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Reviews of Teachers’ Beliefs  

Helenrose Fives, Nicole Barnes, Candice Chiavola, Kit SaizdeLaMora, Erika Oliveros, and Sirine Mabrouk-Hattab

Beliefs refer to propositions that are considered to be true. Teachers’ beliefs refer largely to the beliefs teachers hold that are relevant to their teaching practice. Teachers hold beliefs about a myriad of things, as do all humans. However, specific beliefs about teaching, learning, and students seem to play a particular role in teachers’ practices and willingness to engage in professional learning opportunities. Teachers’ beliefs are relevant for issues in teacher education such as motivation for teaching, instructional practices, classroom management, and assessment activities. Beliefs that preservice and practicing teachers bring to professional learning experiences influence how and what is learned in those experiences and ultimately what is put into practice. To understand what is meant by the construct of teachers’ beliefs, one must consider the variation in definitions and the need for construct clarification. Any investigation into teachers’ beliefs must account for two fundamental aspects of this construct: the nature of belief as a construct and the content of belief under construction. By nature of belief, we refer to how the construct of belief is defined and understood, in particular the stance that researchers take with regard to the relationship between knowledge and beliefs. Belief content refers to what the belief is specifically about, such as general beliefs about teaching, learning, students, or more specific beliefs about an instructional practice (e.g., cooperative learning), classroom assessment, and diverse student groups. Without a clear conceptual understanding of the beliefs investigated, understanding empirical findings and drawing implications for practice may be misguided. Four themes frame the scholarship on teachers’ beliefs: (1) conceptualizing teachers’ beliefs, (2) teachers’ beliefs and teachers’ practice, (3) development of teachers’ beliefs, and (4) changing teachers’ beliefs. Teacher educators should consider the importance of teacher beliefs on teacher learning when designing and implementing learning experiences for preservice and in-service teachers. Specifically, teacher educators need to provide opportunities for teachers to reveal their beliefs, attend to identity and emotion with beliefs, and support belief enactment. A key finding across the field is the need to consider the whole teacher when examining teachers’ beliefs and facilitating change or development in them; that is, teachers’ emotions, identity, career stage, life stages, and the myriad of beliefs they hold about a variety of topics all influence how beliefs are aligned and enacted (or not) in practice.

Article

Social Emotional Learning and Inclusion in Schools  

Laura Sokal and Jennifer Katz

Inclusive classrooms provide new opportunities for group membership and creation of effective learning environments. In order to facilitate the success of inclusion as an approach and philosophy, it is important that all class members as well as their teachers develop the skills to understand one another, and to communicate and work together effectively. Social emotional learning (SEL) is aimed at developing these skills and is generally defined to involve processes by which individuals learn to understand and moderate their own feelings, understand the feelings of others, communicate, resolve conflicts effectively, respect others, and develop healthy relationships. These skills are important to both children with disabilities and to those without, in terms of overall social development, perceptions of belonging, and promotion of overall mental wellness, as well as mitigation of the development of mental illness. Research suggests that SEL programming has the potential to effectively enhance children’s academic, social, and relational outcomes. Moreover, teachers who teach SEL in their classrooms have also demonstrated positive outcomes. Despite these encouraging findings, implementation of SEL has been hampered by some limitations, including the lack of a consistent definition—a limitation that in turn affects research findings; lack of teacher education in SEL, which erodes confidence in the fidelity of implementation; and concerns that current SEL programs are not sensitive to cultural differences in communities. Together, the strengths and limitations of SEL illuminate several policy implications regarding the most advantageous ways for SEL to contribute to the success of inclusion in classrooms and schools.

