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A. O'Donnell

Rutgers University (UNITED STATES)
The development of expertise in teaching requires that students of teacher education have opportunities to engage in reflective practice that allows them to bring declarative knowledge of educational theory to the analysis of practical experience. In plainer language, students need opportunities to apply theoretical principles learned in their classes to problems that emerge in practice. Opportunities for this type of reflective practice while in a teacher education program are constrained by the problems of access to schools, scarce resources in terms of supervision and mentoring, large numbers of students in education, and tremendous pressures on students’ time. When student teachers engage in teaching in classrooms, they are often focused on getting through lessons and do not have the opportunity to reflect on what is transpiring in the classroom.The use of cases in teacher education and in other forms of professional education such as medicine (e.g., Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980) has the potential to bridge the gap between the declarative knowledge acquired in coursework and the procedural knowledge developed through practice. Doyle (1990) identified the purposes of the use of cases in teacher education as “precept and practice” (p. 9). The goal of the research was to examine the use of cases by groups that were differently structured by the availability of materials influenced students’ response to a case and whether students bring the unique ideas that are accessible to them in the materials to the discussion. Four different treatment groups were used and differed from one another based on the materials that were available to participants to assist in their discussion. 228 students participated and engaged in discussions which were recorded. Transcripts were coded for references to case descriptions (e.g., Maggie yelled at students), procedures (e.g., post rules in the front of the room), personal experience (e.g., “I remember hating field trips when I was in 3rd grade) and evaluation (e.g., “I feel like her problems have to do with her negative mindset”).Transcripts were also coded for the total number of ideas generated by the group. Idea units were identified in the transcripts and individual scores for each participant were computed that reflected the number of idea units generated by the individual. The first finding was that participants spent much of their time in evaluative comments about Maggie. The second highest category of information included in the discussions was in relation to procedures. Surprisingly, participants did not include many ideas related to their personal experiences