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Currently, the field of teacher education is undergoing a major shift-a turn away from a predominant focus on specifying the necessary knowledge for teaching toward specifying teaching practices that entail knowledge and doing. In this article, the authors suggest that current work on K-12 core teaching practices has the potential to shift teacher education toward the practice of teaching. However, the authors argue that to realize this vision we must reimagine not only the curriculum for learning to teach but also the pedagogy of teacher education. We present one example of what we mean by reimagined teacher education pedagogy by offering a framework through which to conceptualize the preparation of teachers organized around core practices. From our perspectives, this framework could be the backbone of a larger research and development agenda aimed at engaging teachers and teacher educators in systematic knowledge generation regarding ambitious teaching and teacher education pedagogy. We conclude with an invitation to the field to join with us in imagining approaches to generating and aggregating knowledge about teaching and the pedagogy of teacher education that will move not only our individual practice but also our collective practice forward.
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Journal of Teacher Education
64(5) 378 –386
© 2013 American Association of
Colleges for Teacher Education
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0022487113493807
Theme Articles
Currently, the field of teacher education is undergoing a
major shift—a turn away from a predominant focus on speci-
fying the necessary knowledge for teaching toward specify-
ing teaching practices that entail knowledge and doing (Cook
& Brown, 1999; Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald,
2009; Zeichner, 2012). The fundamental aim undergirding
this turn is to better support teachers in learning how to use
knowledge in action (Ball & Forzani, 2009, Cook & Brown,
1999; Grossman, Hammerness, et al., 2009; Lampert, 2010;
Zeichner, 2012). This turn to practice has led some scholars
in the field to organize the work and scholarship of teacher
education around what they refer to as core practices of K-12
teaching. By highlighting specific, routine aspects of teach-
ing that demand the exercise of professional judgment and
the creation of meaningful intellectual and social community
for teachers, teacher educators, and students, core practices
may offer teacher educators1 powerful tools for preparing
teachers for the constant in-the-moment decision-making
that the profession requires. This movement is stepping up to
the challenge of better preparing novice teachers to raise the
quality of disciplinary learning for students in U.S. schools
and disrupt deficit perspectives of what students and teachers
can accomplish. By raising the quality of disciplinary teach-
ing, a central goal of this work is to improve the learning
opportunities available to students of color, low-income
students, and English language learners. The aim is to address
the persistent inequities that overwhelmingly limit those stu-
dents’ opportunities to learn. Recently research and develop-
ment projects in secondary English language arts, secondary
science, and elementary mathematics have begun to put the
concept of core practices into action in teacher education
with the aim of improving educational opportunities for all
students. These projects offer examples of teaching and
learning that support high levels of student participation,
value the knowledge and resources that students bring to the
classroom, and that maintain high levels of academic rigor.
These examples suggest teaching that could become more
normative in U.S. schools (Core Practices Consortium,
2013).2 This article examines the work of this emerging com-
munity of teacher educators, practitioners, and researchers to
understand how their application of core practices may
inform broader efforts to improve teaching and teacher
493807JTEXXX10.1177/0022487113493807<italic>Journal of Teacher Education</italic>McDonald et al.
1University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Morva McDonald, University of Washington, Box 353600, 211 Miller Hall,
Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
Core Practices and Pedagogies of
Teacher Education: A Call for a Common
Language and Collective Activity
Morva McDonald1, Elham Kazemi1, and Sarah Schneider Kavanagh1
Currently, the field of teacher education is undergoing a major shift—a turn away from a predominant focus on specifying
the necessary knowledge for teaching toward specifying teaching practices that entail knowledge and doing. In this article,
the authors suggest that current work on K-12 core teaching practices has the potential to shift teacher education toward
the practice of teaching. However, the authors argue that to realize this vision we must reimagine not only the curriculum
for learning to teach but also the pedagogy of teacher education. We present one example of what we mean by reimagined
teacher education pedagogy by offering a framework through which to conceptualize the preparation of teachers organized
around core practices. From our perspectives, this framework could be the backbone of a larger research and development
agenda aimed at engaging teachers and teacher educators in systematic knowledge generation regarding ambitious teaching
and teacher education pedagogy. We conclude with an invitation to the field to join with us in imagining approaches to
generating and aggregating knowledge about teaching and the pedagogy of teacher education that will move not only our
individual practice but also our collective practice forward.
elementary teacher education, preservice education, secondary teacher education
McDonald et al. 379
Historically, research on K-12 teaching and research on
teacher education have developed independently of one
another, often with research on teacher education lagging far
behind (Grossman & McDonald, 2008). However, as the
work to identify core practices in the disciplines suggests,
forging a tighter relationship between research on teaching
and the work of teacher education could help the field gain
traction on a number of its perennial challenges. Bridging
research and the practice of teacher education has the poten-
tial to help the field: (a) articulate a common language for
specifying practice, which would facilitate the field’s ability
to engage in collective activity; (b) identify and specify com-
mon pedagogies in teacher education; and (c) address the
perennial and persistent divides among university courses
and between university course work and clinical experi-
ences. An abundance of past reforms in teacher education
(e.g., professional development schools and competency-
based teacher education) act as cautionary tales for those of
us engaged in leveraging core practices of teaching in the
preparation of teachers. Lessons from these efforts suggest
that the move toward core practices in teacher education
risks becoming fad-like, resulting in a proliferation of
approaches driven more by the trend than by a deep under-
standing of how people learn to enact ambitious professional
practice. To avoid this path, we argue that the identification
of K-12 core practices should be accompanied with the iden-
tification, development, and implementation of teacher edu-
cation pedagogies aimed at preparing teachers with those
practices. Without an investigation into the pedagogical
approaches that teacher educators use to teach novices how
to enact core practices, even those efforts that strike the best
balance between complexity and accessibility will stall in
implementation. As the terrain of teacher education turns
toward practice, the field requires new conceptualizations of
practice and new designs for teacher education that realize
the equity goals we share in social-justice programs
(Zeichner, 2012).
In the pages that follow, we argue that for the turn to core
practices to improve teaching and realize our vision of a
closer partnership between schools and colleges of educa-
tion, we must reimagine not only the curriculum for learning
to teach (Grossman, Hammerness, et al., 2009) but also the
pedagogy of teacher education. We present one example of
what we mean by reimagined teacher education pedagogy by
offering a framework through which to conceptualize the
preparation of teachers organized around core practices.
