Prioritizing Purposes: Two American History Teachers' Choices Among Subject Matter and Classroom-Related Purposes
Blum, Robyn M
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This study explores how two American history teachers - one novice and one experienced – make in-the-moment choices among their history subject matter and classroom-related purposes during the teaching of an American history unit. Using classroom observations, lesson artifacts, student work products, and deep, retrospective interviews with the teachers as they watched videos of their teaching, this study maps out in detail the teachers’ purposes, both within and across different lesson activity structures. This study finds that the novice and the experienced teacher navigated among their purposes differently from each other, and that the characteristics of each teacher’s purposes navigation aligned with student outcomes in that teacher’s class. The novice teacher acted more like a juggler, with visible, reactive navigation among each purpose operational throughout his teaching; student outcomes in his class were similarly fragmented and discrete. The experienced teacher presented more like an orchestra conductor, interweaving his purposes and anticipating the navigation decisions that would create a more seamless whole; student outcomes in his class were aligned with his holistic navigation of purposes. Findings from this study have important implications for education research and teacher practice, including the relationship between teachers’ navigation among purposes and desired student outcomes, the integral role of classroom-related purposes interwoven with history subject matter purposes in teachers’ decision-making, and the differences in purposes navigation between a novice and an experienced history teacher.