Working papers

TeachingWorks working papers are published manuscripts that focus on the professional preparation of teachers. They involve analysis of data or literature and reflect clear, systematic interrogation of issues critical to the field of teacher preparation.

Sparking conversation on teacher preparation

These working papers are circulated to promote discussion.  As such, they are freely available to a broad audience interested in the study and improvement of ideas and practices in teacher education.

Papers may address topics as varied as the following:

All TeachingWorks working papers are subject to a blind review process that focuses on the relevance of the proposed work to pressing problems in teacher education, the transparency and relevance of the methods to the questions asked, and the quality of the writing.  All submissions are original work.

Although these are working papers, they reflect sophisticated, if emergent, ideas and research, and thus contain well-developed arguments that broadly appeal to stakeholders in teacher education.

Submissions for the TeachingWorks Working Papers Repository are currently closed.

Moving Toward Coherence: The Danger of Dichotomies and Nurturing Nuance in Teacher Education

Chandra L. Alston, August 2016

Chandra L. Alston, August 2016

This working paper is an attempt to articulate and refine the concept of nurturing nuance as a process of coherence in teacher education. Often program coherence in teacher education has been approached as a process of regimentation. This paper argues for an approach to coherence that requires teachers and teacher educators to leverage the diversity inherent in children, families, and teaching and learning in order to meet the needs of all children. Historically, schools have not been spaces that support diversity in children. This paper argues that to correct that inequity, teachers must be supported in cohering their practices around the specific children in their classrooms—they must see the need for and then practice nurturing nuance in their planning and enactment of instruction. This paper shares examples from a cross-institutional collaboration and one teacher educator’s methods course to demonstrate the concept of nurturing nuance and its benefits.


I’m Gonna Let it Shine: The Continued Legacy and Promise of Centering Justice in Teaching and Curriculum

Keffrelyn D. Brown, August 2020

We live and educate in challenging times. From the racial inequities exposed and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic to the widespread protests against police brutality, antiblackness, and racial injustice in the U.S., educators are in the midst of dark, violent, and oppressive conditions. These are not new. They reflect the long journey to freedom—one paved by Black educators that bore witness to both struggle and hope. Reflecting on Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s call to “pivot to the light” in dark times, this paper explores the legacy of Black movement during the bleakest of circumstances. This paper draws from critical race theory and Black intellectual thought to show why teachers must sit with the dark, while employing a humanizing critical sociocultural knowledge of teaching to reveal what’s hidden and illuminate a pathway forward to justice.


Listening to Students and Using Content as a Resource in Democratic, Justice-Oriented Social Studies

Hilary Conklin, June 2019

Democratic, justice-oriented practice in social studies education requires careful listening to students’ experiences, passions, questions, and concerns. Teachers’ knowledge of a broad range of content—especially stories of the oppressed—is a critical resource to bridge students’ curiosities and experiences with broader social, political, and historical narratives. This paper explores how listening carefully to students might inform teaching practice focused on democratic, justice-oriented ends, and offers two specific examples of curricular practices in teacher education that provide ways for teacher candidates to listen to young people. The paper then examines what the implications of listening to youth might be for teacher education and elaborates on the role that teachers’ knowledge of content plays in disrupting oppression and furthering democratic, justice-oriented social studies teaching practice.


Designing Elementary Teacher Education to Prepare Well-Started Beginners

Elizabeth A. Davis, Timothy Boerst, March 2014

This paper describes a programmatic reconceptualization of teacher education to prepare novice teachers who are positioned to do the complex work of teaching from the moment they have classrooms of their own. The elementary teacher education program at one university is used as an example case to demonstrate pivotal decisions made in the redesign effort and to depict challenges faced and solutions implemented. Three pillars provide the foundation for this redesign: teaching practice, content knowledge for teaching, and professional ethical obligations. The program’s efforts with regard to each of these is described. The authors explore the challenges they have faced and describe how the development of conceptual and practical supports such as foundational frameworks, social structures, and programmatic approaches to design have been central in addressing those challenges.


Teacher Preparation Innovation and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Leslie Fenwick, January 2016

This paper presents a framework for a discussion of the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that focuses on teachers and teaching for the new millennium. HBCUs are making a significant difference in solving one of the most intractable problems in K-12 education: how to recruit, retain, and develop teachers for high-need schools.


