doctoral Studies as an Apprenticeship through

Intent Participation


John Settlage, University of Connecticut

David M. Moss, University of Connecticut



            The overall purpose of this paper was to describe and discuss the mentoring of former teachers in becoming teacher educators at a research university. Making use of a cognitive apprenticeship theoretical framework which recognized the interplay between community culture and individual identity, this report focused upon the experiences of two fulltime doctoral students in science education who began their studies during the fall 2005 semester. This descriptive report presents our discussion across four categories: (a) learning to think in ways that draw upon theory, (b) making decisions based upon developmental capabilities, (c) fostering an identity appropriate to the academy, and (d) participating in original science education research. We conclude that we have a ways to go to portray our science education doctoral program as being characteristic of a cognitive apprenticeship as opposed to a factory assembly model. We endeavor to do a better job of creating situations in which the participation in joint work is less hierarchical and truly collaborative while the motivations for involvement reduce extrinsic elements. Finally, the assessments of our work should guide the learning and not be separated from the work itself.



In intent participation, assessment occurs integrally throughout shared endeavors to further learning – not just as an “outcome.” The goal is to help children to learn the important skills and ways of their communities. In engaging in a shared endeavor, experienced people, as well as novices themselves, notice the state of understanding and the types of help the novices need. This assessment allows them to determine what to do to support novices’ involvement, whether this is in order to advance the novices’ learning or to advance the activity itself. (Rogoff, Paradise, Arauz, Correa-Chavez & Angelillo, 2003, p. 196).


When a person changes careers, he or she often experiences extended periods of uneasiness. The science teacher who felt so competent working with students is out of place during the initial portion of his or her doctoral studies. This uncertainty and ambiguity reaches beyond simply not knowing the routines because the transition from school building to university campus represents a move into a foreign land. But this sense of being out of place is more complex than learning the location of the bookstore, the best times to find a parking spot, or the names of the faculty and staff. In addition to developing this material knowledge, the novice doctoral student is also challenged to know how to function as a participant in this new environment. Old ways of knowing, acting and thinking that served one so well in a science classroom seem out of place within the context of the university.

Those in the profession who are involved with advising doctoral students become, in a sense, ambassadors for a new culture. The landscape defining a doctoral program cannot be explained by simply providing a campus map. In a similar fashion, a wallet-sized subway map of Manhattan fails to accurately represent the nature of the place. Appreciating the traditions and customs are at least as important as finding one’s way around a city or a campus. The combination of the objects and the actions of a culture, and the dynamic interplay between the two, are the sources of uncertainty for those new to the setting. For those individuals who intend for their doctoral studies to ultimately lead to a university faculty position, becoming a competent member of the culture becomes more than a matter of ease and comfort: it becomes a matter of career longevity.


Making the transition into academia can be reduced to two knowledge realms. One involves knowing the culture and the other describing knowing one’s place within it. Becoming competent within a culture requires understanding the distinguishing features of a culture as well as developing skill as an active participant in this culture. Here we can recognize the interplay between community culture and individual identity. Those familiar with research on “nature of science” will recognize the parallels with the need to make the content explicit to learners; for those acquainted with strategies for teaching science to English language learners will see parallels with sheltered instruction. In both instances, complete immersion is insufficient. What is equally important is making the subtle features of the situation plainly evident. Affixed to making such knowledge explicit is the need to support the novice in creating his or her sense of self within this setting. In our minds as mentors we see parallels with the distinction between discovery learning and a cognitive apprenticeship. With the former, pure and unadulterated experience is the ultimate, if not singular, source of knowledge; with the latter, experiences must be mediated and interpreted under the watchful eye and judicious guidance of someone familiar with the culture.

