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An important goal of teacher education programs is to encourage preservice teachers to develop their understanding of student learning and instruction. One way to determine the possible impact of teacher education programs on preservice teachers' understanding of student learning and instruction is to pay attention to preservice teachers' mental models of learning and instruction. Here, I define preservice teachers' mental models as a set of conceptions about learning that represent how students' minds work and how teachers can influence students' minds through instruction (Strauss, 2001). In this study, I qualitatively examined how the mental models of eight preservice, social science teachers developed over a period of one year in a teacher education program. To investigate change over time, I collected three types of data: lesson plans, written rationales, and interviews. I qualitatively analyzed the data and derived a set of relationships among the major categories of instruction, student learning, and learning outcomes. Results were graphically displayed in tables and as consensus models for the group of eight preservice teachers. Findings from this study inform teacher education in several ways. First preservice teachers' mental model development was both incremental and sustained over time. Secondly, preservice teachers' mental models became more complex over time, but many of their earlier conceptions did not disappear as a result of learning. Thirdly, preservice teachers added domain-specific pedagogical knowledge to their mental models as they progressed through their teacher education program. Finally, the development of their mental models occurred in conjunction with their acquisition of a professional vocabulary as well as an increased understanding of lesson planning and assessment. I discuss the findings of this study with respect to teacher education. Specifically, I address mental models and their relationship to instructional planning, role development, and the nature of conceptual change over time. Limitations of this study and directions for future research are described.
A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Florida State University
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