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Revisiting and revising the apprenticeship of observation.

Schempp (1989), like many researchers of teacher education, characterized Lortie's (1975) construct of the apprenticeship of observation--what people learn about teaching from having been students in school--as fundamentally conservative. In this conception students are exposed largely to teacher-and-text-centered pedagogies, a cycle that repeats itself across generations of teachers. Sitting in classrooms provides socialization into established traditions that in turn frame teachers' beliefs about what schooling should be like. To Schempp and many other educational researchers, by being acculturated into orthodox schooling, prospective teachers have a difficult time imagining alternatives to what they experienced as students: teachers taking a frontal position (Goodlad, 1984) and authoritative role in transmitting to students a cultural heritage curriculum, and assessing students on their ability to recall it for tests.

Lortie (1975) invited such interpretation through his own characterization of the phenomenon. Students, he said, see teachers "front stage and center like an audience viewing a play," thus learning about teaching in a manner that is "intuitive and imitative"--learned implicitly through osmosis--rather than through "explicit and analytical" instruction in teaching methods that are presumably different from those learned through uncritical observation (p. 62). Buchman (1987) describes these conventional "folkways of teaching" as "ready-made recipes for action and interpretation that do not require testing or analysis while promising familiar, safe results" (p. 161). These "default options" from one's apprenticeship of observation provide a set of reliable strategies that teachers can fall back on when they are uncertain about how to proceed pedagogically.

This predominant conception of the apprenticeship of observation views one's socialization to teaching through conservative schooling as fixed and impenetrable, impervious to change. In this study of preservice teacher candidates (TCs) prior to student teaching, we find that these assumptions are problematic. In contrast to describing their teachers as exclusively authoritarian, the teachers in our study named a variety of teaching models from both the conservative and progressive pedagogical traditions, reflecting on and critiquing teachers from their past and projecting visions of their own teaching according to largely constructivist principles.

To investigate the construct of the apprenticeship of observation in the experiences of students from three programs housed in two research universities, we inquired with the following questions:

1. Separated by program attended, to what areas of schooling (Pre-K/elementary, secondary, college) did the participants in the three programs studied (Southwestern Elementary Education, Southwestern Secondary English Education, Southeastern Secondary English Education) attribute their positive and negative experiences with teachers; what balance did their characterizations indicate about the relative influence of positive vs. negative examples; and what trends were evident in the levels of schooling most frequently invoked to characterize their positive and negative experiences with teachers?

2. In interviews prompting participants to describe their apprenticeships of observation in their K-16 education, how did the preservice teachers characterize good and bad teachers from their past?

3. What conceptions of teaching did the preservice teachers claim to aspire toward based on their apprenticeships of observation?

Theoretical Framework

Lortie (1975) used the term apprenticeship of observation to describe the thousands of hours that people spend in classrooms as students before entering teacher education programs. These experiences suggest to prospective teachers what schooling should properly look like. With this pervasive acculturation to education, people enter teaching with deeply rooted beliefs and assumptions about the conduct of school that are difficult to replace during the year or so that they spend exposed to progressive pedagogies in their teacher education courses. According to this narrative, novice teachers then undertake student teaching and their subsequent careers predisposed to embrace the authoritarian values that attracted them to return to teaching for their careers in the first place. This cycle contributes to the overall stability of schools as cautious institutions that maintain the conservative traditions that have long driven educational practice.

Lortie (1975) concludes that the apprenticeship of observation tends to weaken the effects of teacher education, which typically emphasizes Deweyan progressivism. Teacher candidates are generally urged to eschew lectures, authoritative approaches to texts, disciplinary imperatives that place teachers and students in hierarchical roles, limited speaking roles for students, individualistic notions of competition as the basis for student positioning, and other aspects of schooling as usual (Smagorinsky & Whiting, 1995). However, concurrent with this critical appraisal of conventional schooling, TCs are already immersed through practica that work against implementing alternatives to authoritarian approaches, and soon thereafter begin student teaching and full-time jobs where the assessment criteria work against what is taught in universities (Smagorinsky, 2010). The values of schools thus inevitably trump those of universities in shaping teachers' practice, completing the cycle that is often begun as early as preschool (Smagorinsky, 1999).

Mewborn and Tyminski (2006), however, find that this narrative is overly deterministic and static. They conclude from studying preservice mathematics teachers that "Lortie's use of the term apprenticeship of observation seems to pertain to the general milieu of teaching, rather than to specific instances of teaching and learning" (p. 31). Mewborn and Tyminski argue that Lortie's effort to generalize across interviews and surveys led to a homogenization of inferences, contributing to the broad belief that learning to teach is primarily a function of cultural transmission during one's own schooling.

Further, as a Cold War era researcher, Lortie (1975) studied teachers from more provincial settings whose knowledge was local. With limited exposure to possibilities for teaching outside the costly prospect of attending academic conferences, teachers had access primarily to the teaching and learning conceptions available to them in their teacher education programs and in the schools in which they worked. Teachers entering the profession a half-century later have at their disposal a far wider range of influences and resources through the Internet and its many affordances. They have studied with teachers who have come of age during a series of eras in which process-oriented, constructivist approaches have been more widely available through a host of professional organizations and their extensive networks, publication vehicles, online resources, inservice workshops and institutes, and meetings.

Schools, meanwhile, do remain oriented to relatively authoritarian approaches to classroom instruction (Goodlad, 1984; Smagorinsky, 2010). Indeed, one might argue that the Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts comprise an effort to turn back the clock to the era of New Critical emphasis on what David Coleman has termed "reading like a detective" within the "four corners of the text" to derive its autonomous meaning (Newkirk, 2013). Other traditions, however, have insinuated themselves into mainstream practice since Lortie's (1975) data collection and analysis. Lortie's survey and interview data from a half-century ago are based on teachers from a world quite different from the one experienced by 21st century teachers.