The authors reached their current arrangement as colleagues within the same school of education through two very different paths and it’s quite interesting for us to find ourselves now working side by side. One of us is now an associate professor at the same university where he began his academic career while the other has reached this spot after spending time at two other universities. We find ourselves in a situation where mentoring doctoral students in order to assist them to become teacher educators represents a fresh challenge. For one of us, this change is obviously because he’s new to the institution having mentored doctoral students through their dissertations at other campuses; for the other, the mission of the institution has shifted such that the doctoral program is no longer viewed as an advanced Master’s degree for ambitious classroom teachers but is instead intended to contribute to the next generation of educational researchers. This paper describes our challenge to understand how to assist former teachers to become successful teacher educators at research universities. As will become apparent, this paper itself represents part of that mentoring effort.

The push by the federal government for more “scientifically based research in education” has prompted introspection within the educational research community. For their part, Eisenhart and DeHaan (2005) advocate for a quartet of doctoral program components: core educational coursework, intensive research experiences, engagement in policy/practice, and cross-disciplinary collaborative projects. However, programmatic changes in areas as fundamental as educational research methods do not inherently resolve the problems (e.g., Page, 2001). It seems that many doctoral faculty in education are struggling to create programs that are appropriately responsive to the trends in educational research.

Citing Wenger’s 1998 text about communities of practice, Pallas (2001) speculates about the issues associated with applying this collective construct (i.e., mutual engagement, negotiated enterprise, and common repertoire of practices) to the preparation of educational researchers. His perspective is influenced by the desire to produce a new generation of educational researchers who can productively engage with a diversity of epistemological agendas – rather than being relegated to a confining subset. Toward this end, he recommends placing epistemological differences at the center: of courses, of conversations, and of research activities. He confesses that a focus upon diverse epistemological positions would create fresh hazards (i.e., the overwhelming array of epistemologies, possible conflicts and conflagrations from the friction of contrasting epistemological traditions, and the difficulties with developing an internally consistent stance in the midst of the epistemological wilderness  – cautions that make the prescription seem more painful than palliative. Admirable as it is to acknowledge the value of a rich epistemological perspective, Pallas (2001) has yet to providing a convincing claim of a solution.

Labaree (2003) identified traits of doctoral students in education that distinguish them from those in other academic areas: maturity (more than half of education graduate students are 35 years of age or older), experiences (their understanding the expectations of doctoral studies are much more abstract), and commitments (typically the pursuit of a doctorate is to satisfy the goal of improving their profession). He explains that the transition from classroom teaching to educational research calls into question the legitimacy of a practitioner perspective of schooling. Ultimately, the conflicts between the cultures of classrooms versus campuses present “irreducible differences in the work roles occupied by teachers and researchers” (Labaree, 2003, p. 17). His suggestion is for mentors to portray the transition into the role of a research, not as an abandonment of the teaching self, but rather a process of adapting an additional collage of interpretive perspectives.

Theoretical Framework

We investigated our roles as mentors to doctoral students using a cognitive apprenticeship framework (Rogoff, 1990). More than an apprenticeship such as we might associate with the trades (Lee, 1940) a cognitive apprenticeship as a way to think about learning. Two forms of apprenticing been distinguished by three characteristics (Brown, Collins & Holum, 1991) and by listing those here is not to denigrate certain apprenticeships but simply to note contrasts. First, in an apprenticeship associated with craft knowledge, skill development alone is at the center but for a cognitive apprenticeship the thinking (hence the ‘cognitive’) is also brought to the surface. Second, in a vocational apprenticeship the need for a piece of knowledge is readily apparent because it is necessary to solve an immediate task; in contrast, a cognitive apprenticeship may not be nearly as concrete as knowledge developed somewhat distant from its obvious purpose. Third, a cognitive apprenticeship intends to support the novice in developing knowledge that will transfer while in the trades the skills are specific to certain purposes and situations.

