Teaching as a Social Practice: A Syllabus

This spring, I am teaching one of our required doctoral seminars, Teaching as a Social Practice. I have been publicly agonizing about getting the reading list right on Twitter. This is a tough (and thrilling) syllabus to write. There is probably enough research on teaching to fill several warehouses. I have dealt with the quantity issue by making some readings shared and some “distributed,” meaning subsets of students will read and lead discussions on the individual papers. However, I want to go beyond accounts of teachers as individual actors. I strive to account for social, cultural, and historical forces that shape what is happening (and what is possible) in schools. Despite its abundance, the ample research on teaching suffers from two problems: quality and completeness. The quality issue is actually helpful, since I gravitate toward the stronger work out there. The completeness issue refers to the fact that some of the most urgent issues in teaching as a social (and therefore cultural) practice have not yet been addressed in substantive ways by research. So I need to go beyond research into popular writing and blogs. One door shuts and another one opens up… Humbly, I offer my current reading list for your edification. I welcome respectful and curious conversations about my choices.

Section 1: What is the work of teaching?

An Introductory Framework for Teaching

Cohen, D.K. (2011) Teaching and Its Predicaments. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Chapters 1 – 3.

The Image of the Individual, or Why is It Hard to View Teaching as a Social Practice?

Goldstein, D. (2014). Introduction. The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. New York: Doubleday. (pp. 1-12).

Little, J.W. (1990). The persistence of privacy: Autonomy and initiative in teachers’ professional relations. Teachers College Record,91(4), 509-536

Bulman, R.C. (2002). Teachers in the ‘hood: Hollywood’s middle-class fantasy. The Urban Review, 34 (3), 251-276.

Section 2: What is “social” about teaching?

Introduction to Teaching as a Social Practice

Cohen, Chapter 4 “The social resources of teaching”

Stein, Sandra J. (2002). The Culture of Education Policy. New York: Teachers College Press.

Chapter 1, “Policy as Cultural Construct” (pp. 1-25)

Chapter 4, “The School” (pp. 85-107)  

History, Place, and Professional Identity in Teaching

Goldstein Chapter 1 “Missionary Teachers”: The Common Schools Movement and the Feminization of American Teaching. (pp. 13-33).

Lortie, D. (1975). The limits of socialization (Chapter 3). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. (pp. 55-81). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Foster, M. (1997). Introduction. Black teachers on teaching.  (pp. xv-li). New York: New Press.

Horn, I.S. (in press). The Status of Teaching as a Profession in the United States. International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition. Oxford: Elsevier Publishing.

How Do Students and Their Lives Shape Teaching Practice?

Shared readings:

Metz, M.H. (1993). Teachers’ ultimate dependence on their students. In J. W. Little & M. W. McLaughlin (Eds.), Teachers work: Individuals, colleagues, and contexts (pp. 104-137). New York: Teachers College Press.

Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Berkeley: University of California Press. Chapters 1 & 2

Vilson, J. (2014). Where the Hustle Comes From. This is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education. (pp. 93-99). Chicago: Haymarket Books.

Distributed readings:

Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Berkeley: University of California Press. Chapters 8, 9, 10 (case studies).

How Do Colleagues Matter in Teaching?

Shared readings:

Lee, V. E., & Smith, J. (1996). Collective responsibility for learning and its effects on gains in achievement and engagement for early secondary school students. American Journal of Education, 104(2), 103-147.

Siskin, L. S. (1994). Social Worlds. In Realms of knowledge: Academic departments in secondary schools. London: Falmer Press.

Distributed readings:

Coburn, C. (2001). Collective sensemaking about reading: How teachers mediate reading policy in their professional communities. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23(2), 145-170.

Horn, I. S. (2007). Fast kids, slow kids, lazy kids: Framing the mismatch problem in mathematics teachers’ conversations. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 16(1), 37-79.

How Do The Organizational Resources of Schools Shape Teaching Practice?