Mewborn and Tyminski (2006) argue that the enduring beliefs about the apprenticeship of observation as having uniformly negative consequences represent the fallacy of the snark syndrome or snark effect, a term that Byrne (1993) coined to account for the ways in which an idea becomes widely accepted through repetition instead of empirical evidence. To counter the apprenticeship of observation's monolithic reputation among educational researchers and theorists, Mewborn and Tyminski present counter-evidence that suggests that people experience both positive and negative teaching models as students, and assert that Lortie's own evidence supports this view. Spangler (ne Mewborn; personal communication, June 15, 2013) reports that when she spoke to Lortie during the writing of her article with Tyminski, he was surprised to learn that scholars had seized on and distorted his findings in this fashion.

Our analysis of interviews reaches conclusions similar to those of Mewborn and Tyminski (2006), although with a different population. Our study involved in-depth interviews with volunteer participants from two secondary English Education programs and one elementary education program with the focus on Language Arts instruction. We next describe our approach to studying these teachers' apprenticeships of observation.



Participants were enrolled in the teacher education programs in their state namesake universities. These universities provided convenience samples, selected in relation to the first author's whereabouts at the time of data collection. In each of the three programs, the first author visited teacher education classes, made a brief presentation about the research, and asked for volunteers. Each subsequent volunteer signed a consent form to participate in the study. Table 1 lists each student who volunteered (real names are replaced with pseudonyms) along with demographic data and program of enrollment. The fact that students from one of the secondary English programs had been the first author's students prior to data collection, we believe, did not compromise the integrity of the process, in that the portion of the interviews that we attend to in this study concerned experiences in K-12 education and in most cases university experiences with other faculty members.

The focal populations for the research at both sites were secondary English education students and students in elementary education, with a focus on their language arts instruction. At both universities the secondary English programs included both B.S.Ed. and M.A.T. students enrolled together in certification coursework. All elementary education students were enrolled in a B.S.Ed.-only program.

Data Collection

The interviews were conducted after the participants ' completion of coursework and practica and before student teaching. The beliefs expressed in the interviews had thus been tested through observation during practica but not through the experiences available in student teaching. It is possible that practicum mentor teachers influenced the participants' values, although in many cases the participants were critical of their practicum placement teachers' practices in light of their disjuncture with university values, suggesting that such influences were minimal. Their judgments about teaching qualities thus might have been prone to the idealism that often precedes TCs' extensive engagement with students, with the structures of schools and departments, with the relational and pedagogical cultures that exist among colleagues, with the levels of students' feelings of affiliation and engagement with school, and with other realities of teaching (Feiman-Nemser, 2003). These ideals can be disrupted and spurned once student teaching begins and students' levels of engagement and tendency to get off task, coupled with curriculum and assessment mandates steeped in the authoritarian tradition, produce more hierarchical stances than TCs' stated ideals allow for (Smagorinsky, Jakubiak, & Moore, 2008).

The prompts for soliciting what the participants recalled about their educations--situated within a larger set of questions covering their educational philosophies, practicum experiences, and teacher education coursework--were adapted from Grossman (1990) as follows:

1. Tell me about your own experiences as a student in English and Language Arts classes (literature, reading, writing, language study, drama).

2. What teachers stand out for you? Why?

3. Who were the best and worst teachers you've had? Why do you feel this way about them?

In addition to these questions specifically addressed to the apprenticeship of observation, participants provided perspectives from the other segments of the interviews that contributed to our findings, such as when they illustrated their philosophy of teaching with references to teachers from their prior schooling.

The interviews took place on the heels of the participants' intensive immersion in their majors and thus in education courses, which undoubtedly contributed to the manner in which they characterized good and bad teaching. Each of the three programs studied emphasized some form of progressive, constructivist, process-oriented, collaborative, meaning-centered teaching and learning, and these values, we assume, influenced the participants' stated conceptions of good and bad teaching.

Data Analysis

We first sorted the participants by university program enrolled in so that each of the three could be considered separately. The two authors then collaboratively read and coded each of the 19 interviews. This form of collaborative coding provides a form of reliability that takes into account the dialogic nature of decision-making and that allows the coding scheme to evolve through continual discussion, coding, and refinement (Smagorinsky, 2008).

Each interview was coded to identify:

1. the level of schooling (e.g., secondary school, university) taught by each teacher identified by the participant;

2. the characterization of the teacher and/or method as positive or negative; and

3. the pedagogical tool or practice identified as positive or negative.

After the initial coding, we reduced the number of codes by collapsing related categories. For example, we initially separately coded teachers who were mean-spirited, sarcastic, humiliating toward students, and who engaged in other hostile actions. We ultimately condensed these related characteristics into the category of harsh disposition.

We made one final categorization by clustering the remaining categories into one of the following classifications. All coding and category clustering came about through a dialogic, inductive process.

Demeanor refers to the teacher's classroom disposition and orientation to teaching, such as the positive traits of being motivating, supportive, caring, and having high expectations; and the negative traits of being harsh, negligent, inflexible, and having low expectations.

Environment refers to the manner in which the teacher created the physical and emotional setting of learning, such as the positive traits of a community-oriented classroom, flexible physical arrangements and learning opportunities, and encouragement of student interaction; and the negative trait of restricted freedom.