Observing is an essential feature of participating in an apprenticeship but not as a passive witness to others at work. Here we drawn upon “intent participation” which is described as “keenly observing and listening in anticipation of or in the process of engaging in an endeavor” (Rogoff, Paradise, Arauz, Correa-Chavez & Angelillo, 2003, p. 178). Rogoff et al. (2003) describe children’s learning within a wide variety of cultural contexts and contrast these “natural” ways of learning with the efficiency models of modern American education derived from an industrial model of learning. They illustrate the distinctions between intent participation and factory assembly perspectives of learning which we’ve represented in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Contrasts Apprenticeships: Cognitive versus Manufacturing (Rogoff et al., 2003)

                        Intent Participation                                            Factory Assembly


Roles                Experts demonstrating and guiding                     Learner assigned tasks while experts

                        Novices during joint efforts                               Manage and supervise

Participation     Horizontal with shifting                          Hierarchical with assigned and                           Responsibilities                                     Unchanging roles

Motivation        Related to self improvement                              Extrinsic: Rewards, pay, etc.

Learning           Via observation while participating                    Through repetition but not always

                        in collaborative work                                        in the context of ultimate purpose

Assessment      As a means to shape and direct the                   Used to determine knowledge

                        Learning process                                              Acquisition                  


This study focused upon the experiences of two fulltime doctoral students in science education who began their studies during the Fall 2005 semester. We’ve been able to mentor our doctoral students along two dimensions: teaching and research. One of us had the opportunity to interact with these two individuals in the context of the elementary science methods course. This involved having each student observe the methods course for half of the semester but also with opportunities for the doctoral student to actually teach the preservice elementary teachers on multiple occasions. These events provided the raw material for discussions about teaching and teacher education. The other one of us worked with these two students in a joint research capacity. Both were enrolled in a doctoral seminar on subject matter learning as well as working together on a study of the perspectives of naturalists as they led tours during a recent outdoor informal science event. As a result, the nuances of engaging in scholarly inquiry (conducting interviews, analyzing data, generating interpretations, etc.) was central to ongoing conversations about science education research.


     In what follows we describe our observations and interpretations of our doctoral students in the context of their apprenticeships, all the while remaining attentive to our role in these processes. The findings seemed to organize themselves into four categories: (a) learning to think in ways that draw upon theory, (b) making decisions based upon developmental capabilities, (c) fostering an identity appropriate to the academy, and (d) participating in original science education research. Our own fallibilities within these circumstances are ever-present even when they are not explicit.

The Challenges of Thinking Theoretically

One challenge that arose was the discussion about the role of theory within the work of academics. This first became apparent during the seminar on subject matter learning taught by the first author. This was a doctoral course which used How Students Learn as its core text and was in many regards a refresher course on cognition. The course was populated by the two science education doctoral students, the focus of this paper, along with first year doctoral students in history, reading, and foreign languages as well as a Master’s level science education student. Essentially the course had three components: locate research articles in their subject area specialization and write summary and response papers; participate, and on one occasion actually lead, a discussion on one chapter from How Students Learn as well as an additional assigned reading; and ultimately create a subject matter specific course syllabus such as might be used for an undergraduate course. It was during this course that the transition from the role of teacher to that of academic came to the foreground.

Initially, the feedback provided to the students on their summary and response papers focused upon pushing them away from commenting solely upon possible teaching implications of the research articles. It seemed there was too much emphasis upon what the teachers in a study could have done differently, a critique of the ‘impracticality’ of a piece of research, and other comments that reflected a genuine concern for how the research ought to be translated into practice. Meanwhile, a fair degree of anxiety emerged about the cognitive theories that should be addressed within the syllabus being designed for undergraduates. Even providing the class with copies of the current educational psychologist syllabus used that semester with juniors in the teacher preparation program (which focused upon 4 theoreticians: Piaget, Vygotsky, Skinner & Bandura) seemed to do little to alleviate the discomfort with thinking theoretically.

Fortuitously, during a seminar led by the reading education doctoral student, there was a certain amount of resolution about the utility of educational theory. This student had photocopied summaries of the four theories from the educational psychology textbook and distributed those to the class for discussion. She then suggested that the group attempt to try these theories out by examining a teaching incident described in a piece on Funds of Knowledge (Moll, Amanti, Neff & Gonzalez, 1992). In particular, she nominated the task of analyzing a candy-making activity, taught by a Mexican student’s parent, as a concrete incident that might be interpreted using the varied educational theories. The others in the class were quite resistant to the prospects of undertaking this task. The first bid to carry this out went something like this, “Well, I’ll start. Because the students were all working together as a class, I’d say there is social constructivism or social cognition going on here.” This was a very tentative comment and was shortly followed by a statement about “the reality of the situation” which suggested that efforts were largely wasted when attempting to apply any theory to classroom situations because of its artificiality.