From our perspectives, this framework could be the back-
bone of a larger research and development agenda aimed at
engaging teachers and teacher educators in systematic
knowledge generation regarding ambitious teaching3 and
teacher education pedagogy. We conclude with an invitation
to the field to join with us in imagining approaches to gener-
ating and aggregating knowledge about teaching and the
pedagogy of teacher education that will move not only our
individual practice but also our collective practice forward.
Why Core Practices?
In the last half-century, the field of teacher education has
cycled through several waves of pedagogical approaches to
the preparation of teachers. Each wave has been closely tied
to each era’s predominant conceptual lens for understanding
teaching and learning. In the 1960s and 1970s, when research
on teaching was grounded in a behavioral model of learning,
competency-based teacher education and the pedagogy of
microteaching emerged. During these years, teacher educa-
tors engaged in a behavioral modification model of profes-
sional preparation by identifying discrete competencies for
teaching and offering opportunities for novices to practice
and repractice these discrete skills. In the 1980s, as the para-
digm for research on teaching shifted from behavioral psy-
chology to cognitive psychology, researchers shifted their
focus from teachers’ behaviors to teachers’ thinking and
knowledge. This move from behavior to cognition prompted
the emergence of scholarship detailing the improvisational
nature of teaching. In these years, we began to understand
teaching not as a collection of behavioral competencies, but
instead as a series of moment-to-moment judgments calling
on knowledge about instructional goals, students, and the
integrity of the discipline (Erickson, 1982; Lampert, 1985,
Shulman, 1987). This shift in our understanding of teaching
prompted a shift in teacher education pedagogy as case-
based methods emerged, grounded in disciplinary learning.
Case-based methods were designed to enable teachers to call
on multiple domains of specialized knowledge through the
analysis and interpretation of teachers’ instructional deci-
sions (Grossman, 2005).
The move toward core practices is an attempt to learn
from the affordances and constraints of the last half-century
of approaches to teacher education. While competency-
based teacher education and case-based methods for teacher
education were attempts to better prepare teachers for the
complex work of teaching, in the end neither successfully
attended to what Mary Kennedy (1999) calls the problem of
enactment, or the gap between what novices can consider
and what they are able to do. The move toward core practices
is an attempt to weave together novices’ development of
meaningful knowledge for teaching with their capacity to
actually enact ambitious teaching in particular disciplines in
the classroom. The emerging community of teacher educa-
tors, practitioners, and researchers focused on core practices
attend to the problem of enactment by specifying aspects of
teaching practice that are essential to the work of teaching,
and which novices can learn to enact in their early years.
Their intent has been to support novices to develop a vision
of high-quality teaching that is content-rich, rigorous, and
meaningful to students, and which novices can enact in their
The Learning to Teach In, From, and Through Practice
Project (LTP; Lampert et al., 2013) has experimented with
early designs for core practice focused teacher education.
380 Journal of Teacher Education 64(5)
Work from this project helps to illustrate how focusing on a
set of core practices, grounded in a set of principles of ambi-
tious teaching, potentially facilitates novice teachers’ learn-
ing inside the complexity of teaching. This group of
mathematics educators is motivated by the view that it is
possible to better prepare novice teachers to disrupt long-
standing practices of mathematics teaching, which have not
honored or built on the brilliance of children, particularly in
schools with large populations of marginalized students.
Although teachers have to be responsive to the requirements
of the school environment, our work in teacher education
also entails a continual struggle to develop practices that
challenge the structures that sort and label children, teachers,
and schools. LTP selected eliciting and responding to stu-
dents’ ideas as one of a set of interrelated core practices
because ample evidence substantiates that this practice sup-
ports K-12 students to develop their capacity to engage in
central aspects of the discipline of mathematics: reasoning
and justification. Teacher educators working in LTP engage
novices in watching, planning, and teaching routine instruc-
tional activities, which serve as instructional episodes
through which novices can enact a set of practices and prin-
ciples of ambitious teaching. These activities are structured
so that novice teachers learn how to use rich mathematics
tasks that lend themselves to multiple solutions or mathemat-
ical strategies. Protocols for the instructional activities enable
teachers to engage in the core practice of eliciting and
responding to students by prompting novices to use elicita-
tion sequences such as “How did you get that? Did anyone
have a different idea? Let’s hear you figured that out.”
Novice teachers learn to lead four different instructional
activities, all of which allows them to learn how to elicit stu-
dents’ reasoning. The choice to focus on eliciting and
responding opened the doors for the teacher educators in
LTP to notice that while novice teachers were fairly readily
taking up the practice of eliciting to student thinking and
responding by asking more refined follow-up questions, such
as “What did you do with the 1 that you took out?” they were
not certain how to draw other students into the conversation
or facilitate the conversation toward a particular mathemati-
cal goal. These observations led teacher educators in the
project to identify another core practice of orienting students
to one another and to the mathematics. Not only do teachers
ask follow-up questions but skilled teachers also know what
aspects of students’ solution strategies to make more explicit
and how to keep an eye on the instructional goal as they
respond to students’ contributions and orient them to one
another’s ideas. The goal in identifying and intentionally
noticing and developing these practices as they are interwo-
ven in any lesson is not to develop mechanistic teaching.
This focus on practice fits within equity concerns that teach-
ers attend to the assumptions we make about what students
can and cannot do and who to call on and why.
