Reform-Oriented Collaborative Inquiry as a Pedagogy for Student Teaching in Middle School

Thumbnail Image
Publication or External Link
DeMink-Carthew, Jessica Jane
Valli, Linda
Specialized middle level teacher education programs are purported to be a potential lever for middle level education reform. Preparing teachers to enact reform-oriented visions of teaching, in the context of uneven, if not stalled, middle level education reform presents a formidable challenge as student teachers attempt to challenge the status quo. Yet, despite a growing body of literature on specialized middle level teacher education, the critical student teaching year remains under-researched. This dissertation thus proposes and investigates Reform-Oriented Collaborative Inquiry (ROCI) as a pedagogy for supporting reform-oriented student teaching in middle school. Employing a nested design, this dissertation uses two qualitative studies to explore ROCI from a variety of perspectives. The first study describes how four student teachers and one teacher educator used ROCI to create a student-driven social action project that was reform-oriented and responsive to their field placement school. An analysis of middle school student feedback regarding the social action project is also provided. The second study investigates the challenges and benefits experienced by the group as they attempted to innovate using ROCI as well as the insights they developed regarding what it takes to participate in middle level education reform. The challenges discussed include a disconnect between College of Education and field placement visions of teaching, being "just an intern," cultivating student engagement in "new" teaching approaches, time, and collaboration. The benefits of participation in ROCI include its successful support of reform-oriented innovation, increased understanding and confidence in reform-oriented teaching practices, relationships with students, and new insights for the teacher educator. Student teacher insights indicate that participating in middle level education reform requires collaboration with multiple stakeholders, strategic communication, flexibility and patience. Findings point to several implications for teacher education. These include the development of teacher education curricula that prepare preservice teachers for reform-oriented student teaching as well as the potential for ROCI to serve as a framework for building capacity in reform-oriented teaching in partnership schools as well as through induction. The challenges faced also underscore the need to address the multiple political, structural, and financial challenges that make investing in school-university partnership work difficult.