The resistance to this exercise was verbalized as, “Doesn’t it seem weird to have to choose one of these theories. Isn’t the reality that teachers use some combination?” The ensuing conversation revealed considerable discomfort with the perceived effort to compartmentalize and segregate a learning situation into force and unnatural categories. At this point, the instructor intervened by explaining that there is a distinction between the teaching practices as applied in a situation and the theoretical framework that we might use to interpret what transpired. The instructor then verbalized an admittedly overly-simplistic dichotomy between teaching practices and a theoretical practice: the former represented the “how” of the teaching event while the theory constituted the attempt to describe the “why” of the event. The foreign language doctoral student then used his glasses and those of a classmate to demonstrate how looking at the learning scenario using different theories was akin to looking around the classroom wearing different lenses.

Someone ventured that it would be useful to try to apply these theories to a video of a lesson which, quite fortuitously, the reading doctoral student had actually planned to do. The video focused upon a small group of students who were working on a math activity. Each member of the seminar volunteered to watch the video using the lens of particular theoretical framework, including one individual who wished to apply situated cognition to the scenario. The discussion following the video permitted everyone to hear contrasting interpretations of the math lesson without necessarily suggesting that one theory was superior to any of the others, even though there was an undertone hinting about a general distaste for behaviorism.

Balancing Developmental Needs

The elementary science methods class is a two-credit course within a university system where the three credit class is the norm. The immediate implication is, of course, the compressed nature of the experience. That notwithstanding, we suspect the syllabus for this course would not be unfamiliar to methods instructors throughout our discipline with learning to facilitate guided inquiry and effective lesson planning are two of the central aims of this class. An important distinction is that although the undergraduate course occurs immediately prior to the student teaching semester for seniors, it is designed to compliment our science education course offerings in the required full-year graduate experience in the academic year following student teaching. That is, this methods course is considered the first in an informal sequence of classes designed to promote the science education professional development for preservice elementary candidates.

Each doctoral student was invited to serve as a co-instructor for a five-week section in which the class met for two and one-half hours, twice weekly. There were 20 undergraduates in each section. Prior to each section, the faculty member met with each doctoral student to discuss the general philosophy regarding this class and solicited their feedback about the aims and instructional sequence of the course– explicitly noting several times that “nothing was set in stone” and that their perspectives were welcomed. Both remarked about the short duration of this course and appropriately questioned if the course objectives could be met in this timeframe. We discussed at length the instructional decisions that had been made, which included the modeling of guided inquiry across multiple contexts as well as the use of an in-class workshop experience to facilitate the lesson planning assignment. Perhaps out of respect for the purposeful progression of this course over the nine years that it has been taught, or perhaps due to a lack of confidence in their own abilities, or they didn’t want to appear to step on toes. Neither student offered any changes to the syllabus as it was presented.

Upon reflection, it would have been a more sincere overture of collaborative planning and apprenticeship if there had been an opportunity to develop a syllabus together for this course in its current form. With the renewed emphasis on doctoral preparation by our institution, it has been challenging to meet substantial preservice teacher responsibilities while learning to mentor doctoral students as teacher educators. As noted earlier, preparing cohorts of doctoral candidates for appointments in the academy represents a shift in the aim of our advanced graduate program. Although the instructor intended to make explicit his instructional decision-making during this course since it was viewed a priority for mentoring these doctoral students, we now question if that was sufficient to truly assisting them in thinking about how to navigate the challenges of college course delivery.