The scholarly community that is driving the turn toward
practice is primarily doing so by pushing for the development
of core teaching practices around which teacher education
and professional development can be organized. This com-
munity is also identifying and providing visions of how these
practices take shape in the context of principled disciplinary
teaching. One common mischaracterization of the core prac-
tice movement is that it is pushing for the identification of
one set of practices for the field to adopt as a whole. However,
this characterization does not align with the arguments being
put forward by the scholars leading this work. These scholars
seem less interested in prescribing one set of core practices
and more interested in developing a common understanding
of the concept of core practice so that the concept itself might
become a field-wide tool for the organization and implemen-
tation of practice-based teacher education initiatives. These
scholars are also interested in identifying and working on
core practices enabling the creation of a community of prac-
tice around a particular vision of teaching. This community
of practice intends to cultivate relationships among teachers
who are oriented toward learning from practice, and who aim
to learn about and attend to their students’ needs with other
teacher educators (e.g., university-, district-, and school-
level individuals) who support teacher learning and develop-
ment. While the field has not yet settled on a common
understanding of the concept of a core practice, Grossman,
Hammerness, et al. (2009) have set forth a preliminarily list
of criteria that all core practices might share:
Practices that occur with high frequency in teaching,
Practices that novices can enact in classrooms across
different curricula or instructional approaches,
Practices that novices can actually begin to master,
Practices that allow novices to learn more about stu-
dents and about teaching,
Practices that preserve the integrity and complexity of
teaching, and
Practices that are research-based and have the poten-
tial to improve student achievement.
This criteria for identifying core practices challenges
scholars to avoid a reductionist approach in which core prac-
tices become nothing more than the simple selection of spe-
cific moves or a list of best practices comparable with the
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or to name effective
teaching techniques like Lemov’s (2010) popular Teach Like
a Champion. Attention to student achievement is not meant
to be limited to test scores. Instead, we seek measures and
examples that demonstrate students being invested in worth-
while disciplinary work and developing positive disposi-
tions. Examples of core practices that meet these criteria
include the practices of eliciting and responding to students’
ideas, setting and maintaining expectations, or leading par-
ticular types of discussions as they come to life in particular
content areas (Lampert et al., 2013; Ball & Forzani, 2009;
Grossman, 2013). With these criteria in mind, what becomes
important is not a consensus on a final set of universal
McDonald et al. 381
teaching practices, but instead a continual dialogue within the
field and among scholars over how to conceptualize aspects
of practice that support practitioner learning of high-quality
instruction. What is also needed is a continual examination
not just of mechanistic implementation of a set of practices
but the meanings that are imbued within certain enactments
and the kinds of learning environments that can be designed
for students and teachers to thrive. Such a dialog requires
researchers and practitioners to be mutually engaged to wres-
tle with the choices they have made and the ways in which
those choices influence teacher learning and development.
From this perspective, variation in core practices within and
across content areas offers rich opportunities for the field to
grapple with ways of parsing practice that support teachers’
learning. While we are wary of prescribing a set of core prac-
tices for the field as a whole, we are also not arguing that we
should let a thousand flowers bloom—a familiar approach
within teacher education. Instead, we believe that the field
would benefit from coming to an agreement on a set of crite-
ria for identifying, naming, and selecting core practices.
How, for example, can we make more explicit the visions of
teaching and learning environments that such choices reveal?
How are commitments to equity and social justice engaged
and made visible through core practices? If we intend for the
move toward core practices to impact the field at large, then
we must develop a process for determining what counts as a
core practice. Grossman, Hammerness, et al.’s (2009) crite-
ria appears to be an appropriate, if unrefined, starting place.
In addition, we argue that for core practices to have a foot-
hold in teacher education, we must simultaneously develop a
common language for describing the practice of teacher edu-
cation, as well as identify a set of related teacher education
pedagogies. Without a common language and a set of identi-
fied pedagogies, teacher educators are left on their own to
figure out how to prepare teachers to teach the core practices,
and more importantly the field itself misses an important
opportunity to generate knowledge on the range of ways in
which we can support teachers’ learning.
Teacher Education: The Need for a
Common Language and Identified
Preparing teachers to enact core practices with K-12 students
requires a sea change in the scholarship and practice of
teacher education. In our view, this change requires scholars
and practitioners (often one and the same) to collaborate in
the development of a common language for describing
(a) how teachers learn to practice and (b) the pedagogies
teacher educators enact to support teachers in learning to
practice. Below we offer a framework for organizing the
scholarship and practice of teacher education in an effort to
support the field’s capacity to aggregate knowledge about
pedagogical practice in teacher education. Without a common
framework, the field is limited in three major ways. First, we
are limited in our ability to investigate how much and in what
ways the core practices themselves need to change as the
context of their implementation changes. Second, we are
limited in our ability to develop teacher education pedago-
gies that support teachers in learning to enact core practices.
And third, the lack of a common language limits our ability
to engage in research aimed at understanding the impact of
core practices and supporting pedagogies on K-12 student
If we continue to develop and identify core practices for
K-12 teaching without simultaneously considering how we
will prepare teachers to enact those practices, implementa-
tion will fall short of leveraging the majority of teacher edu-
cators in the 2000 plus institutions to engage this work. Our
argument is not that one needs to develop a lock step pre-
scription for how to prepare teachers to enact core practices,
but rather that as a field we would benefit from a simple
framework, applicable across contexts, that would allow us
to learn with and from one another. Our hope is that this
framework would also enable us to build tools and resources
that teacher educators (broadly defined) could access to
make decisions about how best to teach the candidates or
teachers in their contexts. In the following section, we
describe our framework for learning to enact core practices.
We start by discussing the theory of professional learning on
which the framework rests and then describe the framework
Learning Cycle
Teacher education programs are often organized in ways that
align with acquisition models of learning in which teacher
educators deliver information about teaching to teacher can-
didates through courses at a university or other non-K-12 set-
ting. The onus is then on the teacher candidates to carry that
learning with them as they enter the field. We understand
that many teacher educators strive to interrupt this model of
learning, but because of the lack of a conceptualization of
how professionals learn, they must do so on their own within
the confines of their own limited resources.
By developing a cycle for learning to enact core practices
that is strongly grounded in a situated perspective on learn-
ing, our framework is intended to push against the tendency
in teacher education to default to an acquisition model of
learning. Our cycle for learning to enact core practices is
grounded in a theoretical perspective that sees learning as
collective activity that is mediated by individual and institu-
tional histories as well as conceptual and material tools
(Rogoff, 1997; Wenger, 1998). We view professional learn-
ing as a process of becoming a teacher with concomitant
knowledge, beliefs, and skills. Learning is a process that
occurs over time in interaction with the particular settings in
which and students with whom teachers learn to teach
382 Journal of Teacher Education 64(5)
(Cochran-Smith, 2004; Ensor, 2001; Oakes, Lipton,
Anderson, & Stillman, 2012).
