Summary and Keywords
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.
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