Once the course began, both students agreed they would “jump in” informally at various points throughout the semester. Both planned for and successfully executed a full day of modeling a guided inquiry experience for our students. Interestingly, both students chose to implement activities which they had already implemented in a previous context. In the preparation for this teaching experience, two significant elements arose: (1) The tension between meeting the needs of preservice teachers regarding theory and practice of science teaching and learning, and (2) acknowledging the developmental considerations and concerns for teaching future elementary teachers by doctoral candidates without formal elementary classroom teaching experience.

Certainly, a theory-practice tension exists across numerous domains in education. As it played out in this methods course, it was a matter of setting instructional priorities and distinguishing between the why and the how of teaching inquiry science. Interestingly, the underlying distinction here was quite similar to the work our doctoral candidates experienced in their own seminar as they hesitantly considered the significance of theory within in their emerging research agendas.

Most methods instructors would appreciate how preservice students universally expect their methods course to focus on the nuts and bolts of science instruction. Although theory underpins all that we do in our methods courses at our university, it is to a large extent not made explicit for our students. Over years of teaching this class and the attendant collecting informal and formal data regarding the successes and challenges of our preservice science candidates’ science teaching experiences gradual modifications to the methods class had led to an increased participatory inquiry experiences (in both duration and frequency) taking precedence over a reading-response approach to presenting preservice teachers with relevant theory.

As discussed earlier, this methods course comes prior to student teaching, where many young teachers are in “survival mode” and seeking strategies which will help them in their pending full semester student teaching placement. When one considers that our program is specifically designed to offer preservice students ample science course offerings post-student teaching (when they are developmentally ready to explore the theory underpinning their student teaching experiences) the implicit theory approach in this initial course seems rational. At no point did the instructor contemplate whether theory plays a role in methods instruction; the challenge was to develop a theoretically sound course which meets the diverse needs our preservice teachers with regard to a host of instructional and learning issues they face at this stage in the program. In the limited time, the most recent design of the course offers many more opportunities to explicitly address performance assessments which support an inquiry approach to science learning as well as to discuss informed and strategic learning considerations for a diverse student body – two areas which previously received little attention a few years back when precious time was dedicated to the discussion of various theoretical and historical perspectives of science instruction.

For our new doctoral students the aim was to make explicit the evolution of thinking regarding the scope and sequence of the elementary science methods course which contributed to its current configuration. Although, they may now appreciate the decision-making process that  led to the course structure, we wonder whether sufficient intellectual supports were provided to the doctoral students. There is a lingering suspicion that we offered them little opportunity to make their own decisions, which would be more closely aligned with a true cognitive apprenticeship.

Regarding the second aspect identified above, the apparent mismatch between the middle and secondary teaching experience of the doctoral students and the elementary focus of this course, the in-class workshop model offered ample opportunities for our doctoral students to probe their own conceptions regarding the needs of preservice elementary teachers, that is, to do their own thinking in this regard. This workshop model was adapted from Graves (1983) sand designed to foster individualized and meaningful instructor-student interactions, while at another level explicitly model for students the effective use of workshop as an early grade instructional strategy.

The primary obstacle for both doctoral students to overcome was the depth and range of appropriate science content to be included in the lesson planning by our preservice students. Lesson plan topics ranged from “sink and float” to “environmental pollution” to “human body systems,” and lessons were developed K-6. It was through the purposeful discourse among the preservice students, doctoral students, and the instructor about issues of content related to grade appropriateness that there seemed to be discernible movement toward closure and resolution. During these workshop times both doctoral students would first listen in on conversations between the instructor and preservice teachers regarding content standards and content selection, and would subsequently proffer their tentative perspectives on the relative importance of certain topics as well as the developmental suitability. Our discussions, and sometimes differing opinions, about those and other issues were transparent to all parties while situated within and authentic college teaching context. Over the course of only two class periods each doctoral student commented upon his/her enhanced confidence, and thus capacity, to give direct advice to the preservice elementary teachers.