Teacher Preparation: Evaluation and Consequences

Michael Feuer, August 2015

It is now commonly understood by researchers and educators that the quality of teaching matters to the lives and learning opportunities of children, and that the ways teachers are prepared for their profession therefore matters greatly. Efforts to evaluate teacher preparation programs encounter many problems: the definition of desired outcomes, the possibility of unintended effects on teacher motivation and morale of applying various measures, and the potential for perpetuation of disparities in the allocation of teachers to schools serving disadvantaged students, to name a few. Still, the education research and practice communities have made substantial progress in appreciating these challenges and responding with an array of measures and metrics intended to satisfy various goals, including public accountability, program improvement, and information to prospective teacher candidates. This paper draws from a recent report of the National Academy of Education and offers a framework for the analysis of existing evaluation systems and the possible invention of new and better ones.


Conceptualizing Third Spaces in University Sponsored Alternate Route Teacher Education Programs

Kendra Hearn, Kiel McQueen, June 2016

This paper highlights the challenges that arise when three organizations—a university, schools, and an affiliate organization,each with different visions, practices, and personnel—partner to provide teacher education and support to beginning teachers on an alternate path to the profession. Drawing on survey and interview data, as well as programmatic tools from an existing partnership between a large midwest university’s school of education and an affiliate alternate route organization, the paper underscores the sometimes conflicting messages beginning teachers must decipher from the university teacher education program, the partnering organization, and the school in which they are working. The paper uses hybridity theory as a basis for leveraging ‘third space’ theory as a way to conceive how to create coherence. It also suggests strategies that the partners can employ to build a third space that increases beginning teachers’ understanding of performance expectations and ability to execute them.


Relationships & Learning: Keys to Academic Success

Tyrone C. Howard, April 2017

A critical factor in the teaching and learning process is the incorporation of meaningful and sustained relationships between students and teachers. However, many practitioners struggle to build such bonds due to a myriad of factors. High-leverage practices are manifested through the incorporation of trauma-informed, caring relationships to inform pedagogy. The salience of trauma-informed practice could be one of the reasons that practitioners are able to establish such bonds with students. This work addresses trauma, and the need to avoid the pathologizing of children experiencing adverse situations. Moreover, the importance of relationships as a way to disrupt trauma and improve learning is discussed. Finally, recommendations for cultivating better student-teacher relationships are offered as a way to support students.


Urban Teacher Center’s Formative Assessments for Developing Teachers

Cara Jackson, December 2014

Given the importance of teacher quality and the limitations of using pre-hire characteristics to assess teaching potential, Urban Teacher Center has developed several formative assessments of its teacher candidates to ensure that they receive feedback to support continuous improvement as they develop their practice. UTC’s formative assessment measures include coursework grades, ratings on a classroom observation rubric, and measures of professionalism and growth mindset. In this paper, the author discusses the research related to each measure, evidence UTC has gathered on these assessments, and challenges that they face in implementing formative assessments. The paper  ends with key lessons learned in the first five years of program implementation.


Necessary Disruptions: Examining Justice, Engagement, and Humanizing Approaches to Teaching and Teacher Education

Valerie Kinloch, July 2018

This essay offers an examination into the high-leverage practice, explaining and modeling content, practices, and strategies. It takes into consideration what it means for teachers, teacher educators, and educational researchers working with young people in schools and communities to engage in necessary disruptions in teaching and teacher education. Conceptually, the idea of necessary disruptions is guided by larger meanings of educational justice, engagement, and humanization. As argued here, necessary disruptions in teaching and teacher education should encourage us to think about: how we teach, what we teach, why we teach, and who we teach, especially as we work alongside students in classrooms, honor student-led activism in communities, and attend to ongoing racial unrest throughout society. What, then, are some strategies we can employ to better affirm the lives and literacies of young people inside schools? What do young people say about justice, engagement, and humanity? How might these things help us to better model content, explain practices, and use certain strategies in teaching and teacher education as we engage in necessary disruptions?


Leading a Group Discussion: Authority, Positioning, and Learning in Problem-Based Mathematics Classrooms

Jennifer M. Langer-Osuna, March 2017

In this essay, the author frames the high-leverage practice of leading a group discussion from the perspective of relationships of authority, allowing connections to both math learning and positional identities. Drawing on situated theories of learning and identity, the author argues that mathematics classroom interactions during both whole class and small group discussions take on both learning and positional functions, which become linked through relationships of authority. The author contextualizes these ideas based on two studies: (a) an analysis of a small group problem-solving discussion that illuminated dynamics around authority and (b) a professional development study meant to support teachers’ noticing of students’ authority dynamics. The essay ends with some examples of how teachers leveraged this high-leverage practice in ways that effectively supported equitable and productive student-led mathematical discussions.