Developed out of this perspective on learning as well as
from a variety of teacher educators’ approaches to their own
methods classes (Grossman, 2013; Kazemi, Lampert, &
Franke, 2009; Windschitl, Thompson, Braaten, & Stroupe,
2012), we propose Figure 1 as a framework for orienting the
pedagogy of teacher education. This cycle intends to offer
guided assistance to candidates to learn particular practices
by introducing them to the practices as they come to life in
meaningful units of instruction, preparing them to actually
enact those practices, requiring them to enact the practices
with real students in real classrooms, and then returning to
their enactment through analysis. Depending on the goals
and purposes of the teacher educator, it is possible to start
this learning cycle in any of its four quadrants. For example,
while we might often begin by introducing practices to can-
didates through modeling or video representation, we could
also begin by engaging candidates in an analysis of their own
instruction or interaction with students in an effort to help
them understand why the core practices we intend for them
to develop would support their K-12 students’ learning in
ways that are either similar or different to how they are cur-
rently practicing.
To better understand how this cycle maps onto the work of
teacher education, we will now elaborate how this cycle might
be implemented to teach novices how to enact the core prac-
tice of Eliciting Students’ Thinking. This core practice focuses
on drawing out students’ ideas about content and responding
to those ideas in ways that move students’ learning forward.
Our framework for learning to enact core practices calls
us first to embed the practice we are focusing on into an
enact-able activity, what some scholars are calling “instruc-
tional activities” (Lampert & Graziani, 2009). While a prac-
tice is something that someone habitually and consistently
does (Lampert & Graziani, 2009), it still remains an abstrac-
tion of the work of teaching until it is embedded into an
instantiation of teaching-in-action. The use of instructional
activities is one way to construct authentic episodes of teach-
ing around core practices for the purpose of novice learning.
Instructional activities are containers that offer novices an
opportunity to try on core practices without having to create
that opportunity themselves, which can often be too diffi-
cult given their context and/or their capacity. Instructional
Figure 1. Cycle for collectively learning to engage in an authentic and ambitious instructional activity.
McDonald et al. 383
activities are episodes that have beginnings, middles, and
ends and within those episodes they clearly guide how teach-
ers and students are expected to interact, how materials are to
be used, and how classroom space is to be arranged. The
reason for this detailed specification is to create a container
within which a novice might rehearse the relational and
improvisational work that teaching requires. Well-crafted
instructional activities can also allow teachers to attend to
how children’s ideas are given voice in the classroom, and
how participation structures in the classroom position stu-
dents competently and enable children to orient to one anoth-
er’s ideas and meaningful ideas in the content. They also
challenge teachers’ ideas about who can learn and what it
means to learn in school. In addition, instructional activities
act as common texts that teacher educators can use to help
novices work collectively to construct the knowledge neces-
sary to enact the core practice in a more authentic classroom
One example of how teacher educators use instructional
activities to teach core practices to novices can be found at
the University of Washington. Sarah Kavanagh teaches sec-
ondary social studies teachers to engage in the core practice
of eliciting and responding to student thinking through a
variety of instructional activities, including Sourcing
Documents (McDonald et al., 2013). This instructional activ-
ity is approximately 10 to 15 min long and offers novices a
detailed participation structure for facilitating student dis-
course about the origin and purpose of a set of documents,
usually primary sources. The activity can be used in any
social studies or history course and at any secondary grade
level. While the core practice of eliciting student thinking is
improvisational in nature, the instructional activity of sourc-
ing documents involves many structured supports to help
novices create opportunities to elicit student thinking, enact
a plan for elicitation, and use his or her enactment as a learn-
ing tool for further professional development.
The learning cycle not only illustrates how core prac-
tices are embedded into instructional activities but also how
teacher educators help novices to learn from their enact-
ment of these activities. As an initial step in supporting
teachers’ learning, a teacher educator might introduce an
activity to teacher candidates by modeling it themselves, by
watching and analyzing a video of a teacher enacting the
activity, or by reading a case in which a teacher enacts the
activity. These three pedagogies (modeling, video analysis,
and case analysis) are all representations of practice
(Grossman, Hammerness, et al., 2009), which serve to help
teacher candidates develop an image of the activity and
embedded practices under study. Once teacher candidates
have developed a vision of the activity and embedded prac-
tices through their work in Quadrant 1, they might move to
the work of Quadrant 2, planning for and rehearsing the
practice. Work in Quadrant 2 might take the form of col-
laborative lesson-planning followed by rehearsal of those
plans in the context of their university-based methods
course. Together, teacher educators and candidates would
debrief the rehearsed attempts and revise the plan. Having
prepared for enactment through planning and sheltered
practice (what Grossman, Compton, et al., 2009, would
call an approximation of practice), candidates would move
into Quadrant 3, enacting the activity with students. This
could take place, as it would in many teacher education pro-
grams, in the classrooms of mentor teachers or, if they were
practicing teachers, in the context of their own classrooms.
During enactment, teacher educators might support novices
by engaging in live, in-the-moment coaching or by co-
teaching to provide in-the-moment modeling. An important
component of the enactment is to have teacher candidates
capture their enactment in concrete ways that they can then
share with the teacher educator and their colleagues for
feedback. Such examples could include taking a video of
their efforts or collecting and analyzing artifacts of student
learning. Finally, candidates would move into Quadrant 4,
where they would engage in an analysis of their specific
enactment, or an investigation of practice (Grossman,
Hammerness, et al., 2009). The analysis part of the cycle is
focused on supporting teacher candidates to learn from
their own practice—a skill that will likely help them as they
continue to develop their practice. In this and other parts of
the cycle, the reflective and analytic work that novices do
together is a key aspect of giving meaning to the practices
that are being worked on. As Delpit (2012) and others (e.g.,
Danny Martin, Erin Turner, Gloria Ladson Billings, Carol
Lee) elegantly argue, equity is not visible simply in what
teachers do but also in the meanings and principles that
guide how they view children, the relationships they build
with children, how they draw on children’s cultural knowl-
edge, and the stance they take on the work of teaching.