Pedagogy refers to instruction undertaken, such as the positive traits of interdisciplinary teaching, discussion-oriented learning, and multimodal teaching; and the negative traits of directionless teaching, rote learning, and lectures.

Tables 2-7 detail the coding for each cohort.


The study's limitations center on two primary factors. First, the number of participants cannot possibly account for the whole of the beginning teacher profession, providing instead samples of TCs in three programs. Second, post-hoc interviews can only retroactively reconstruct prior experiences, leading inevitably to gaps in memory and the possibility of flawed recall of actual events. Given that the actual experiences of 19 people from different parts of the country cannot be followed in real time, and that the likelihood of any 19 randomly selected people eventually becoming teachers is quite slim, retrospective interviews are among the best available means of recapturing old experiences for research purposes.


We organize our findings by cohort, beginning with the elementary cohort, then reporting on the secondary English participants from the Southwestern university, and finally reporting on the secondary English participants from the Southeastern university. This organization is responsive to the unique emphasis of each program and its faculty and how those situational factors may have contributed to each program participant's stated values.

As we have noted, the apprenticeship of observation is typically characterized as having a conservative influence on beginning teachers, both in terms of the teaching methods employed and the manner in which schools conserve their values and practices over time. This assumption would lead to the anticipation that the participants across programs would describe a preponderance of objectivist, teacher-and-text centered instruction across the span of their educations, given that such teaching has long been found to characterize school (Goodlad, 1984; Harber, 2004). Lortie (1975) concluded that the teaching profession replicates itself across generations by attracting and retaining people comfortable with conventional schooling. If his claim remained viable, then we would anticipate that our participants would have included authoritarian teaching among their positive examples.

This hypothesis was contradicted in a number of ways. First, most of the instruction characterized in the interviews as exemplary and worth emulating in their own careers could be classified as progressive, constructivist, communal, rigorous, and open-ended. This finding suggests that such methods were widely practiced by the teachers who had taught our participants across the span of their schooling, and that they served as part of the appeal of the teaching profession for them. Negative characterizations, in addition to being identified far less frequently, concerned teachers' rigid, authoritarian, harsh, and undemanding instructional approaches and were described by our participants as to be avoided in their own teaching.

Distribution of Attributions across Grade Levels

We begin by examining the distribution of attributions of positive and negative teaching models both across and within the three cohorts we have studied. Table 8 provides gross totals of positive and negative teaching examples for each of four categories across cohorts: all teachers, Pre-K/elementary teachers, secondary school (middle and high school) teachers, and college professors. The data suggest that at least at the conscious level, somewhat of a recency effect influenced teachers' recall of their experiences as students. That is, they tended to recall more from their secondary and college experiences than elementary, with secondary providing the greatest number of both positive and negative examples.

Table 9 provides data from within cohorts, providing a clearer picture of how each group recalled teaching models from their experience. The table suggests that members of the elementary language arts cohort were much more likely to recall teachers from Pre-K and elementary school than were members of their university's secondary English program. Meanwhile, the Southeastern cohort recalled more at each level, and with a more even distribution. We infer that the different distributions were a function of the kinds of activities engaged in by each separate cohort. The elementary program had required of TCs a great deal of attention to reflection on their own elementary experiences; the Southwestern English Education cohort was what we have characterized as conceptually fragmented, with no two TCs taking the same course sequence from the same faculty and minimal formal reflection on schooling experiences through literacy memoirs and other vehicles; and the Southeastern English Education program cohort oriented to and heavily involved in reflection on school experiences through such vehicles as a learner autobiography in which they reconstructed their development as a reader and writer.

The data suggest that a program's structure, focus, and process may affect the manner in which one's apprenticeship of observation is brought to bear on one's conception of teaching. Specific activities and experiences that encourage TCs to reflect may contribute to their reconstruction of their schooling experiences. These reflections, rather than serving as the template for action characterized in much writing about the apprenticeship of observation, may be invoked to inform new experiences in deliberate ways.

We next detail these findings as we review each university program's interview analysis in turn. For each program we begin by characterizing the program itself, and then describe the positive and negative teaching models identified by participants in their interviews. Both universities were state namesake universities with Carnegie classifications of very high research activity and NCATE-approved programs. For all three programs, students enrolled for their first two years in general education content area courses work in the College of Arts and Sciences. For their third year the students took a mix of courses in the College of Education (e.g., special education, foundations, educational technology, educational psychology) and Arts and Sciences (for the secondary English programs, primarily taking certification-required classes in the Department of English, e.g., courses in Shakespeare and American Literature). Fourth-year students were heavily immersed in College of Education courses oriented to teaching methods, practica, and/or student teaching. The Southwestern program, at the time of the investigation, was transitioning from a four-year to a five-year program, with the fifth year taken for graduate course credit.

Southwestern Elementary Education Program

Program structure and focus. The elementary education program was mostly taught by tenure-track faculty, with some courses taught by adjunct professors; interviews suggested that some adjuncts were more highly regarded by participants than some tenure-track professors. In the elementary program, in the final semester of their senior year, they took a set of five content area methods classes from curriculum and instruction faculty, each accompanied by 30 hours of field experiences. In the fifth year they would, for graduate credit, do their student teaching and take an action research class during one semester and take electives during the other.

The College of Education's elementary preservice program faculty embraced Piagetian constructivism as the umbrella concept to guide their students' thinking about teaching. As part of their program implementation, they streamed these principles throughout all elementary education courses taught within the curriculum and instruction department. Students in the program learned to contrast the program's notion of constructivism with what their faculty termed traditional teaching. Other sources corroborate the university faculty's adherence to Piagetian constructivism: professors' course syllabi and assessments, faculty web pages where it was listed as a theoretical orientation, and search committee deliberations where it was argued as a factor in hiring new elementary education faculty. According to the participants, the traditional-constructivist binary worked better in theory than practice. Program faculty did not always teach according to constructivist principles and, even on those points of general agreement, interpreted the concept differently. Indeed, some of the negative examples of authoritarian teaching in the interviews were attributed to purportedly constructivist faculty.