Generative Problems of Practice: Doing the Dialogic Dance

Carol D. Lee, August 2019

This paper examines generative problems of practice in terms of designing instruction and managing emergent problems of practice in-situ. The paper then articulates principles around the kinds of experiences needed and the breadth of knowledge teachers need to develop in order to address the multiple challenges of learning, especially complex learning in the academic disciplines.


On Mindset and Practices for Re-Integrating “Belonging” into Mathematics Instruction

J. Sharif Matthews, February 2018

Restoring and protecting a sense of belonging for Black, Brown, and poor youth remains at the heart of social justice in U.S. schools. Drawing on research and his lived experiences as an educator, the author discusses mindsets and practices teachers can develop to assuage the assault against belonging and become proactive in restoring equity and opportunity in mathematics classrooms that serve historically disenfranchised students. First, the author highlights the critical mindsets necessary for enacting and sustaining equity-based teaching practices. Next, he provides instructional strategies embedded within two high-leverage practices (i.e., coordinating and adjusting instruction for connection to students’ lives and analyzing instruction for the purpose of improving it) aimed at supporting teachers in understanding the significance of belonging beyond simply building classroom community, and to become aware of their power to promote belonging through their instructional choices and practices.


Embedding the Complexities of Gender Identity through a Pedagogy of Refusal: Learning the Body as Literacy Alongside our Students

sj Miller, February 2018

Students with non-binary gender identities enter into our schools with gender identities they seem to already readily understand. These students are highly attuned to how schooling practices mostly speak to binary gender identities and reinscribe cis-and-gender identity normativity. Considering that access and recognition shape and inform students’ identities, those with nonbinary gender identities are positioned by their gendered relationality to school-based relationships, which are co-constitutive of the other. Their bodily awareness enables them to dislodge from the norms that many students are vulnerable to inheriting and embodying. As they move back and forth between their in-and-out of school lives, their bodies are generating different forms of literacy. Outside of school, their gender identities are always in conversation as they simultaneously question its construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. When they are recognized through the eyes and/or words of another, their validation confers gender identity self-determination, and this legitimization generates emergent language, positioning them as agents of literacy. Their gender identities then are complex and indeterminate, and provide the field of education an opportunity to have a different relationship with the body that is expressed through different manifestations of refusal. Expressions of their refusals that resist assimilation and enculturation, posits them as both dexterous and agentive as they move from context to context. The body then as literacy is a source of learning literacy. This research shares how a group of students with non-binary gender identities spoke to teachers, counselors, principals, school personnel, peers, and family members about what they needed to feel safe, included, and legitimized at school. Dr. Miller has included an extended and rich set of resources from these findings and additional appendices which can be used in teacher education as well as in pre-K-12 classrooms.


Constructing Societal Curriculum Sites and Instructional Practices that Elicit Student Thinking about Race and Education

H. Richard Milner IV, November 2016

In this essay, Milner focuses on what middle and high school teachers might teach as sites to build knowledge and discourse of race with students. He also considers how teachers might design learning opportunities for and with students that build from and on societal issues. A central goal of the essay is to equip teachers with insights that may be useful to them as they develop racially relevant and responsive curriculum and instructional practices. Because knowledge, beliefs, and discourse inform teachers’ practices, Milner draws from this empirical and theoretical literature as analytic tools to make sense of curriculum and instructional recommendations teachers might consider in their sociopolitical contexts. Perhaps more now than ever in the past, teachers must be equipped to use society as curriculum sites to help students build skillsets that will help them to more deeply understand how race influences people’s experiences inside and outside of school.


Undoing Negativity and Deficit Racial Narratives in Preservice Teacher Education at a Hispanic Serving Institution

Theresa Montaño, Maria Elena Cruz, May 2018

This paper examines generative problems of practice in terms of designing instruction and managing emergent problems of practice in-situ. The paper then articulates principles around the kinds of experiences needed and the breadth of knowledge teachers need to develop in order to address the multiple challenges of learning, especially complex learning in the academic disciplines.