The learning cycle that we propose above puts core prac-
tices into conversation with a vision of professional learning
for the purpose of offering the field tools for understanding
how novices might learn to skillfully enact core practices in
the classroom. In the next sections, we unpack the learning
cycle further by illustrating how a common framework for
professional preparation might help the field generate knowl-
edge about pedagogies for professional preparation by allow-
ing for the exchange of ideas across:
 Different settings for teacher education (university
classrooms, P-12 classrooms, and hybrid spaces)
 Different content areas (math, science, social studies,
and literacy)
 The three broad areas of teacher education (founda-
tions, methods, and clinical practice).
Our hope is that with a broadly applicable common frame-
work for professional learning, we might take steps toward
developing a common language of pedagogy for learning to
practice across different settings and content areas. We
believe that developing a common language for pedagogies
384 Journal of Teacher Education 64(5)
of practice that is relevant across multiple settings and con-
tent areas will further professionalize the field by offering
teacher educators opportunities to collectively engage with
one another to generate and aggregate knowledge.
Below, we will discuss how the learning cycle might be
made relevant to (a) the multiple settings in which novices
are currently learning to practice, and (b) the contemporary
organization of teacher education. Finally, we will discuss
how this framework might help the field to conceptualize
core practices as dynamic entities that grow and change as
professionals engage with and learn from them, therefore
addressing the real danger within the core practices move-
ment of stagnation and rapid irrelevancy.
Teacher Education Settings
The contemporary landscape of teacher education includes
several different settings, each of which have a different set
of affordances and constraints for novice learning. These
settings include: controlled settings (i.e., university class-
rooms), authentic settings (i.e., P-12 classrooms), and
designed settings that intentionally include elements of con-
trolled and authentic settings to facilitate novice learning
(i.e., teacher education classes held in P-12 schools that
incorporate teacher educator-mediated practice with P-12
students; Grossman, Hammerness, et al., 2009). We believe
that the learning cycle proposed above is applicable across
settings, although its implementation might look quite differ-
ent across settings (see Table 1).
Because setting shapes the work of teacher education so
drastically, having a common learning framework across set-
tings will help scholars and practitioners aggregate knowl-
edge from diverse settings. Because the field has no common
language with which to make scholarship and practice rele-
vant across settings, it is rare for knowledge produced in one
setting to influence work in other settings. With a common
framework for professional learning that can be implemented
across settings, the field can begin to generate knowledge
about the preparation of professionals that draws from work
being done in multiple settings.
Content Areas
To be relevant to the contemporary landscape of teacher edu-
cation, any framework for learning to engage in core prac-
tices must also attend to the contemporary organization of
teacher education programs. Most teacher education pro-
grams are organized into methods courses (which are split
into different disciplines: mathematics, literacy, science,
etc.), foundations courses, and clinical practice. There is
such a deep split between these areas that it is rare for teacher
educators who specialize in one area to have opportunities to
Table 1. The Learning Cycle Across Settings.
Type of setting Example of setting Quadrant Example of learning cycle implementation
Controlled setting
Methods course held at a
Q1 Teachers watch and discuss video of teaching
Q2 Teachers collaboratively plan and then rehearse their plans as other
teachers “play” students.
Q3 In their field placement, teachers try out the plan they rehearsed.
They capture their enactment on video.
Q4 Teachers return to the university classroom with video of their
enactment and collaboratively analyze their video and make plans
for improvement of their practice.
Designed setting Methods course held in a K-12
school. Teachers and teacher
educators engage with K-12
students and K-12 teachers
as a central part of the work
they do together in the
Q1 Teachers watch a teacher educator or K-12 teacher model a teaching
practice with K-12 students.
Q2 Teachers collaboratively plan and then rehearse their plans as other
teachers “play” students.
Q3 Teachers immediately enact their plan with students at the school
while teacher educators provide in-the-moment feedback.
Q4 Teachers and teacher educators debrief the enactment they just
Authentic setting Teacher educators working
with teachers at the school
and/or classroom where
those teachers are the
teachers of record. Together
they work with K-12
students whom the teachers
know well and whose
learning they are responsible
Q1 In their own classroom, teachers watch a teacher educator model a
teaching practice with their students.
Q2 Teachers work with teacher educators to plan the activity, weighing
different choices they could make in posing the task, anticipate
student responses, and developing questions they will ask given
various student responses.
Q3 Teachers enact their plan with their own students while teacher
educators provide in-the-moment feedback.
Q4 Teachers reflect on what they learned and revise plans for future
McDonald et al. 385
learn from those working in the other areas. In addition, nov-
ices often struggle to transfer the skills and knowledge that
they gain in one area into their work in another (Smagorinsky,
Cook, & Johnson, 2003).
One approach to addressing this perennial problem in
teacher education is to develop a common language of
teacher education and an identified set of pedagogies that
could map onto the different areas of content covered in
teacher education programs. It may be that teacher educators
working in the foundations may have a lot to teach methods
instructors about how to analyze enactment through reflec-
tion, while teacher educators’ working methods may have a
lot to teach foundations instructors about how to rehearse
enactment (Kavanagh & McDonald, 2013). However, with-
out a common language and a framework for aggregating
pedagogical knowledge and tools, we may not ever become
aware of the things we have to learn from one another.
In conclusion, throughout this article, we have articulated
an argument for connecting the work of identifying K-12
teaching core practices to the work of specifying and devel-
oping teacher education pedagogies. Without such a bridge,
the promise of the core practices movement will stall in
implementation as so many other efforts to improve teaching
and teacher education have done in the past. Finally, we hope
that our colleagues in teacher education will take up our call
to engage collectively with us in building such a bridge by
articulating a vision for teaching and teacher education,
specifying the practices of both, and bridging the work of
teaching to teacher preparation in ways that will support all
of us to better preparing teachers and in turn, improve the
learning opportunities available to K-12 students.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
1. In this article, we conceptualize “teacher educators” as those
individuals within university-based preparation programs,
non-university-based preparation programs, schools, and
school districts who are responsible for the learning and devel-
opment of teachers. Examples of teacher educators include
university faculty, collaborating teachers in practice-based
programs, and district or school content coaches.
2. The authors want to thank the members of the Core Practice
Consortium for their intellectual leadership and engagement in
teacher education practice and scholarship.