Positive characterizations. In considering the positive teaching models from their experiences as students, the TCs from the Southwestern Elementary Education program primarily attended to teaching practices that they found stimulating, with 77 of the 113 attributions to pedagogy. The code most frequently applied across all levels of schooling was to constructivist teaching, which accounted for 45 of the 77 pedagogy codes. The manner in which constructivism was manifested varied from level to level. For example, manipulatives and play-oriented learning characterized the TCs' teachers' Pre-K through elementary school instruction. Manipulatives were not, however, mentioned as having been used by exemplary secondary school teachers, who enacted constructivist methods through allowing choice in learning, having students dramatize literature, co-constructing curriculum with students, and employing other open-ended, activity-oriented, participatory practices. College professors shared some constructivist practices with secondary teachers--e.g., open-ended teaching and discussion, student choice in learning, learning through exploration and activity--while further providing opportunities for group projects, interpretive assignments, and the synthesis of learning in student work.

For the most part, the positive pedagogies that we did not include in the constructivist category were compatible with constructivist principles. Learning might be interdisciplinary, be thought-provoking, allow for individual pacing, enable critical thinking, involve conferencing, and otherwise break away from the sort of rigid authoritarianism associated with traditional schooling (Ravitch, 1983). Some participants did speak admiringly of teachers who imposed more authoritarian instruction. For example, we identified one instance each of having zero tolerance for errors and requiring close reading of literature, a perspective associated with New Criticism, which emphasizes textual autonomy, the belief that meaning is inscribed in texts for readers to discern (see Nystrand, 1986, for a critique of the doctrine of the autonomous text; Thomas, 2014 for a critical view of close reading's inscription in the Common Core State Standards; and Hickman & McIntyre, 2012, for an effort to salvage and update New Criticism in light of its critical potential). These examples, however, constituted a distinct minority of admired practices to be emulated.

We consider a teacher's demeanor and the environment she creates to be related, and so review them together. The demeanor of high expectations was consistent across grade levels, accompanied by a disposition of respect, care, support for and belief in students, and the creation of a flexible, community-oriented environment that helps motivate students to learn. Such estimable teachers valued students and their opinions, which became available in student interactions and collaborations that required patience and a disposition to mentor young people.

Negative characterizations. Again, pedagogy was the most frequently applied code, accounting for 45 out of the 60 negative instances. Negative teaching examples were characterized, across the levels of schooling, as rigid and objectivist, with rote learning typically named as problematic along with lockstep instruction. Other negative examples came from teachers' incompetence in areas such as getting off track, being ignorant about their subjects, being poorly organized, being ambiguous about assessment criteria, and pacing instruction poorly.

These pedagogies were accompanied by harsh dispositions such as being authoritarian, humiliating, manipulative, bullying, nagging, morale crushing, and negative. Along with possessing such mean-spirited dispositions, these teachers held their students to low academic standards. These traits and dispositions were referenced for Pre-K through elementary and secondary school teachers, but not college.

Southwestern University Secondary English Education Program

Program structure and focus. The 5-year secondary English program included both undergraduates majoring in education and M.A.T. students (see Table 1). We characterize the program as being structurally fragmented (Zeichner & Gore, 1990). The students did not go through the program as a cohort; rather, they could take courses in any order. The same required course--e.g., English methods, educational technology, foundations--might be taught by different faculty, adjuncts, or teaching assistants, each with a focus and process different from and perhaps contradictory to the others. Without a cohort approach, two students could start and end their programs of study on the same dates without ever being in the same classes or taking the same instructors.

Prior to the methods class, students' coursework was concentrated on 15 courses taken in the Department of English. Before student teaching, the students took one methods class, with roughly 40 hours of accompanying field experiences required. Aside from the English methods class and a Theory of English Grammar course, secondary English education students took no courses from faculty in the curriculum and instruction department. This disjointed approach left students without a sustained focus on a unified conception of teaching. Because students could go through the program taking courses that were not in formal dialogue with one another about pedagogy, they did not engage in the kind of goal-directed, tool-mediated communal activity that gives an education program a particular culture and focus and enables its students to develop a conceptually unified approach to teaching (Smagorinsky, Cook, & Johnson, 2003) and thus regard it as their conceptual home base (Smagorinsky, 2002), as did the same university's elementary education program.

Positive characterizations. The TCs from this program attributed 51 out of their 101 positive models to matters of pedagogy, 36 to demeanor, and 14 to environment. As with the elementary cohort at the same university, the TCs in secondary English referenced constructivist teaching often, accounting for 21 of the 51 positive pedagogy codes. As Table 9 indicates, in general the secondary English students were far more likely to recall secondary and college teachers than Pre-K through elementary teachers, suggesting both a recency effect and greater attention to secondary school experiences in coursework, although the latter is difficult to reconstruct given the differential experiences of the students.

The qualities of constructivist teaching at the secondary and college levels were similar to those identified by elementary TCs, with open-ended, discussion-based, active, project-oriented, life-related applications noted during the interviews as exemplary teaching practices. Other pedagogies recalled favorably tended to be well-aligned with constructivist teaching: flexibility, creative teaching, interdisciplinary learning, thematic teaching, multiple perspectives, a personalized curriculum, and other topics named. Only a few formalist qualities were identified favorably: New Critical values for literary criticism, formal writing in genres, and dictionary speed drills.