Article

Teacher Self-Efficacy  

Rebecca Lazarides and Lisa Marie Warner

A teacher’s belief in his or her own capability to prompt student engagement and learning, even when students are difficult or unmotivated, has been labeled “teacher self-efficacy” in the context of social learning and social cognitive theory developed by Albert Bandura. Research shows that teachers with high levels of self-efficacy are more open to new teaching methods, set themselves more challenging goals, exhibit a greater level of planning and organization, direct their efforts at solving problems, seek assistance, and adjust their teaching strategies when faced with difficulties. These efforts pay off for self-efficacious teachers themselves, who have been found to be affected by burnout less often and are more satisfied in their jobs but also for their students, who show more motivation, academic adjustment, and achievement. While self-efficacy of the individual teacher explains how the individual teacher’s beliefs relate to students’ academic development, collective teacher efficacy helps to understand the differential effect of faculty and whole schools on student outcomes. Consequently, systematically exploring effective techniques to increase teacher self-efficacy is highly relevant to the teaching context. Previous research has suggested four sources related to the development of self-efficacy: mastery experience, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and somatic and affective states. Although there is ample evidence that teacher self-efficacy and collective self-efficacy are important for teacher and student outcomes, and some intervention programs for teachers in trainings, career teachers, and upon school factors show promising results, there is still a lack of longitudinal and experimental research on the independent effect of each of the four sources on teacher self-efficacy.

Article

Classroom Discussions  

P. Karen Murphy, Carla M. Firetto, Gwendolyn M. Lloyd, Liwei Wei, and Sara E. Baszczewski

Classroom discussions are a common pedagogical approach that involve verbal exchanges of information between teachers and students. Given their importance to teaching and learning, classroom discussions have been the focus of extensive curricular mandates and, to a lesser extent, research over the last several decades. In traditional classroom discussions, the teacher tends to be situated at the center of the discussion. This type of discussion model is commonly referred to as a transmissionary model, where the teacher transmits knowledge and understandings and often leads the discussion by posing factual questions and responding to students’ answers by giving evaluative feedback. However, productive classroom discussions are better characterized by a dialogic model with students at the center of the discussion. When students are encouraged to ask thoughtful questions, give reflective responses, and challenge each other using reasoned arguments within classroom discussions, they are more likely to become builders and owners of their knowledge. Indeed, productive classroom discussions tend to ignite students’ engagement, thinking, and understanding of knowledge across academic content areas. When adopting a dialogic model, classroom discussions can advance students’ learning by promoting their basic and high-level comprehension of literary text, reasoning, and argumentation during mathematical sense-making, scientific reasoning, and model building and even second-language proficiency and communicative competence. While the overarching aim of classroom discussions is to enhance student learning across content areas (e.g., language arts, mathematics, science, or second-language learning), the various roles that teachers assume in each of the content areas may have different emphases that align with various content learning expectations. Optimizing classroom discussions requires specific considerations of the content-focused goal, teacher knowledge of content and discourse orchestration, student instruction on classroom talk, and context of content learning. Importantly, the potential and promise of productive classroom discussions can be realized by supporting teachers’ content-specific discussion practices through sustained professional development and by supporting students through explicit instruction about discussion.

Article

STEM Education  

Stephen M. Ritchie

STEM education in schools has become the subject of energetic promotion by universities and policymakers. The mythical narrative of STEM in crisis has driven policy to promote STEM education throughout the world in order to meet the challenges of future workforce demands alongside an obsession with high-stakes testing for national and international comparisons as a proxy for education quality. Unidisciplinary emphases in the curriculum have failed to deliver on the goal to attract more students to pursue STEM courses and careers or to develop sophisticated STEM literacies. A radical shift in the curriculum toward integrated STEM education through multidisciplinary/ interdisciplinary/ transdisciplinary projects is required to meet future challenges. Project-based activities that engage students in solving real-world problems requiring multiple perspectives and skills that are authentically assessed by autonomous professional teachers are needed. Governments and non-government sponsors should support curriculum development with teachers, and their continuing professional development in this process. Integrating STEM with creative expression from the arts shows promise at engaging students and developing their STEM literacies. Research into the efficacy of such projects is necessary to inform authorities and teachers of possibilities for future developments. Foci for further research also are identified.