- 1What are pedagogies of approximation?
- 2What is the relationship between pedagogies of approximation and the learning cycle?
- 3What is the relationship between pedagogies of approximation and classroom teaching?
When using pedagogies of “approximation” (Grossman et al., 2009; Grossman, Hammerness & McDonald, 2009), teacher educators engage novices in simulating parts of the work of teaching. Approximations of practice are not meant to be substitutes for “real” or “authentic” teaching. Rather, they offer novices opportunities to try out parts of teaching in lower-stakes, supportive settings where they can receive feedback from teacher educators and peers on their performance. Examples of approximations include coached whole class or group rehearsals in the teacher education classroom, one-on-one simulations between novice teachers and teacher educators, or practice-based coursework using video or transcripts.
For more information, see:
Grossman, P., Compton, C., Igra, D., Ronfeldt, M., Shahan, E., & Williamson, P. (2009). Teaching practice: A cross-professional perspective. Teachers College Record, 111(9), 2055-2100.
Grossman, P., Hammerness, K., & McDonald, M. (2009). Redefining teaching, re‐imagining teacher education. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 15(2), 273-289.
McDonald, Kazemi, and Kavanagh, 2013; Lampert et al., 2013;
Teacher Education by Design
Novice teachers are typically ready to simulate aspects of teaching practice after they have learned about a specific practice or practices in the “introduce” phase of the learning cycle (see Lampert et al., 2013; McDonald, Kazemi and Kavanagh, 2013). To help them do this, teacher educators typically use pedagogies of approximation. In the “prepare” phase of the learning cycle, novices engage with one another and the teacher educator through rehearsals, peer run-throughs, simulations, and other approximation activities that give them opportunities to rehearse and try out critical aspects of what they have been learning about teaching practice.
It is also possible, however, for novices to engage in approximations of practice during the “enact” phase of the learning cycle in contexts other than the teacher education classroom. For example, novices might participate in scaffolded co-teaching activities or rehearsals with their mentor teachers or field instructors in the P-12 classroom. For more information about how such approximations of practice might work in the field, see supporting novices to try out practice in the P-12 classroom.
For more information, see:
Lampert, M., Franke, M. L., Kazemi, E., Ghousseini, H., Turrou, A. C., Beasley, H., Cunard, A., & Crowe, K. (2013). Keeping it complex using rehearsals to support novice teacher learning of ambitious teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(3), 226-243.
McDonald, M., Kazemi, E., & Kavanagh, S. S. (2013). Core practices and pedagogies of teacher education: A call for a common language and collective activity. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(5), 378-386.
The pedagogy of approximations is a critical stage in teacher preparation, as it bridges learning about a teaching practice and actually doing it with children. Approximations provide a sheltered middle ground where novice teachers are free to make mistakes and take risks, and where they can receive continual feedback from peers and instructors on their enactments. In other words, while approximations are closer to classroom teaching, they are not yet the “real” thing.