Positive demeanors were identified for all levels of schooling. Most involved being supportive, sensitive, personable, accessible, caring, challenging, and viewing learning as part of teaching, with one TC enamored of charismatic and highly confident college professors. This same TC also preferred teachers with overt liberal and socialist political values. The demeanor of having high expectations for students characterized the preferred teachers' outlook. Such teachers created environments that were positive and noncompetitive, were structured with boundaries, and were characterized by a "homey" feeling, one in which they felt comfortable, safe, and at ease.

Negative characterizations. The Southwestern Secondary English students focused more on demeanor (32) than pedagogy (22) when discussing teachers who made a negative impact, with no environment codes. The TCs were put off by teachers whose dispositions were harsh, whose manner was inflexible, whose perspective was narrow, who had low expectations for students, and who were indifferent and impersonal toward students. The same TC who valued liberal and socialist teachers found politically conservative teachers to be repellant.

The accompanying negative pedagogies fell broadly into two areas. The TCs were bothered by instructional incompetence such as unimaginative teaching, directionless teaching, ignorance about literature, and inappropriate content and process. They also disliked teachers they found overly rigid: those with an emphasis on detail rather than meaning, whose grading did not correspond to students' effort, and whose writing instruction included formalist, structural requirements rather than being meaning centered.

Southeastern University Secondary English Education Program

Program structure and focus. The Southeastern English education program employed a cohort approach that enrolled, at the time of the research, 20 students, including both undergraduate and M.A.T. students (see Table 1). In the fall semester of their final year of study, the TCs took 3 courses--instructional planning, adolescent literature, and teacher research--that were team-taught by two English Education professors in consecutive time blocks, allowing the three courses to operate as a single integrated course and providing opportunities for extended, interrelated conversations to take place regularly. The TCs spent 12 hours a week in the classroom of their mentor teacher throughout the fall semester and did their student teaching during the spring semester, when they simultaneously took a reading methods course and attended a seminar during which they discussed their student teaching experiences. The program was heavily field-based, with a strong reliance on mentor teachers for apprenticeship into the profession.

The two English Education professors built their program around the theme of making connections. Course readings promoted a student-centered, process-oriented approach that stressed the importance of reflective practice. The course projects and activities were designed to help the preservice teachers learn more about and make connections with schools and students. These principles were in turn emphasized in practica and student teaching, although with varying degrees and in different ways, depending on the mentor teacher's school, values, and situation.

Positive characterizations. The positive models named by the TCs from this program were sorted as follows: 91 out of their 152 positive attributions concerned matters of pedagogy, 55 concerned demeanor, and six concerned environment. The TCs at this university, like those at the Southwestern university, were more likely to recall secondary and college teachers than Pre-K through elementary teachers (see Table 9).

In the area of pedagogy, the TCs referenced constructivist teaching often, accounting for 58 of the 91 codes. The qualities found worth emulating by this cohort involved collaborative, interactive, creative, activity-based, and project-based learning that was built on students' interests and learning pathways, enacted through a variety of ways and oriented to what students found relevant. Although most recall of positive exemplars came from secondary and college classes, only seven of the constructivist attributions were made to college professors.

Less often, the TCs mentioned positive pedagogies that they occasionally termed "traditional." They appreciated classes that involved mastery learning, direct and straightforward instruction, reading used as a way to moderate student behavior and settle classes down, and classes governed by order and predictability. The TCs also admired those university professors whose own teaching explicitly addressed pedagogical matters.

Demeanors that the TCs identified as positive included an engaging teaching style practiced by teachers at all levels who cared for, respected, supported, and believed in their students. They further spoke highly of teachers who had high expectations, were dedicated to teaching, and reflected on their practice. Some TCs also stated that elementary school learning environments that involved either incentives or competition, often over the volume of books read, encouraged them to learn.

Negative characterizations. Of the 63 negative attributions made by the TCs, 48 were to pedagogy, 14 to demeanor, and 1 to environment. Pedagogically, the TCs disliked rote learning across levels of schooling, with 16 of the 48 codes so assigned. This rote learning might be accompanied by an overemphasis on formality, direct grammar instruction, overly precise requirements for notebook maintenance, tedium, beating subjects to death, monodisciplinary studies, lectures, an emphasis on coverage over depth, and exams that require excessive preparation but little learning. They were also bothered by teachers who were vague and directionless, and who conducted discussions poorly.

The TCs made negative references to teachers whose demeanors were harsh, who were negligent toward students and teaching, and who did not interact with students. They felt that environments that restricted their freedom in turn limited their learning.


The apprenticeships of observation available through post-hoc interviews of 19 TCs from three university programs produce results that contradict assumptions that follow from Lortie's (1975) classic sociology of teaching. In spite of the three programs' very different organizations and emphases, and in spite of the two very different locations of the universities and teaching levels of the elementary and secondary programs, the TCs produced remarkably similar characterizations of teaching that they hoped to emulate and teaching about which they spoke disparagingly.

