Funded Grants

Understanding Teacher Change and Teachers as Learners in K-12 Classrooms


New Teachers Learning Disciplined Improvisation for Meaningful Talk in Diverse Classrooms


Grantee: University of California - Davis, Davis, California, USA
Project Manager: Steven Z. Athanases, Ph.D.
Grant Title: New Teachers Learning Disciplined Improvisation for Meaningful Talk in Diverse Classrooms
Program Area: Understanding Human Cognition
Grant Type: Teachers as Learners
Year Awarded: 2017
Duration: 5 years

Project Summary:

Our project investigates teacher cognition and learning in two core practices of classroom communication: leading discussions and eliciting student thinking. The project explores secondary English as language-rich, and elementary science where literacy gets backgrounded but is essential to practice. We also focus on linguistically diverse learners and their communicative repertoires that may be leveraged for learning. Teachers need repertoires of knowledge and practice for classroom communication, and need the capacity to enact practices, reflect in and on action, and learn to adapt in-the-moment of classroom discourse ripe with opportunities for student learning. The project investigates cognitive underpinnings of disciplined improvisation, a form of adaptive expertise that benefits from conceptually rich knowledge of teaching practices and their effects. We explore ways novice teachers can learn improvisational processes, with discipline and structure, of in-the-moment facilitation.

We ask: How do teachers learn to enact disciplined improvisation in support of discourse in linguistically diverse classrooms? We examine this question through three main areas of expertise and how it is learned through experience: learning a dialogic toolkit relevant to content, context, and learners; developing perceptual/noticing skills that support disciplined improvisation in linguistically diverse classrooms; and learning metacognitive skills that support the integration of knowledge, practice, and perception into disciplined improvisation. Our project features teacher partners as design team members who will help develop and test tools and processes for teacher learning, including video, contrasting cases, simulations, and avatar-based virtual reality scenarios, ultimately co-designing teacher education pedagogies to foster learning of their more-junior peers.

  • Project Manager: Steven Z. Athanases, University of California, Davis
  • Danny C. Martinez, University of California, Davis
  • Alexis D. Patterson, University of California, Davis
  • Lee M. Martin, University of California, Davis
  • Kristen Blair, Stanford University
  • Megan Welsh, University of California, Davis
  • Jennifer M. Higgs, University of California, Davis