Supporting and Assessing First-Year Teachers

Jennifer Mulhern, Patrick Byrnett, April 2015

Extensive research shows that a teacher’s initial performance is a meaningful predictor of future performance, making a teacher’s first year critical to their development and putting more responsibility on teacher preparation programs to produce teachers with the skills to be effective from day one. Over the course of several years, TNTP developed a new approach to teacher preparation, grounded in helping teachers master a core set of basic, essential instructional skills. This revamped approach to the training, support, and assessment of teacher candidates has demonstrated that it is possible to meaningfully assess and differentiate first-year teacher performance and make sound certification and retention decisions based on the evidence. Data from two years of this new approach reveal that new teachers perform at different levels and grow at different rates but can improve rapidly, and that while initial performance predicts future performance, responsiveness to feedback is critical to improvement over time.


On Becoming Sociocultural Mediators

Sonia Nieto, August 2017

In this article, Sonia Nieto describes what it means for teachers to be sociocultural mediators. She begins by reviewing the term culture itself, challenging the ways it has been used over the years to position some students in negative ways, proposing instead a comprehensive definition that takes into account the many resources—sociocultural, familial, experiential, and others—that students bring to their education. The paper goes on to suggest what teachers need to know about their students and their students’ communities to be effective with them, addressing the kinds of changes in attitudes, behaviors, and instructional strategies needed to promote robust learning. The strategies and information presented can also be useful for schools, teacher educators, and policymakers by helping to create more appropriate policies and practices that work for all students.


Kids, Content, Culture and other /k/ Words: The Role of Early Literacy Instruction in Disrupting Racism and Educational Inequity

Mikkaka Overstreet, March 2019

(How) does knowing content matter for disrupting the persistence of oppression? In this paper, Dr. Mikkaka Overstreet explores this question through the lens of a teacher educator working to teach elementary literacy methods in ways that center culturally responsive pedagogy and social justice as curriculum. Through a systematic analysis of extant data, Overstreet identifies practices that serve the two-fold purpose of building pedagogical content knowledge while prioritizing and elucidating methods of teaching that disrupt the status quo. Overstreet provides practical implications for teacher educators, teacher education programs, and facilitators of professional learning for beginning teachers.


On Educating Culturally Sustaining Teachers

Django Paris, May 2016

The author uses  this working paper as an opportunity to review, deepen, and in some cases revive direct and necessary conversations about race and racism as they impact our field in a time of demographic and social change.


From Roots to Leaves: The Process of Developing Educators who Embed Social Justice into the Curriculum

Bree Picower, Casey Doyle, July 2017

In this article, Picower and Doyle move the discussion about social justice education from the theoretical to the practical by examining how critical social issues can be integrated into the design and sequencing of lessons. Aspiring and new teachers often have a desire to engage students in issues of social justice but find themselves overwhelmed when presented with scripted curriculum, high stakes test prep, and mentors without the drive or experience of doing it themselves. This paper provides support by showing concrete points of integration between traditional curriculum design and critical social justice content. Picower, a teacher educator, illustrates how she prepares new teachers with this skill set, and Doyle, a new teacher and former student of Picower’s, showcases a unit that she implemented about poisoned water in her urban school district.

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Learning from Other Fields: Program Accountability in Nursing Education

Christine Pintz, August 2015

Nursing educators must prepare nursing students to be competent to practice. Since nurses are accountable to the public, the nursing profession has the responsibility to prepare entry-level nurses with the skills and ability to care for patients when they graduate. The nursing profession employs a number of strategies to ensure newly licensed nurses are prepared for practice. Some of these strategies are: the incorporation of national standards into curriculum, use of active learning strategies, use of simulation to increase clinical competence and extended nursing orientations for new graduates. This paper reviews measures developed to assure graduates from nursing education programs are accountable to the public, educational practices that ensure readiness for practice, and the challenges of measuring program impact.


Teacher Knowledge for the Disruption of Oppression in History Classrooms: Navigating Decision-Moments and Discretionary Spaces

Abby Reisman, July 2019

Historical content—especially content that is attuned to how historical narratives justify and reify existing power structures—is a necessary but insufficient ingredient in the design of history instruction that seeks to disrupt the persistence of oppression. This paper’s goal is to demonstrate that teacher knowledge does not exist, inert, in the teacher’s mind, but rather manifests in the dynamic and interpersonal context of enactment, and therefore presents particular decision-moments that each teacher has to continuously navigate. This paper asks: What do teachers need to know and understand to present history in ways that disrupt the persistence of oppression? And, how do these domains of knowledge emerge in the form of instructional moves in the context of dynamic and responsive instruction? The author attempts to illustrate the range of instructional decision-moments that teachers encounter in her study of 10th grade teachers in Philadelphia who were implementing a document-based history curriculum that she and her colleagues designed for the city’s mandated African American history course.