Cobb, P., McClain, K., Lamberg, T., & Dean, C. et al (2003). Situating teachers’ instructional practices in the institutional setting of the school and district. Educational Researcher, 32 (6), 13-24.

Lampert, M., Boerst, T.A., & Graziani, F. (2011). Organizational Resources in the Service of School-Wide Ambitious Teaching Practice. Teachers College Record, 113 (7).

Moore-Johnson, S., Kraft, M.A., Papay, J.P. (2012). How context matters in high-need schools: The effects of teachers’ working conditions on their professional satisfaction and their students’ achievement. Teachers College Record, 114 (10).

Bartlett, L. (2014). Introduction and Overview. Migrant Teachers: How American Schools Import Labor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. (pp. 1-11).

Section 3: What does it mean to “know” in teaching?

How (and What) Do Teachers Enable Students to Know?

Cohen, Chapter 5, “Knowledge and Teaching”

Jackson, P.W. (1990). The Daily Grind. Life in Classrooms (pp. 1-37). New York: Teachers College Press.

Anderson, M. (2014, November). Can White Teachers Be Taught How to Teach Our Children? http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/11/racial_competency_in_the_classroom_can_white_teachers_be_taught_how_to_teach.html

How Have Researchers Conceptualized Teaching and Teacher Knowledge?

Shared Readings: Green, E. (2014). Founding Fathers. Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach it to Everyone). New York: W.W. Norton and Company. (pp. 23-44).

Shulman, L. (1986). Paradigms and research programs in the study of teaching: A contemporary perspective. In M.C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Teaching (3rd ed., pp.3-36). New York: MacMillan.

Ball, D., Thames, M.H., & Phelps (2008). Content Knowledge for Teaching: What makes it special? Journal of Teacher Education, 59(5), 389-407.

Distributed Readings: Cochran-Smith, M. & Lytle, S. (1993). Research on teaching and teacher research: The issues that divide. Inside/Outside: Teacher Research and Knowledge (pp.5-22). New York: Teachers College Press.

Gutiérrez, R. (2013). Why (Urban) Mathematics Teachers Need Political Knowledge. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 6(2), 7-19.

How Does the Organization of Teaching Shape the Epistemologies of (and in) Practice?

Cohen, Chapters 6 & 7, “Instructional Discourse” & “Teachers’ Acquaintance with Student Knowledge”

Kennedy, M.M. (2010). Attribution error and the quest for teacher quality. Educational Researcher, 39(8), 591-598.

How Should We Assess Teaching Competence?

Shared readings:

Goldstein Chapter 8: “Very Disillusioned” How Teacher Accountability Displaced Desegregation and Local Control. (pp. 164-188)

Goldstein Chapter 9: “Big, Measurable Goals”: A Data-Driven Vision for Millennial Teaching (pp. 189-230).

Distributed readings:

Kane, T.J. & Steiger, D.O. (2012). Gathering feedback for teaching: Combining high-quality Observations with student surveys and achievement gains. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Research report of the Measures of Effective Teaching Project).

Haertel, E. (2013). Reliability and Validity of Inferences about Teachers Based on Student Test Scores. The 14th William H. Angoff Lecture presented at the National Press Club. Washington, D.C. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Services. Fenstermacher,

G.D. & Richardson, V. (2005). On Making Determinations of Quality in Teaching. Teachers College Record Volume 107, Number 1, January 2005, pp. 186–213
How Do Teachers Develop Knowledge in Practice?

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2012). Learning to Teach. Teachers as Learners. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (pp. 27-55).

Ball, D.L. & Cohen, D. (1999). Developing practice, developing practitioners: Toward a practice-based theory of professional education. In G. Sykes & L. Darling-Hammond (Eds.), Teaching as a Learning Profession: Handbook of Policy and Practice (pp. 3-32). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Horn, I.S. & Little, J. (2010). Attending to problems of practice: Routines and resources for professional learning in teachers’ workplace interactions. American Educational Research Journal, 47 (1), 181-217.

