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Accessing first-grade teachers' images and beliefs about teaching, learning, and students: The use of abstract symbolic drawing

Karen A Droy, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study was to explore teacher beliefs and images of students, learning, and teaching. The study was designed to elicit images and beliefs with the use of teachers' symbolic drawing and subsequent interpretation of their drawings. Twelve first grade teachers with teaching experience ranging from 1½ to 25 years, and from a variety of educational settings (i.e., urban, suburban, traditional public schools, non-traditional public or private schools) participated. Data collection utilized two primary methods of qualitative inquiry: teacher created abstract symbolic drawings and interviewing. The combination of symbolic drawings and interviewing provided an effective means for teachers to access, reflect upon, and express their tacit images and beliefs in a cohesive and holistic manner. The twelve teachers in this study appeared on the surface to have similar images of learning and teaching. Teachers talked about learning as a process that involved images of filtering, connecting, becoming stuck, and disconnecting. One major difference emerged that separated teachers into two distinct groups. The majority of teachers, ten out of twelve, viewed learning as a fact-based associative categorization where students either made connections through associations or replaced old information with new information. Only two teachers talked about learning as theory-based, describing learning as making connection through an assimilatory categorization process or making revisions to personal theories. Teachers who viewed learning as fact based also viewed teaching as fact-based. In general, these teachers used discussion, teacher questions, and a large variety of activities to help students collect new facts and make associative connections. Teachers who viewed learning as theory-based used activities, discussion, and teacher questions to promote conversation and thinking. They expected students to use new facts to build and revise theories with the use of logical reasoning.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Curricula|Teaching|Science education

Recommended Citation

Droy, Karen A, "Accessing first-grade teachers' images and beliefs about teaching, learning, and students: The use of abstract symbolic drawing" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3056220.