“There’s Still not Justice”: Challenging, Structuring and Re-creating Social Studies Content to Disrupt Oppression

Beth C. Rubin, March 2019

In this working paper, Dr. Beth C. Rubin considers the links between social studies content and oppression. Drawing on examples from social studies classrooms and other educational settings, the paper highlights the ways that school-based and educative framings of United States history center whiteness and otherize Native Peoples, African Americans, and other groups that are marginalized within the national story. Such approaches perpetuate a “white social studies” (Chandler and Branscombe, 2015) that protects white dominant narratives and sidesteps discussion of institutionalized racism. The paper explores alternate ways to structure content in the social studies, approaches that connect the past to the present and open up the liberatory potential of social studies content. Finally, the paper offers an example of how, through youth-directed research, students themselves can take part in the re-creation of content, an approach that can educate us all about perspectives and experiences that are often overlooked in traditional approaches to social studies.


Designing Lessons and Lesson Sequences with a Focus on Ethnic Studies or Culturally Responsive Curriculum

Christine Sleeter,  November 2017

Culturally responsive curriculum matters to the nation’s diverse students. This essay begins by detailing cultural biases in textbooks, and what research says about the impact on students of Eurocentric versus ethnic studies curriculum. After differentiating between additive and transformative approaches to culturally responsive curriculum, Sleeter describes a curriculum planning framework she developed that substantially improves lessons and lesson sequences teachers develop, illustrating its use with a case study of a new teacher. The essay concludes with four implications for teacher education.


Math As An Activism

José Luis Vilson, March 2017

In this essay, Vilson considers what the role of teachers are as learners in the classroom. He explores how teachers may overthink their work without perspective on the student mind. He problematizes the idea of lesson plans as tools for learning which conflicts with the flow of mathematical thinking. He openly observes what working without a lesson plan would look like for experienced educators, and the various assumptions of power within our classrooms. He concludes that teachers must get better not just in the rituals, routines, and relationships teachers have with students, but also in thinking about the student mind, and whether our pedagogy directly addresses student thinking.


Imagining and Enacting Inclusive Teaching as Liberatory Praxis In a Politically Divisive Era

Camille M. Wilson, August 2017

U.S. teachers are often socialized to believe that teaching should be a politically neutral practice whereby they avoid articulating or advocating for political stances. In this essay, the myth of political neutrality in teaching is critiqued as the author explains how teaching is inherently political and emphasizes the need for teachers to imagine and enact inclusive teaching as liberatory praxis. The author points to U.S. political shifts and changing federal policy in education as catalysts for the social and cultural exclusion of vulnerable children of color. She also marshals recent media profiles that reveal how schoolchildren are navigating increasingly xenophobic and divisive climates that threaten their educational well-being. Critical pedagogy scholarship is drawn upon to assert the value of inclusive teaching and its potential to benefit students and counter oppression. The essay concludes with strategies for supporting educators’ inclusive praxis and resistance.

This working paper inspired a new piece by Wilson, Hanna, & Li, appearing in Equity and Excellence in Education.


Transforming Justice. Transforming Teacher Education.

Maisha T. Winn, February 2016

The purpose of this paper is to outline a Restorative Teacher Education—that is, a method to prepare teachers to create and sustain opportunities for intellectual engagement for all children while fostering an inclusive classroom ethos. Arguing that teacher preparation must address mass Incarceration and the systemic violence against Black and Brown bodies, the author recommends a three-phase implementation process for a Restorative Teacher Education, including: 1) Creating a vision; 2) Developing strategic partnerships; and 3) Finding apprenticeship opportunities.


Paradigm Shifting Toward Justice in Teacher Education

Maisha T. Winn, May 2016

The purpose of this working paper is to examine how five pedagogical stances—History Matters; Race Matters; Justice Matters; Language Matters; and Futures Matter—can be leveraged to practice justice classroom communities. Arguing for a Transformative Justice Teacher Education, the author demonstrates a new line of scholarship focused on justice work across disciplines including mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies/history.


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