3. For our purposes, we define ambitious teaching practice as
a practice that attends to the learning of all students—across
ethnic, racial, class, and gender categories—and that aims
to deepen students’ understanding of ideas as well as their
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Author Biographies
Morva McDonald is an associate professor in teacher education at
the University of Washington and co-facilitator with Pam Grossman
of the Core Practices Consortium. Her research focuses primarily
on organizational issues in teacher education, with a particular
emphasis on how to design and implement programs with social-
justice commitments.
Elham Kazemi is an associate dean of professional learning and
associate professor of mathematics education at the University of
Washington. She studies practice-based designs for professional
education for prospective and practicing teachers that advance stu-
dents’ learning in elementary mathematics and cultivate produc-
tive professional communities for teachers.
Sarah Schneider Kavanagh is a doctoral student in Curriculum and
Instruction at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her work is
centrally concerned with understanding the relationship between
teaching as a professional practice and teaching as a social-justice
mission. Her research interests include teaching practices that actively
interrupt patterns of inequity in schools and teacher education prac-
tices that prepare teachers to interrupt persistent inequitable patterns in
... When the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted field experiences and forced countless teacher education courses online, it provided a novel opportunity to study how teacher educators transitioned their courses and field experiences online. The present study offers findings from an exploratory multiple case study (Yin, 2014) of six novice teacher educators who transitioned practice-based teacher education courses (PBTE) online in response to There are four overarching pedagogies of PBTE: representations of practice, approximations of practice, enactment, and reflections on practice (Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009;McDonald, Kazemi, & Kavanagh, 2013). We use this pedagogical language to describe how each educator in our study intended to enact these pedagogies within their courses and how each pedagogy was impacted by the transition to online instruction. ...
... PBTE focuses less on what preservice teachers (PSTs) know (theoretical knowledge) and more on how they enact that knowledge through teaching. The end goal of PBTE is teachers who are prepared for highly improvisational, student-centered teaching (Forzani, 2014;McDonald et al., 2013). In the next section, we detail the pedagogies found in the literature to support PBTE. ...
... present a framework for professional practice organized around the representation, decomposition, and approximation of practices. McDonald et al.'s (2013) learning cycle framework contributes pedagogies of enactment and analysis of enactment through reflection. Together these frameworks provide a common language that describes the pedagogies used to engage PSTs in different aspects of teaching practices. ...
The consequences and affordances of online teacher education remain understudied, even as it promises greater accessibility. The COVID-19-related pivot to emergency remote teaching offered a novel opportunity to study how practice-based teacher educators transitioned courses online. This multiple case study of six graduate student instructors examines the effects of transition on four pedagogies of practice-based teacher education. We discovered that 1) representations and 2) approximations of practice could be adapted with minimal disruption. However, 3) enactments could be transitioned only with loss and cascading effects that impacted 4) reflections on practice. These findings can promote teacher educators' awareness of how to create intentionally designed online practice-based teacher education courses.
... To help pre-service teachers to re-conceptualise their pedagogical knowledge and skills of application of teaching methods, science teacher education programmes need to adopt a practice-based philosophy anchored in constructivism (Ball & Forzani, 2011;Forzani, 2014;McDonald et al., 2013). Drawing from the above epistemological root, the most profound challenge for pre-service science teachers is not the acquisition of knowledge about teaching methods, but making personal sense of constructivist instructional practices (Schön, 1983). ...
... In a bid to reorient the teaching methods to a constructivist pedagogy, researchers (Ball & Forzani, 2011;Grossman, 2018;Kloser, 2014;McDonald et al., 2013;Sherin et al., 2011;Trna & Trnova, 2015;Windschitl et al., 2012) have decomposed teaching methods into short, explicit, learner-oriented specified instructional practices that pre-service teachers can implement. Implementing these instructional practices in a context similar to that of their professional work coupled with adequate pedagogical and technical support has the potential to promote the integration of constructivist instructional practices in teaching (Meyer & Land, 2006;. ...
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We are very happy to publish this issue of the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research. The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research is a peer-reviewed open-access journal committed to publishing high-quality articles in the field of education. Submissions may include full-length articles, case studies and innovative solutions to problems faced by students, educators and directors of educational organisations. To learn more about this journal, please visit the website We are grateful to the editor-in-chief, members of the Editorial Board and the reviewers for accepting only high quality articles in this issue. We seize this opportunity to thank them for their great collaboration. The Editorial Board is composed of renowned people from across the world. Each paper is reviewed by at least two blind reviewers. We will endeavour to ensure the reputation and quality of this journal with this issue.
... The pre-service teacher requires opportunity for experiential learning to enact integration of constructivist instructional practices, as well as pedagogical support so as to effectively describe or explain scientific concepts and appropriately connect to natural phenomena and to learners' real-life experiences (McDonald et al. 2013). The enactment of integration of instructional practices in teaching exposes the misconceptions the pre-service teachers may hold (Marios & Iosif, 2016). ...
... Additionally, the effect of integration of the instructional practices in the lecture method was not statistically significant and revealed that, towards the end of TP, the participants applied a lecture method. This shows that experiential learning did not alter the participants' frame of reference adequately to address their learning needs (Korthagen & Kessels, 1999;McDonald et al., 2013). Therefore exposing pre-service science teachers to the classroom context without adequate conceptual knowledge and sufficient pedagogical support cannot promote the integration of constructivist instructional practices in the lecture method (Stahl et al., 2016). ...
Full-text available
We are very happy to publish this issue of the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research. The International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research is a peer-reviewed open-access journal committed to publishing high-quality articles in the field of education. Submissions may include full-length articles, case studies and innovative solutions to problems faced by students, educators and directors of educational organisations. To learn more about this journal, please visit the website We are grateful to the editor-in-chief, members of the Editorial Board and the reviewers for accepting only high quality articles in this issue. We seize this opportunity to thank them for their great collaboration. The Editorial Board is composed of renowned people from across the world. Each paper is reviewed by at least two blind reviewers. We will endeavour to ensure the reputation and quality of this journal with this issue.
... The idea is to engage novice teachers in the work of teaching before they enter the classroom with students, and to allow them to practice discrete components of the work of teaching in meaningful ways with support. The closely aligned Core Practices movement suggests a differentiation among teaching practices that identifies some as more critical for teachers to master, allowing programs of teacher education to focus more narrowly on what will be most useful (Forzani, 2014;McDonald et al., 2013). Taken together, these frameworks suggest that, prior to working with K-12 students, novice teachers should spend time practicing the most critical teaching practices, or components of them, as part of university coursework and as part of a structured trajectory of teacher learning. ...
