Teacher Cognition (week 4)

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2011 at 3:27 PM

Throughout the module and the BLOGs I have read, the focus seems to be on the application of research based approaches in the classroom and this led me to ask the question of where teachers fit into our educational plans? How do what teachers think, know and believe effect the way they behave in the classroom?

Teacher cognition research examines exactly this…

Kagan (1990) defined teacher cognition as pre- or inservice teachers’ self-reflections; beliefs and knowledge about teaching, students, and content; and awareness of problem-solving strategies endemic to classroom teaching.

Borg, in a introduction to teacher cognition*, outlined what is generally accepted today about the nature of teacher cognition and its relationship to what teachers do:

  • teachers’ cognitions can be powerfully influenced by their own experiences as learners;
  • these cognitions influence what and how teachers learn during teacher education;
  • they act as a filter through which teachers interpret new information and experience;
  • they may outweigh the effects of teacher education in influencing what teachers do in the classroom;
  • they can be deep-rooted and resistant to change;
  • they can exert a persistent long-term influence on teachers’ instructional practices;
  • they are, at the same time, not always reflected in what teachers do in the classroom.
  • they interact bi-directionally with experience (i.e. beliefs influence practices but practices can also lead to changes in beliefs).

(*for a more indepth review of the origins of teacher cognition research, I would recommend the first chaper of Borg book Teacher cognition and language education)

Kagan (1990) crtisised the foundation of research on teaching cognition, referencing Raths & Katz (1985) goldilocks principle she argued about the size of ideas in education & their utility. In particular that some concepts appear to be too small (specific) for reasonable application, whereas others seem to be too large (vague, general, or ambiguous) to be translated into concrete terms.

I am unsure about whether the concept of teacher cognition is too large, as in recent times the area has become segmented into smaller, more focused portions of research. ((For example, Borg (2006) seperated the concept into 3 main themes ((1) cognition and prior language learning experience, (2) cognition and teacher education, and (3) cognition and classroom practice)**)

But they could have become too specific? More research into this is definately needed and I will be blogging on this topic again in my next post.

In terms of the goldilocks principle…should we judge all educational theories in ths way?? I only considered the principle in terms of the instruction given at a classroom level, but it seems perfectly applicable to a theorectical level also.

Any Thoughts or comments?

**also see the previous link to Borgs book Teacher cognition and language education, later chapters outline the segmentation of the concept

  1. You bring up a great aspect of learning, and I look forward to your next post. I read recently about teacher learning which you may find interesting, here is a great quote which shows how important the topic is (Darling-Hammond,1997;154)

    If teachers are to prepare an ever more diverse group of students for much more challenging work- for framing problems; finding, integrating and synthesising information;creating new solutions; learning on their own; and working cooperatively-they will need substantially more knowledge and radically different skills than most now have and most schools of education develop.

    There are several questions to address concerning the hurdles faced in getting teachers to embrace more effective principals, sometimes more than empirical evidence will be needed as there are other issues, such as teacher confidence; in group discussion what if the teacher faces questions they cannot answer, are they prepared for that? greater understanding of the teachers cognition will certainly improve the chances of producing educational improvements, thanks for sharing.

  2. It is unnerving to think that any professional with a great deal of power and responsibility is subject to personal biases that influence their practice. And no more is this true than in education because of the system’s resistence to scientific evidence. The result is bricoleurs (Jack of all trades) guessing what and how to teach through years of trial and error (if they don’t give up by then). The thing that gets me riled is The Myth of Disability (Snider, 2007) i.e. believing that some pupils are “unteachable” because of some sort of disability or other risk factors (e.g. socio-economic status). In contrast, Michael Maloney (founder of Quinte Learning Centre) said something like: If they can make it to their seat on their own, then I can teach them to read. For this particular point, I think all teachers need to be trained in behaviour management techniques.

    Also, I think Kagan may have a point about the theory being a bit too broad (vague) to be of any use. It’s like a Headmaster telling his staff to use their “creativity” to teach the curriculum but not exactly HOW! A great example of a headteacher eschewing his responsiility (that’s how I interpreted it – thus showing my bias) is in the following video: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/video/2009/jun/16/a-z-creativity It also has half a dozen teachers describing and explaining how they teach so it is relevant Dan, trust me. 😉 Lad.

    • Qualifying my first sentence: it’s unnerving yes, but it happens! We’re all human and therefore subjective to varying amounts. However, it’s even worse in education because it’s at a pre-scientific point right now. That’s my point (Kev pointed out my idiocy. Thanks Kev).

  3. This week, I too, decided to turn my attention to the teachers.
    I think that teacher cognition is an interesting aspect, and may offer some thoughts towards the use of ‘looping’ (see Arron’s blog). By this, I refer to your points about teachers experiences having an influence on their teaching to a greater extent than their training does.
    With regards to the principles becoming too specific or too specific, I believe that the beauty of many of the principles is that they can be applied as broadly, or as specifically as one wishes. For example, the Goldilocks principle is indeed broad, but can also be used to guide any specific area or task that a teach wishes to introduce to a class. Would you agree? The principles are what you make of them?

  4. […] Teacher cognition is one of the most powerful concepts in the area of supporting teaching and learning. The part I’m talking about is the part where teachers enter the field knowing what good teaching is. This means that they have no interest in changing what they are doing, because they have patterned their teaching on the model they have for what makes good teaching. Research shows us that the idea of what makes a good teacher is formed as early as secondary school, and is resistant to change, even through teacher training. […]

  5. […] is an area interested in understanding what teachers think, know and believe. (Previous blogs: 1 and […]

  6. […] cognition is somewhat related, and is succinctly summarised by a former student Dan, in one of his blog posts from the […]

  7. […] these posts, I would like each of you to consider the area of teacher cognition. Dan Spencer […]

  8. […] these posts, I would like each of you to consider the area of teacher cognition. Dan Spencer […]

  9. […] of us in higher education know about teacher cognition even if we are not familiar with the term. Because of our own educational experiences, by the time […]

  10. […] of us in higher education know about teacher cognition even if we are not familiar with the term. Because of our own educational experiences, by the time […]

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