Soslau 2012 Opportunities to Develop Adaptive Expertise During Supervisory Conferences

Soslau, E. (2012). Opportunities to develop adaptive teaching expertise during supervisory conferences. Teaching and Teacher Education, 28, 768-779.

Summary: This study examined the post observation conferences of three supervisors with their three student teachers. The study found that supervisors missed opportunities in their supervisory conferences to support PSTs’ development of adaptive expertise. They recommend that supervisors resist the temptation to “tell” PSTs what they did well and areas for growth and instead through questioning, have PSTs use critical and justificatory dialogue to explain their instructional decisions, describe how the classroom context influenced those decisions, and explain how they balanced their learning with the risk to K-12 students’ learning.

  • “Adaptive teaching experts are pedagogical experts that engage in a process of self-assessing and strategically adjusting their decision-making before, during, and after teaching episodes. They are able to strategically move away from planned curriculum components to better support the problems by noticing unique features, and recognize the need to refine, change, and try out different decisions while paying close attention to the impact on their pupils” (p. 768).
  • “Most literature on adaptive expertise is related to content expertise not teaching expertise. Unlike developing content expertise centered on fluently chunking, and adapting technical application of strategy components, developing teaching expertise requires guidance from an expert who can help novice student teachers learn from a highly complex and deeply contextualized learning process. This process includes employment of critical and justificatory discourse which lead to articulating, rationalizing, and justifying decision-making, noticing and adapting to the needs of the context and pupils, and recognizing the need to balance between experimentation and risk to pupils’ emotional well being and academic growth. University-based supervisors need to be adept at recognizing opportunities to prompt novices to engage in these types of discourses during discussions about observed teaching episodes” (p. 769).
  • “Teachers must learn how to learn from their own teaching so that they can strategically adapt their decision-making to various demands related to diverse contextual and pupil needs” (p. 770).
  • Three kinds of novice problems:

    • Unquestioned familiarity – PST imitates mentor teacher and/or believes what is best is what is familiar; lack an understanding of the rationale for the act
    • Dual purpose – PST fails to recognize that the classroom is a space for both their learning and K-12 students’ learning. This means they must balance their learning with the risk to K-12 students’ learning.
    • Context – PST fails to recognize that context matters and instead believes that what works in one setting will work in another. PST allow curriculum materials to drive their instructional decision-making without considering K-12 students’ unanticipated needs
  • “For adaptive teaching experts there is no such thing as a ‘best practice’ because what is best for one student in one context is not best for all students” (p. 771).
  • “Discourse exchanged within supervisory conferences is complex. In the context of this study, discourse was defined as an exchange of dialog between the supervisor and student teacher which includes feedback, information, opinions, judgments, rationales, explanations, praise, or suggestions” (p. 771).
  • Meta-conferencing is the discussion of the conference itself.
  • “The need to balance student teacher experimentation and ensure positive pupil learning is difficult and forces the student teacher to recognize the duality of purposes” (p. 776).
  • Justificatory discourse can include brainstorming alternative ideas or hypotheses for the instructional decision-making and predicting the impact of the alternative ideas.
  • “An adaptive expert teacher will acknowledge and make decisions based on contextual factors” (p. 776).
  • “The results suggest that the telling conferencing style is not strongly related to opportunities for discussing novice problems in ways that contribute to the development of adaptive expertise” (p. 777).
  • “Infrequent use of critical and justificatory discourse is problematic since these types likely contribute to the development of adaptive teaching expertise. Similarly, overuse of telling impedes the likelihood of critical and justificatory discourse and limits the possibility of discussions related to the three novices’ problems. If the majority of the discourse is centered on how the student teacher feels, recounting the lesson, and giving advice, as is typical of the telling style, than opportunities to discuss the complexities of learning how tot teach and discovering the deep rationales behind decision-making are non-existent” (p. 777).
  • “Even when opportunities to discuss novices’ problems arose, supervisors spent the majority of conferences recounting what happened, asking student teachers to discuss how they felt, helping the student teacher build confidence, and giving advice” (p. 777). Basically, supervisors rely on the telling type.