plaintively beseeched, “How do I learn to teach?!” The response: “I don’t know. But I can help you think about what you already know and can do as a teacher, and perhaps that will help you see what else you need to know…”
It is a truism that we learn to teach as we were taught. Too often, that has meant the perpetuation of poor teaching based upon our own experiences as students in elementary school, high school, and college. Through the leadership provided by Ernest Boyer, John Goodlad, Maxine Greene, Vito Perrone, Patricia Carini, and Theodore Sizer, and others we have been helped to understand that hope for the improvement of education rests in a concerted effort which engages faculty, students, and administrators at all levels of schooling and in all kinds of schools. The problems in education are too deep and too pervasive for change for the good to be accomplished by any one group or at any one level. We owe a considerable debt to these educators for their wholehearted and longstanding engagement in educational reform at all levels. Their work gives us direction and hope.
In trying to help prospective teachers break the chain of uninspired and uninspiring teaching, it is essential that teacher educators strive to demonstrate good teaching themselves. It is equally important that we engage prospective teachers in conversations about teaching, including our own, even when that teaching sometimes goes awry. Samuel Wineburg discovered when he shared his own pedagogical failure with his students that such disclosure can be powerfully educative for all concerned. It can also help to create a true community of inquiry. If, as Dewey insists, teachers must be students of teaching as well as students of their subjects, we must all become willing to acknowledge how uncertain we often are about what we do in our classrooms. As Philip Jackson and Parker Palmer both suggest, there seems to be a fundamental insecurity inherent in the practice of teaching which stands in the way of our becoming better at doing it. In this connection, Goswami and Stillman’s work on teachers as researchers into their own work offers much to students of teaching at all levels.
A major element in our professional education knowledge base is the subject matter preparation of teachers. Beginning broadly, we appreciate Karen Zumwalt’s thinking on the wide curricular knowledge needed by teachers at all levels, and Frances Klein’s close examination of the elementary curriculum. We have been influenced by the work of Lee Shulman and his colleagues in their continuing efforts to understand subject matter disciplines more deeply than as a mere collection of facts, generalizations, and rules that are frozen and inerrant. Their exploration of the dynamics of subject matter knowledge in teaching, especially their focus on the role in “good” teaching of substantive structures, syntactical structures, and beliefs about subject matter, offer rich potential to the education of teachers.
We also value the examination of teachers’ general knowledge of subject matters and their pedagogy by Bill McDiarmid, Deborah Loewenberg Ball, Sharon Feiman-Nemser, Mary Kennedy, Suzanne Wilson, and others . We have been influenced by the work of Nancie Atwell, Lucy Calkins, Catherine Fosnot, Kenneth and Yetta Goodman, Donald Graves, Jane Hansen, Constance Kamii, Selma Wasserman, Eliot Wigginton and others on the subject matter dispositions, knowledge and skills necessary to help students of all ages learn constructively in and across disciplines. We have been influenced by the work of Eliot Eisner and Dennie Wolf in arts; Peter Elbow, Susan Florio-Ruane, Lynn Nelson, and Dennie Wolf in English; James Banks, James Becker, Amy Kass, Tom Holt, Suzanne Wilson, and Samuel Wineburg in history; Deborah Loewenburg Ball, Herbert Clemens, Peter Hilton, and Alan Schoenfeld in mathematics; and Charles Anderson, Jeanne Bamberger, Eleanor Duckworth, Anton Lawson, and Harold Morowitz in science.
In the area of classroom organization, classroom community, motivation, and discipline, we have been informed by the work of Ruth Sidney Charney, William Glaser, Shelley Harwayne, Alfie Kohn, David and Roger Johnson, Deborah Meier, Seymour Sarason, Robert Slavin, Jere Brophy, and Eliot Wigginton. We are also indebted to the outstanding classroom teachers with whom we work who by example and word demonstrate to our students and our student teachers the fundamental respect for young people, for ideas, and for community which must underlie all considerations of classroom organization and discipline.
As we have moved to expand our own understanding of the possibilities and limitations of technology and its application to teaching and learning, we engage students in the use of Powerpoint, WebCt, web-page authoring, multi-media presentations, Inspiration software, and the production of video resources. Guided by the caution of numerous theorists and practitioners including Jacques Ellul, Lewis Mumford, and Neil Postman, we invite students to participate in an open-ended conversation about the values, politics, and virtues necessarily embedded within certain technologies and their application. Our hope is that students can participate knowledgeably in the wider debate while recognizing the implications for democracy.
In these times of increasing emphasis on standardized testing, we are heartened by the strong arguments for authentic assessment made by thoughtful people like Mary Diez, Howard Gardner, Alfie Kohn, and Grant Wiggins, and we appreciate Lucy Calkins’ recent effort to help classroom teachers understand more about the nature and limitations of standardized tests, and to use that knowledge to serve their students more responsibly.