Lampert, M. (2012). Improving teaching and teachers: A generative dance? Journal of Teacher Education, 63 (5), 361-367.

How are Teacher Educators and Researchers Re-thinking Teacher Preparation?

Shared readings:

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2012). Teacher Preparation: Structural and Conceptual Alternatives. Teachers as Learners. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (pp. 55-104).

Grossman, P. & McDonald, M. (2008). Back to the future: Directions for research in teaching and teacher education. American Educational Research Journal, 45 (1), 184-205.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2011). Yes, but how do we do it? Practicing culturally relevant pedagogy. In J. Landsman & C. Lewis (Eds.) White Teachers/Diverse Classrooms: Creating Inclusive Schools, Building on Students’ Diversity, and Providing True Educational Equity. (2nd ed.) Stylus: Sterling, VA.

Distributed readings:

Horn, I.S. & Campbell, S.S. (In press). Developing Pedagogical Judgment in Novice Teachers: Mediated Field Experience as a Pedagogy for Teacher Education. Pedagogies: An International Journal.

Sleeter, C. E. (2001). Preparing teachers for culturally diverse schools: research and the overwhelming presence of whiteness. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(2), 94-106.

Windschitl, M., Thompson, J., Braaten, M. (2011). Ambitious pedagogy by novice teachers: Who benefits from tool-supported collaborative inquiry into practice and why? Teachers College Record 113 (7).  


5 thoughts on “Teaching as a Social Practice: A Syllabus

  1. I have spent the last two hours finding just a couple of these article. I can only imagine how awesome this class will be, as well as imagining the heads spinning as they realize the workload of reading all of these articles. Can I sign up for this class too? I would love to. Thank you for posting these.


    • Thanks, Glenn! I am looking forward to it. I try to make classes that I think my students and I will both enjoy. Maybe I can let you all know about some of the discussions we have via twitter — and maybe the blog!


  2. This is going to be an awesome class. I’ve read many of these pieces in my own doctoral coursework or as part of my lit review. I really like how you have included classic texts like those from Lortie and Shulman. A weakness in teacher education research seems to be this forgetfulness about the work that has come before. What’s hard is making the reading load manageable. I TA’ed for a class on teacher education where we used the distributed approach. It worked well. People read the core texts and then gained exposure to everything else.

    For Section 2, I have a couple of thoughts. Teacher socialization is often invisible. How does that first-year teacher morph from a novice ready to slay dragons to a veteran jaded by experience? One study I’ve read, “Unpacking Everyday “Teacher Talk” About Students and Families of Color: Implications for Teacher and School Leader Development” (Pollack, 2012), offers a way to look at how latent racism surfaces in staff conversations. It pretty much finished off the job of ruining the lunch table for me, but also helped me understand how teachers are socialized by their colleagues. A classic text to include would be Cochran-Smith’s (1991) “Learning to Teach Against the Grain.”

    On assessing teacher competence (Section 3), I took a whole course on teacher quality and labor markets. The Kane & Steiger article created a lot of good discussion. We kicked off the first week with a popular piece, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Most Likely to Succeed.” It gave a broad context for the course and also it compares hiring teachers to drafting quarterbacks, which might be a nice angle as you teach at a school in the SEC.

    Of course I’ve mostly just added to the list, which probably doesn’t help. Whoops.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Karen! I appreciate the suggestions. Some I have read, some I have not. But I am glad you see the challenge of my design here.

      I probably should have added that this is a required course in our department, so some people have been teachers and plan to study teaching, and others have not taught and study learning outside of schools, and everything in between. My goal is to get them to be intelligent about issues of teaching, presuming they will become educational researchers and need to speak to issues of schooling from time to time.


  3. Pingback: What I Notice and Wonder about Teaching Like a Champion | teaching/math/culture

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