The politics of practice: An analysis of one teacher's values, beliefs, and theories

Mary Lu Gultekin, University of Pennsylvania


Teaching is demanding, intellectual work that requires professionals who can make their own decisions and develop their own theories about teaching. The knowledge base for teachers is constantly expanding and continually being re-examined and redefined to include many perspectives and new research findings. In addition, professional educators have called for rigorous, intellectually sound teacher education and professional programs to match the needs of teaching. Others have called for an examination of the conflicting cultures of schools and how teachers actively choose to adapt or change their roles and school cultures. This study reveals how one teacher early in her career constructs knowledge and develops theories over time, how she addresses conflicts in her school settings, and how she researches her practice. Data sources included classroom observations, in-depth interviews, written documents by the teacher, and documents from the school. Research questions focused on this teacher's practice around language learning, her developing theories of practice, and on the influences of conflicting school cultures on her worklife. Classroom observations occurred over a two-year period in two school settings while written documents by the teacher covered a six-year period. Analysis of the data included both the teacher's and the researcher's perspectives. This study reveals how a teacher's theory of practice is closely associated with her values, beliefs, and personal history which influence her curriculum construction. The findings also reveal how conflicts between school cultures and a teacher's values can influence her worklife. I argue that the knowledge base for teaching needs to include what teachers know about teaching based on their values, beliefs, and theories of practice. I also argue that if current teacher education and professional programs seldom address teachers' values and beliefs, then these programs will not often meet with success. Teachers need to be given opportunities, at all stages in their careers, to examine their practices and to understand their values and beliefs in order to improve not just their own teaching but teaching in general.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Language arts|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Gultekin, Mary Lu, "The politics of practice: An analysis of one teacher's values, beliefs, and theories" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9627962.