Teacher accounts of pedagogical practice and their visibility in classrooms

Year: 2012

Author: Chia, Alexius

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper describes a study investigating how three teachers account for their pedagogical practices at a time when fundamental changes were made to the lower secondary national science curriculum in Singapore. The study also examines the extent to which their accounts were visible in their classrooms.

The methodology involved interviews with the teachers and observation of their science lessons. For the investigation of the their accounts, the study employed the analytical approach of Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA). In line with Freiberg and Freebody's (1995) framework, the accounts were used as an essential backdrop for reading and analyzing the transcripts of their science lessons. The latter were examined for their production of what counts as scientific knowledge and practices in the teachers' classroom. Hence, features of the lesson talk like exchange structure and nature of teacher questions were analyzed.

The detailed analyses of the interview talk and classroom interaction transcripts surfaced a number of issues of broader relevance surrounding the challenges of curricular reform. Many of these issues confirm the findings from past research studies, others have deepened current understandings of the issues.

The findings suggest that a divide exists between 'neighbourhood' schools and top schools - heard largely through the teachers' attributions accorded to the students which attend them. These contrastive attributions were then employed by the teachers to justify the employment of different ways of instructing these sets of students. These claims were visible in the interaction patterns they employed in their classroom lessons.

Another recurring theme, which emerged from the interviews, is that of institutional and systemic factors - high-stakes examinations, time constraints, curricular factors - which come to bear on the teachers' enactment of the syllabus. These perceived pressures are seen to pull the teachers in different directions. The influence of these pressures was evident again in the teachers' choice of pedagogical actions in their classroom lessons. For example, they continue to perpetuate rather traditional ways of teaching which run contrary to the syllabus aims of promoting an inquiry-based curriculum.

Individual histories of the science teachers - from home, to school and university, through teacher training - were also assembled. The findings from the analysis of their accounts reveal how their past experiences with science are able to shed light on their current beliefs and assumptions about science teaching, and these are seen to impact upon the current activity structures and interaction patterns in their classrooms.