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Expanding Democracy in Classrooms: History Teacher Candidates' Perceptions of Student Feedback as a Democratic Teaching Practice

This study examines the perceptions of middle and high school history teacher candidates about the use of student feedback as a democratic teaching practice. It explores preservice teachers' responses when asking students to comment about the use of interactive, student-centered teaching. In a collaborative action research approach, qualitative research methodologies were used to document experiences of candidates as they designed and implemented student surveys in classes and responded to what students said. Participants included 14 history teacher license candidates at a public university in the Northeast United States who were completing their pre-practicum and student teaching field experiences in history and social studies classrooms in public middle and high schools during the 2013-2014 school year. Data was drawn from field notes, focus group discussions, papers, and online responses written by history teacher candidates as part of required teacher license courses. Based on themes generated from participant data, student feedback holds promise as a democratic teaching method in history classrooms. As candidates integrated democratic feedback in classes, their attitudes and behaviors changed from being reluctant inquirers to active solicitors. They became eager to learn what students had to say and prepared to make changes to curriculum content and instructional practices based on feedback. Some candidates acknowledged that asking students for feedback had transformed the culture of their classrooms and broadened their daily practice as a teacher. This study has implications for improving the preparation of new history teachers at every grade level, redefining the traditional supervision model in which student teachers receive feedback from university program supervisors but not from students. This study demonstrates ways to engage K-12 students as learning partners in history education. Student feedback reinforces and encourages future teachers' engagement with continual reflective practice in their teaching. The implementation of the feedback as a part of reflective practice offers an alternative to the use of student surveys for teacher evaluation purposes.
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