Sharon Feiman-Nemser • Brandeis University, Waltham, MA • Foundational Skills and Dispositions in Teaching

Laying the Groundwork Introducing Child Study as a Teaching Practice Evidence of Learning

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Evidence of Learning

Students Reflect on Their Current Experiences of Child Study

In this clip, three students talk with Rachel Kulick about what they are learning from their child study. Since this is work-in-progress, their comments provide a window on what the experience is like for them and how they are making sense of it. Michal’s comments suggest that she is beginning to look at her study child through the eyes of a teacher, trying to uncover his interests and figure out why he acts in particular ways. Mike values being in a “real” classroom where he can “learn more from doing.” For Kim, the child study perspective feels “natural,” but the inquiry is getting her to think more about individual differences.


Students talk about their learning

Video Clip (3:51)
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Students Write about Their Learning Through Child Study

In a final written report, students discussed what they learned about themselves and about teaching from doing the child study. Several themes stand out: the importance of looking for capacity not deficit, the power of getting to know one child, and the realization that children in the same grade are not all the same.

"Gillian Maimon is a great example of how closely a teacher can really look at one individual student…I would like to have the abilities that Gill Maimon has in terms of describing an individual child."

"I began the semester believing that good teachers begin with the curriculum and find clever ways to enhance it. This is not true. Good teachers begin with the students and find a way to bring them to the curriculum" "The most important thing I want to remember when I become a teacher is to look at each individual child differently. Just because they are in the same classroom does not mean they have the same background and knowledge." "never before did I have a chance to see behind the scenes what teachers say about kids and how they learn about each individual student" "the biggest challenge may be to see them (students) as individual learners instead of categories of students" "Child study has been one of the most hands-on and challenging assignments since I came to college" "It has shown me that teaching is about the relationships built between peers and teachers and students. It is about curiosity." "When I first started my observations, Prof. Nemser kept telling me that I was making conclusions too quickly...I had to stop focusing on all his bad qualities and weaknesses and look again at what he can do."


Student Teachers Reflect on Child Study as a Teaching Practice (2 years later)

To learn about what child study meant to my students and whether they were internalizing the value of close observation of children as a “teaching practice,” I invited former students, now seniors, to talk about how child study fit into their developing stance as teachers. Beforehand, I distributed copies of the child study reports they had written in my class two years earlier. In this clip, the seven student teachers talk openly about how they felt about the child study when they were sophomores and what it means to them now.

Several things stand out to me about the conversation. First, these student teachers are further along in developing a professional identity and stance. Compared with students in Ed. 100, they talk like teachers. Second, the group itself functions like a professional learning community. They use common language, listen to one another, build on each other’s ideas. Third, while several students said the child study seemed overwhelming at the time, they have all come to value the importance of getting to know students as individuals and learners. As they finish up student teaching and put together their teaching portfolios, they can see how the work we did in Ed. 100 helped lay a foundation for teaching and learning to teach. One even suggests that the course be renamed “Foundations of Education” instead of “Exploring Teaching.”


Student teachers talk about their learning

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