Coming to know our students: Teachers' construction of knowledge

Marcia Hadley Volpe, University of Pennsylvania


This study was a year-long interpretive research project that sought to address three central questions: what sorts of knowledge do teachers possess about their students; how do they come to have such knowledge; and how can this particular knowledge inform our more general understanding of teaching and our practice as professionals. This work supports and expands notions about how teachers construct knowledge out of their practice, that are current in the literature. The project examines how three teachers of the deaf came to know their students over the course of a school year. Four interrelated stories are described in the study. There are three case studies about how each of the three teachers came to know one of their students. One story is about the school and the contexts that framed the teachers knowing. Together the four stories are interconnected with one another to weave an understanding of teachers' construction of knowledge. Field work methods included participant-observations within three classrooms, interviews with teachers, group discussions among the teachers, video tape analyses of teachers' conversations, teachers' writing, logs of teachers' impromptu conversations, and site documents from the school. In the dissertation, I make three interrelated claims regarding the knowledge that teachers construct about their students. The first claim is two-fold: that teachers' personal histories play a powerful role in focusing their attention on particular students as well as the particular observations they make of those students; and that attention and those observations frame how teachers come to understand and evaluate students. The second claim is that the oral inquiry of teachers has a central reflective function in their construction of knowledge of students. The third claim is that collegial contexts are critical for teachers to construct, examine and shape their understandings of their students and of their practice in systematic, intentional and inquiry-driven ways. The dissertation describes and explores teachers' individual ways of knowing. In addition, two levels of teachers' knowledge are examined: close description as a genre, and the broader ecological contexts of knowing.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Volpe, Marcia Hadley, "Coming to know our students: Teachers' construction of knowledge" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9321494.