The timing of the interviews could have affected the beliefs about teaching that the TCs revealed, coming on the heels of coursework that emphasized the sorts of values they reported, and coming prior to student teaching in which those values were put to the test in the unpredictable and contradictory world of the classroom. Research focused on the student teaching and first years of full-time teaching of teachers from this sample (Cook, Smagorinsky, Fry, Konopak, & Moore, 2002; Johnson, Smagorinsky, Thompson, & Fry, 2003; Smagorinsky, Cook, Jackson, Moore, & Fry, 2004; Smagorinsky, Gibson, Moore, Bickmore, & Cook, 2004; Smagorinsky, Lakly, & Johnson, 2002) found that the context of teaching affected the degree to which they could teach toward their stated values and the manner in which their conceptions of teaching remained on the same track. At this point in their learning, however, the models that they named tended to reflect an idealistic belief in progressive teaching, with a value on student-centered pedagogies, constructivist activities, and supportive demeanors and environments. Given that the TCs' exemplars had in fact been able to enact such practices, the idealism was firmly grounded in worldly experience and thus potentially amenable to eventual implementation in their own classrooms.

Critics might argue that Lortie's (1975) findings characterize what teachers feel in their bones, rather than what they can articulate consciously; that is, they might believe that one's immersion in school acculturates them to conservative traditions in ways that they cannot see or disengage from, and thus are more likely to replicate subliminally. Lortie's research, however, did not study the subconscious. Rather, like this study, his method relied on self-reports and reconstructions of past experiences. Our findings thus cannot be dismissed on the grounds that powerful feelings that are difficult to articulate comprise the apprenticeship of observation, rather than accessible memories available through interviews, lest Lortie's research be rejected on the same grounds.

One reason that Lortie (1975) found more of a conservative influence from schooling could be the limitations of the era in which he collected and analyzed his data. Although we are hesitant to essentialize by gender, it is possible that in Lortie's era, the production of knowledge and leadership in schools was primarily the province of men, who might be more prone to authoritarian and thus conservative schooling (American Association of University Women, 1992; Gilligan, 1982). Seismic changes in the composition of people in professorial and leadership positions have resulted in women having a greater say and stake in the values of the profession. We make this point with the awareness that many women contributed to the conservative value system and that men like Dewey helped to contest it.

Although schools are noted for their intransigence to change, much knowledge in professional organizations and teacher education programs has been published since Lortie collected and analyzed his data in the 1960s and 1970s. These ideas, generally progressive in nature, have become much more widely available to teachers through the computer revolution and the growth of the Internet. Not only has writing become easier to produce and revise, publication has become more economically feasible and faster to produce and distribute. The Internet's growth has further enabled scholarship to be distributed more quickly, less expensively, and more widely than in the mid-20th century. The availability of these ideas became further insinuated into curricula and accompanying instruction. As a result the TCs we studied, and the teachers who had taught them, had a far wider range of possibilities to consider than did the more provincial teachers of Lortie's (1975) era.

Multiple traditions have always been at work in education (Applebee, 1974). John Dewey's first faculty appointment came in 1884, and his first book was published before the turn of the century (Dewey, 1899). Deweyan progressivism was evident in Kilpatrick's (1918) Project Method, and his positions at the University of Chicago and Teachers College of Columbia University gave his views prominence and influence. Our claim, then, is not that progressivism has come into being after the Cold War era studied by Lortie. Rather, the progressive stream has always been available but has become more widely practiced since the 1970s through a confluence of factors: greater emphasis in colleges of education, more widespread circulation through modern means of publication, advances in educational research--accompanied by educational funding following the formation of the U.S. Department of Education in 1970--that identified the effects of progressive methods on students' learning, and changes in school-based curriculum and instruction.

The apprenticeship of observation as taken up by the field based on Lortie's (1975) study has relied too much on experiences from a distant era, and has overemphasized the inclination toward conservative influences (Mewborn & Tyminski, 2006). Without newer data to revise the assumptions that have followed from this misconstrual, schools have been cast as monochromatically "traditional" and stubbornly resistant to change. Although the new forces of "accountability" might be leading schools toward a conservative turn, teachers who went through schools prior to the administration of George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation experienced both schools and teacher education programs that, at least according to our participants, provided a range of models, the most progressive of which they found worthy of emulation. We thus conclude that, rather than relying on a dated conception derived from Lortie, educational researchers should continue to investigate the phenomenon of the apprenticeship of observation and track its influences with newer generations of teachers in new eras of expectations to keep the construct fresh and relevant as schools continue to evolve.


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Peter Smagorinsky is the Distinguished Research Professor of English Education and Meghan E. Barnes is a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant, both with the Department of Language and Literacy Education of the College of Education at The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. &
Table 1

Name          Program Age         Race                Sex      Taught
(Pseudonym)   Level                                            by 1st

              Southwestern University Elementary Education Program

Holly         BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   No
Jessica       BSEd    Mid 30s     Native American     Female   No
Sharon        BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   No
Sarah         BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   No
Tamara        BSEd    Early 20s   African American    Female   No
Tonya         BSEd    Late 20s    European American   Female   No

              Southwestern University Secondary English Education

Denny         BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Male     Yes
Doris         BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   Yes
Gaea          BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   Yes
Jack          M.A.T   Late 20s    European American   Male     Yes
Laney         BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   Yes
Leslie        M.A.T   Early 20s   European American   Female   Yes

              Southeastern University Secondary English Education

Amanda        M.A.T   Early 20s   European American   Female   No
Ainsley       BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   No
Jenn          BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   No
Nicole        BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   No
Reggie        M.A.T   Late 20s    African American    Male     No
Shannon       BSEd    Early 30s   European American   Female   No
Tracy         BSEd    Early 20s   European American   Female   No

Table 2
Apprenticeship of Observation: Elementary Cohort: Positive

Area          Characteristic Frequency         Frequency

              Teachers at All Grade Levels

Demeanor      Care/Respect/Support/Believe     5
                in students
Demeanor      Motivate students to learn       1
Demeanor      Open-mindedness                  1
Demeanor      Patience                         1
Environment   Community-oriented classroom     1
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching          4
Pedagogy      Interdisciplinary learning       1