... First, for Likert-scale survey questions, we used frequencies and descriptive statistics to identify trends. Second, we used a general qualitative analysis approach (Maxwell, 2013) to examine the survey and interview data to identify themes and patterns in the participants' responses. Specifically, we generated coding schemes to examine what the PSTs reported learning from the simulated teaching experience, what challenges the PSTs and TEs faced, the opportunities this tool afforded during the pandemic, and possibilities for use in the post-pandemic era. ...
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Educator preparation programs experienced extreme challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many universities and K-12 schools moved to fully online or hybrid instructional models. These abrupt changes significantly limited preservice teachers’ opportunities to engage in classroom-based practice teaching experiences, which are a bedrock of educator preparation programs to support preservice teachers in learning how to teach effectively. In this study, we examined the usability and viability of integrating simulated teaching experiences, which occur in an online, virtual classroom environment consisting of five student avatars, into elementary science method courses during the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare preservice science teachers to engage in one critical science teaching practice: facilitating discussions that engage students in scientific argumentation. This study uses qualitative content analysis of survey data and a focus group interview to identify patterns and themes in how four elementary science teacher educators and 49 of their preservice teachers perceived the use of this tool within elementary science teacher education, particularly the opportunities and challenges this tool afforded during the pandemic and possibilities for use in the post-COVID era. Study findings suggest that these elementary science teacher educators and preservice teachers perceived the simulated teaching experience as valuable for supporting teacher learning, addressing COVID-related challenges, and tackling perennial challenges in science teacher education. They also noted challenges related to implementation and concerns with future access. A discussion of key factors that may support and hinder the use of such tools within elementary science teacher education and implications for leveraging lessons learned post-COVID are included.
... • • Representations of practice, such as videos or transcripts of accomplished practice that make discrete practice visible and available for interrogation (Hurlbut & Krutka, 2020;McDonald et al., 2013); • • Decomposition of practice, that is, identification of underlying principles and components of practice (Janssen et al, 2015;McDonald et al., 2014); • • Approximations of practice, that is, bounded and scaffolded opportunities to try enacting or rehearsing practices in the university courses and/or field experiences (Kavanagh, Metz, et al., 2019;Lampert et al., 2013). ...
Scholars have called for promoting coherence in teacher education programs. Such coherence is often depicted as a state to be achieved. This article reconceptualizes coherence as a dynamic process affected by the simultaneous organizational realities of unity, conflict, and fragmentation; it also aims to clarify factors that can facilitate or challenge the work of enhancing teacher education program coherence. Drawing on a case study of program-wide redesign, we show that promoting coherence requires more than just maximizing unity (instructors’ agreement on means and ends). It also requires addressing conflict and recognizing fragmentation in ways that support what we term “pathway flexibility.” By highlighting the interplay of unity, conflict, and fragmentation, we offer a set of conceptual tools to understand and support the development of program coherence in teacher education.
... Following the call for teacher education to focus on a core set of clinical practices that integrate disciplinary knowledge and pedagogical strategies (Grossman, Compton, et al., 2009;Grossman, Hammerness, et al., 2009), a rich body of research in mathematics teacher education has examined how to support teachers to skillfully enact these core practices. Core practices for novice teachers have been scaffolded with a variety of approximations of practice (Grossman, Compton, et al., 2009;Grossman, Hammerness, et al., 2009), the use of cycles of enactment and reflection (McDonald et al., 2013;Santagata et al., 2018), and the use of technologies either leveraged (van Es et al., 2017;Wake et al., 2017) or designed (Herbst et al., 2016) for this purpose. ...
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This study examines technology-enhanced teacher responses and students’ written mathematical explanations to understand how to support effective teacher responding and the centering of students’ mathematical ideas. Although prior research has focused on teacher noticing and responding to students’ mathematical ideas, few studies have explored the revisions that students make to their written explanations after teacher responding and very few explore this in authentic classroom contexts. Four high school geometry teachers and thirty of their students participated in project-based tasks examining the relationships between scale factor and the dimensions, surface area, and volume of a rectangular prism. The teachers’ written feedback and the students’ written explanations were coded and scored. Results show that student explanations improved significantly after students received feedback about their mathematical ideas. Furthermore, results indicate that the teacher feedback may be more effective if it focuses on mathematical relationships between variables and that additional feedback about the variables alone may have little impact. Results contribute to an understanding of how eliciting students’ written mathematical explanations might support effective teacher responding in classroom contexts.
Background : Teacher education is a complex endeavor designed to prepare preservice teachers for the task of teaching physical education to students in K–12 schools. Yet, there is widespread criticism of teacher education outcomes within the United States and around the world. Consequently, teacher educators have been increasingly called upon to use evidence-based approaches in teacher education. Purpose : In this article, we discuss a teacher education reform called practice-based teacher education from macro and micro perspectives. Discussion : Practice-based teacher education emphasizes a curriculum that is focused on relevance defined in terms of what a teacher needs to know and do to be able to teach physical education. Evidence for curricular changes to physical education teacher education and to the content and pedagogies of methods and content classes are presented. We conclude with a discussion of how practice-based teacher education can address social injustice.
In this study, I worked with five third grade teachers and their students to investigate the question: how are number talks enacted to advance the developmental trajectories of math-talk learning communities? Findings from this study revealed (a) number talks can be enacted across all the developmental levels of a math-talk learning community, (b) variations of number talks supported teachers to intentionally build the sociomathematical norms needed for math-talk learning communities, and the (c) whole group discussion phase energized teachers to move toward a classroom community centered on discourse. In sum, how number talks were enacted supported teachers in building rich math-talk learning communities.
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Current theories of novice teacher learning have not accounted for the varied influences of pedagogical training, subject matter knowledge, tools, identity, and institutional context(s) on the development of classroom practice. We examined how 26 beginning secondary science teachers developed instructional repertoires as they participated in two types of communities, one infused with discourses and tools supportive of ambitious teaching and another that reinforced traditional practices. We found three trajectories of practice—each with distinctive signatures for how novices engaged students intellectually. Differences were explained by: the communities with which teachers most closely identified, the degree to which teachers’ discourses about student thinking were developed within these communities, and how teachers used tools from the communities to shape their practice.
