Examining Teacher Beliefs

Throughout the past thirty years, research on teacher cognition, teacher knowledge, and teacher beliefs has grown rapidly (Calderhead, 1996). Research has made it clear that teachers come to their teacher education program with preconceived notions and prior beliefs about education, learning, and teaching (Borko & Putnam, 1996). Teacher beliefs can be defined as, “Unconsciously held assumptions about students, classrooms, and the academic material to be taught” (Kagan, 1992, p. 65) as well as, “Psychologically held understandings, premises or propositions about the world that are felt to be true” (Richardson, 1996, p. 103).
Teacher beliefs influence the ways in which teachers act in their classroom (Borko & Putnam, 1996).   Lortie (1975) presents the idea that teachers come into education already knowing the work place—the classroom, through “apprenticeship of observation”. Numerous hours have been spent in the classroom as the student, and as these students become teachers, they already possess a myriad of experiences that will be taught in the classroom (Holt-Reynolds, 1992; Lortie,1975). These countless hours spent in their future work place formulate the beginning of teachers’ thoughts. These thoughts stand at the core of their future teaching and are an extricable part of their decision making (Goodson, 1992; Theriot & Tice, 2009).   Teachers’ prior beliefs affect the way in which they think, act, learn, and shape their practice (Borko & Putnam, 1996; Bullough & Baughman, 1997).   Pajares (1992) argues that the study of teachers’ beliefs is imperative and valuable in improving teaching practices.   If we believe that studying teachers’ beliefs is valuable, then we are compelled to ask, what influences teachers’ beliefs and how can teachers do to fully expose and examine their own beliefs through the use of life writing?
Experiences dramatically influence teachers’ beliefs (Richardson, 1996). Learning and growth are based on meaningful experiences...