              Pre-K, Kindergarten, and
              Elementary School Teachers

Demeanor      Emotional support                1
Demeanor      High expectations                1
Demeanor      Taking extra time                1
Environment   Community-oriented classroom     1
Environment   Student interaction              1
Environment   Flexibility within boundaries    1
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching
                problems, schoolwork producing 8
                (manipulatives, play-oriented
                learning, real-world new
Pedagogy      Continual literacy instruction   1
                learning, meaningful learning)
Pedagogy      Individualized pacing            2
Pedagogy      Interdisciplinary teaching       1
Pedagogy      Thought-provoking discussions    1
Pedagogy      Variety in reading and writing   1

              Secondary School Teachers

Demeanor      Caring what students think       1
Demeanor      Encouragement and support        4
Demeanor      High expectations                5
Demeanor      Value student opinions           2
Pedagogy      Close reading of literature      4
Pedagogy      Conferencing                     1
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching (self-
                expression, open-ended
                discussion, choice in          20
                learning, activity-based
                classroom, dramatizing
                literature, exploratory
                learning, learning through
                failure, generate curriculum
                with students)
Pedagogy      Critical thinking                3
Pedagogy      Extensive reading (whole         2
                novels, reading broadly)
Pedagogy      Frequent writing opportunities   1
Pedagogy      Individualized pacing            2
Pedagogy      Supportive writing instruction   4
Pedagogy      Writing extended essays          1
Pedagogy      Zero error tolerance             1

              University Teachers

Demeanor      High expectations                4
Demeanor      Personable & interactive Style   2
Demeanor      Teacher as mentor                2
Demeanor      Value student opinions           1
Pedagogy      Affective literary response      1
Pedagogy      Aligning instruction with        1
Pedagogy      Broadening perspective           1
Pedagogy      Close reading of literature      1
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching (open-
                ended teaching, student
                choice, cooperative learning,  13
                learning by doing, groups
                projects, interpretive
                assignments, learning
Pedagogy      Writing on topics of personal    2

Table 3
Apprenticeship of Observation: Elementary Cohort: Negative

Area       Characteristic                   Frequency

           Teachers at All Grade Levels

Demeanor   Negative dispositions (harsh     3

Pedagogy   Irrelevant instruction           3
           (getting off track)

Pedagogy   Rigid/Objectivist teaching       4
           (lockstep curriculum, rote

           Pre-K, Kindergarten, and
           Elementary School Teachers

Demeanor   Harsh disposition (bullying,     6
           humiliating, authoritarian,

Pedagogy   Rigid/Objectivist teaching       16
           (rote learning)

           Secondary School Teachers

Demeanor   Harsh disposition (nagging,      4
           morale crushing, negative)

Demeanor   Low expectations                 2

Pedagogy   Ignorant about subject           1

Pedagogy   Rigid/Objectivist teaching       5
           (rote learning)

Pedagogy   Unstructured writing             1

           University Teachers

Pedagogy   Ambiguous assessment criteria    5

Pedagogy   Inappropriate pacing             1

Pedagogy   Not practicing what preached     1

Pedagogy   Off-topic lectures               1

Pedagogy   Orthodox literary                1

Pedagogy   Rigid/Objectivist teaching       16
           (rote learning)

Table 4
Apprenticeship of Observation: Secondary English
Program #1: Positive

Area          Characteristic Frequency            Frequency

              Teachers at All Grade Levels

Demeanor      Supportive disposition              1
Pedagogy      Instruction aligned with            1
Pedagogy      Personalized learning               1

              Pre-K, Kindergarten, and
              Elementary School Teachers

Demeanor      Sensitive to students               1
Pedagogy      Competitive learning                1
                (dictionary speed drills)
Pedagogy      Flexibility with assignments        1
Pedagogy      Narrative literacy (personal &      4
                narrative writing, reading
                short stories)
Pedagogy      Reading groups                      1

              Secondary School Teachers

Demeanor      High expectations                   6
Demeanor      Liberal politics                    1
Demeanor      Personal relationships with         6
Demeanor      Supportive disposition              6
Demeanor      Teacher as learner                  1
Environment   Noncompetitive environment          1
Environment   Positive environment                4
Environment   Provided boundaries                 2
Environment   Structured environment              2
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching             12
                (student expertise leads
                learning, open-ended teaching,
                project-oriented learning,
                activity-based learning,
                real-life applications of
                school learning,
                discussion-based learning)
Pedagogy      Developmentally appropriate         1
Pedagogy      Formal writing in genres            2
Pedagogy      Interdisciplinary curriculum        1
Pedagogy      Metacognitive instruction           1
Pedagogy      Teaching creatively                 1

              University Teachers

Demeanor      Accessible personality              3
Demeanor      Care about teaching                 2
Demeanor      Charismatic                         2
Demeanor      Confidence                          1
Demeanor      Challenge with new ideas            3
Demeanor      High expectations                   2
Demeanor      Socialist politics                  1
Environment   Create homey atmosphere             2
Environment   Structured environment              3
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching             9
                (active learning, relating
                studies to real world, student
                expertise leads learning,
                discussion-based learning)
Pedagogy      Expertise in content                1
Pedagogy      Genre instruction (formal           4
                writing in genres, multigenre
Pedagogy      Multiple perspectives in            4
                reading and discussion
Pedagogy      New Critical values                 2
Pedagogy      Personal writing                    3
Pedagogy      Thematic teaching                   1