This article describes a two-year longitudinal study that tracked seven students through a one-year, full-time, university-based secondary mathematics method course and into their first year of teaching in the Western Cape province of South Africa. The purpose of the study was to describe the recontextualizing from the mathematics method course by these beginning teachers. Qualitative analysis of the teacher education course, of students' positioning in relation to this course, and later of their positioning in relation to teachers and learners in schools, was conducted. The results showed that beginning teachers drew in two ways from the method course: they reproduced a small number of discrete tasks that had been introduced to them there, and they also deployed a professional argot--a way of talking about teaching and learning mathematics. This recontextualizing was shaped by the beginning teachers' educational biographies and school contexts, but most particularly by access to recognition and realization rules.
Background/Context This study investigates how people are prepared for professional practice in the clergy, teaching, and clinical psychology. The work is located within research on professional education, and research on the teaching and learning of practice. Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study The purpose of the study is to develop a framework to describe and analyze the teaching of practice in professional education programs, specifically preparation for relational practices. Setting The research took place in eight professional education programs located in seminaries, schools of professional psychology, and universities across the country. Population/Participants/Subjects Our research participants include faculty members, students, and administrators at each of these eight programs. Research Design This research is a comparative case study of professional education across three different professions—the clergy, clinical psychology, and teaching. Our data include qualitative case studies of eight preparation programs: two teacher education programs, three seminaries, and three clinical psychology programs. Data Collection and Analysis For each institution, we conducted site visits that included interviews with administrators, faculty, and staff; observations of multiple classes and field-work; and focus groups with students who were either at the midpoint or at the end of their programs. Conclusions/Recommendations We have identified three key concepts for understanding the pedagogies of practice in professional education: representations, decomposition, and approximations of practice. Representations of practice comprise the different ways that practice is represented in professional education and what these various representations make visible to novices. Decomposition of practice involves breaking down practice into its constituent parts for the purposes of teaching and learning. Approximations of practice refer to opportunities to engage in practices that are more or less proximal to the practices of a profession. In this article, we define and provide examples of the representation, decomposition, and approximation of practice from our study of professional education in the clergy, clinical psychology, and teaching. We conclude that, in the program we studied, prospective teachers have fewer opportunities to engage in approximations that focus on contingent, interactive practice than do novices in the other two professions we studied.
Prologue Part I. Practice: Introduction I 1. Meaning 2. Community 3. Learning 4. Boundary 5. Locality Coda I. Knowing in practice Part II. Identity: Introduction II 6. Identity in practice 7. Participation and non-participation 8. Modes of belonging 9. Identification and negotiability Coda II. Learning communities Conclusion: Introduction III 10. Learning architectures 11. Organizations 12. Education Epilogue.
Recent calls for teacher preparation to become more grounded in practice prompt the questions: Which practices? and perhaps more fundamentally, what counts as a model of instruction worth learning for a new professional—i.e., the beginner's repertoire? In this report, we argue the following: If a defined set of subject-specific high-leverage practices could be articulated and taught during teacher preparation and induction, the broader teacher education community could collectively refine these practices as well as the tools and other resources that support their appropriation by novices across various learning-to-teach contexts. To anchor our conversation about these issues, we describe the evolution, in design, and enactment, of a “candidate core” and a suite of tools that supported the approximation of equitable and rigorous pedagogy for several groups of beginning science teachers. Their struggles and successes in taking up ambitious practice informed not only our designs for a beginner's repertoire but also a system of tools and socioprofessional routines that could foster such teaching over time. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed 96:878–903, 2012
Current work to identify the core teaching practices that should be included in teacher education curriculum is a part of a long-standing tradition of reform in American teacher education. This article situates the proposals of Hiebert and Morris and the contemporary work to which it is linked within this historical tradition and identifies several issues that need to be addressed by this current work. These include the task of developing a system that unlike performance-based systems in the past is evidence-based, manageable, and sustainable, and that does not ignore important aspects of good teaching.
We analyze a particular pedagogy for learning to interact productively with students and subject matter, which we call “rehearsal.” Our goal is to specify a way in which teacher educators (TEs) and novice teachers (NTs) can interact around teaching that is both embedded in practice and amenable to analysis. We address two main research questions: (a) What do TEs and NTs do together during the kind of rehearsals we have developed to prepare novices for the complex, interactive work of teaching? and (b) Where, in what they do, are there opportunities for NTs to learn to enact the principles, practices, and knowledge entailed in ambitious teaching? We detail what happens in rehearsals using quantitative and qualitative methods. We begin with the results of our quantitative analyses to characterize how typical rehearsals were structured and what was worked on. We then show how NTs and TEs worked together to enable novices to study principled practice through qualitative analyses of a particularly salient aspect of ambitious teaching, namely, eliciting and responding to students’ performance.
Teacher education is often viewed as too theoretical and not sufficiently concerned with the realities of classroom practice. From this perspective theory and practice are cast as distinct realms whose only connection comes when theory influences practice. We argue that the theory-practice dichotomy lacks the richness of Vygotsky's notion of concepts, in which abstract principles are interwoven with worldly experience. More specifically, Vygotsky distinguishes two types of concepts, spontaneous concepts and scientific concepts. Spontaneous concepts are learned through cultural practice and, because they are tied to learning in specific contexts, allow for limited generalization to new situations; scientific concepts are learned through formal instruction and, because they are grounded in general principles, can more readily be applied to new situations. Vygotsky argues that while spontaneous concepts may be developed without formal instruction, scientific concepts require interplay with spontaneous concepts; hence the problematic nature of the theory-practice dichotomy. He further identifies two types of generalization that approximate concepts yet do not achieve their theoretical unity: complexes, in which some members of the set may be unified with others but all are not unified according to the same principle; and pseudoconcepts, in which members of the set appear unified but include internal inconsistencies. We argue that teacher educators should strive to teach concepts, though the overall structure of teacher education programs makes it more likely that their students will learn complexes or pseudoconcepts. We illustrate these problems with examples from case studies of teachers making the transition from their teacher education programs to their first jobs.