Table 5
Apprenticeship of Observation: Secondary English
Program #1: Negative

Area       Characteristic                    Frequency

           Teachers at All Grade Levels

Pedagogy   Teacher-and-text-centered         2

           Pre-K, Kindergarten, and
           Elementary School Teachers

Demeanor   Harsh disposition                 5

           Secondary School Teachers

Demeanor   Conservative politics             1
Demeanor   Harsh disposition                 7
Demeanor   Inflexible                        4
Pedagogy   Directionless teaching            3
Pedagogy   Emphasis on detail over           7
Pedagogy   Grades not representative of      1
Pedagogy   Ignorant about literature         2

           University Teachers

Demeanor   Harsh disposition                 4
Demeanor   Indifferent and impersonal        8
             toward students
Demeanor   Low expectations                  1
Demeanor   Narrow minded                     2
Pedagogy   Inappropriate content and         2
Pedagogy   Structural emphasis in writing    1
Pedagogy   Unimaginative teaching            4

Table 6
Apprenticeship of Observation: Secondary English
Program #2: Positive

Area          Characteristic                      Frequency

              Teachers at All Grade Levels

Demeanor      Care/Respect/Support/Believe        8
                in students
Demeanor      Dedicated approach to work          1
Demeanor      Engaging teaching and learning      9
Demeanor      High expectations                   1
Demeanor      Reflect on practice                 2
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching             17
                (creative learning, inquiry,
                relevance, activity-based,
                variety of activities and

              Pre-K, Kindergarten, and
              Elementary School Teachers

Demeanor      Care/Respect/Support/Believe        5
                in students
Demeanor      Engaging teaching and learning      2
Environment   Competitive/incentivized            6
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching             14
                (activity-based learning,
                collaborative learning,
                original/imaginative work,
                individual pathways)
Pedagogy      Event-based learning                3
                (Readathon, book fair)
Pedagogy      Mastery learning                    1
Pedagogy      Strict handwriting instruction      1
Pedagogy      Using reading to moderate           3

              Secondary School Teachers

Demeanor      Dedicated approach to work          2
Demeanor      Care/Respect/Support/Believe        3
                in students
Demeanor      Engaging teaching and learning      3
Demeanor      High expectations                   4
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching            26
                (activity-based learning,
                collaborative learning,
                individualized pathways,
                imaginative learning,
                multimodal learning)
Pedagogy      Traditional (direct &               7
                straightforward) teaching
Pedagogy      Using reading to moderate           2

              University Teachers

Demeanor      Care/Respect/Support/Believe        3
                in students
Demeanor      Engaging teaching and learning      5
Demeanor      High Expectations                   7
Pedagogy      Constructivist teaching             7
                (collaborative learning,
                conversational discussions,
                interactive learning, inquiry,
                meaning-oriented engagement,
                multimodal learning)
Pedagogy      Historicizing literature            4
Pedagogy      Lectures and models Order and       3
Pedagogy        predictability                    1
Pedagogy      Teaching from a pedagogical         2

Table 7
Apprenticeship of Observation: Secondary English Program #2: Negative

Area          Characteristic                    Frequency

              Teachers at All Grade Levels

Demeanor      Negligent toward students and     5
Demeanor      Noninteractive                    1
Pedagogy      Excessive homework                1
Pedagogy      Rote learning                     4

              Pre-K, Kindergarten, and
              Elementary School Teachers

Demeanor      Harsh disposition                 2
Pedagogy      Developmentally inappropriate     2
Pedagogy      Formal emphasis in writing        1
Pedagogy      Rote learning                     3

              Secondary School Teachers

Demeanor      Harsh disposition                 1
Demeanor      Negligent toward students and     1
Environment   Restrict freedom                  1
Pedagogy      Direct grammar instruction        3
Pedagogy      Homework without teaching         1
Pedagogy      Precise notebook                  1
Pedagogy      Directionless teaching            1
Pedagogy      Tedious teaching and              5
Pedagogy      Beat subject to death             2
Pedagogy      Monodisciplinary                  1
Pedagogy      Rote learning                     6

              University Teachers

Demeanor      Harsh Disposition                 1
Demeanor      Negligent toward students and     3
Pedagogy      Bad discussion leader             1
Pedagogy      Exams that don't produce          3
Pedagogy      Lecture                           5
Pedagogy      Coverage over depth               2
Pedagogy      Rote learning                     3
Pedagogy      Vague expectations for writing    3

Table 8
Distribution across Grade Levels of Attributions

             SW           SW          SE          Total
Positive     Elementary   Secondary   Secondary

All          19           3           38          60
Pre-K/Elem   20           8           35          63
Secondary    51           47          47          145
College      28           43          32          103


All          10           2           11          23
Pre-K/Elem   22           5           8           35
Secondary    13           25          23          61
College      15           22          21          58

Table 9
Percentages within Cohorts of Attributions across Grade Levels

              Southwestern Elementary Education Program

              Positive   Negative   Total

All           16%        17%        16%
Pre-K/Elem    17%        37%        24%
Secondary     43%        22%        36%
College       24%        25%        24%

              Southwestern Secondary English Education Program

              Positive   Negative   Total
All           3%         4%         3%
Pre-K/Elem    8%         9%         8%
Secondary     47%        46%        46%
College       43%        41%        42%

              Southeastern Secondary English Education Program

              Positive   Negative   Total
All           25%        17%        23%
Pre-K/Elem    23%        13%        20%
Secondary     31%        37%        33%
College       21%        33%        25%
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Author:Smagorinsky, Peter; Barnes, Meghan E.
Publication:Teacher Education Quarterly
Date:Sep 22, 2014
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