The key to facilitating this successful period of cognitive apprenticeship was to go beyond merely holding professorial court and making one’s thinking known to others. Instead, it was necessary to foster explicit purposeful thinking and explicit experiential opportunities embedded within the university context. Learning to concurrently meet the responsibilities to students at all levels, undergraduate through our most advanced programs, remains a key challenge. This we know – it involves letting go of certain long-held beliefs, both institutional and personal, and involves fundamentally changing the way we currently do business – and change is rarely uncomplicated.

Finding an Academic Voice

As is true for many doctoral programs in teacher education (Jablon, 2002), our preference is to admit candidates with substantive classroom teaching experience. An implicit rationale for this preference includes a belief that time spent as a teacher provides a more grounded view of educational research. More pragmatically, teacher educators are not only more credible in working with preservice and in-service teachers when it is known that they speak from firsthand knowledge, but most advertised teacher education faculty positions identify teaching experience as a necessary qualification. More than being a prerequisite for admission to the local doctoral program, the expectation of successful classroom teaching experience is a practical consideration for those who intended to be employed at a university after graduation.

The badge of distinction of “former teacher” is simultaneously one the doctoral program strives to replace with a different label and there are difficulties associated with imposing this transformation. On the one hand, programmatically we have identified teaching experience as a valuable commodity and the bearer of those scars is justifiably proud. But in order to become a member of the academic community our doctoral students must move beyond and above being “just a teacher” to develop credibility within their adopted profession. It’s as if we are saying that spending years in classrooms is the gold standard but as soon as they are within our care, we encourage them to discard this honorific.

The difficulties of this transition sometimes rise to the surface within the candidates’ writing and during their contributions within seminar discussions. The problem becomes most apparent within the context of justifying knowledge claims. Both within summaries of research articles as well as during verbal exchanges the credibility of a position seems almost wholly grounded within one’s professional experiences. When an effort was made to support one’s position by citing other writers, those sources lack the clout that is the standard within educational research. Examples include ERIC Digests and articles from practitioner magazines such as Educational Leadership. Indeed we might be perceived as being overly critical about the lack of reference to published research. After all, one might ask, how reasonable is it to expect someone to instantly begin citing research during the initial semester of doctoral studies? This might be a valid counterclaim were it not for our apprentices’ prior experiences in coursework subsequent to the Master’s degrees.

Another explanation could be that when citations were sought to underscore a knowledge claim, a quick search of the Internet led to resources which sustain more web traffic than, for example, the Journal of Science Teacher Education. However, identifying potential sources of the problem do not automatically translate into appropriate responses, or even the need to address the perceived issue.

We find ourselves relying upon the “border crossing” as an intellectual tool to help us sort through this situation (Aikenhead & Jegede, 1999). The transition from the role of teacher to that of proto-professor is then viewed as a movement from one culture to another. Embedded within this shift is the adoption of new cultural norms (e.g., using proper APA citations) while abandoning knowledge which no longer has much salience (e.g., classroom management). The metaphor of currency comes to mind: the objects which seemed so valuable in one setting must be replaced by an entirely different form of capital. Indeed, when viewed from the perspective of cultural norms, the switch from a science classroom to a university campus represents a considerable shift in cultural performances. What we, as education professors, might regard as quaint (e.g., comments about the oddity of not having one’s day structured by ringing bells) reveals our inattentiveness to how the time of an academic is actually structured. Other features of a culture beyond perceptions of time include communication, hierarchies, policies, and so on. This leads us to recognize that the stripping away of a set of cultural norms and self-identification (“I am a science teacher”) must be an exceedingly disconcerting sensation – especially when there is little guidance provided about how to clothe oneself in a manner appropriate to a new set of cultural expectations.

It seems apropos to cite Delpit’s influential study (1988) in which she introduced many in the education community to the concept of a “culture of power.” Delpit provided an interesting perspective during the debate over Ebonics (i.e., whether black vernacular English should qualify as its own language) by implying that choosing Ebonics over “standard” English was a false choice. Her insight was that students must learn to communicate in ways consistent with mainstream America as a mechanism for accessing and acquiring power. Without equating doctoral students in science education with African-American students in Oakland schools in the late 1990s, we recognize that a culture of power perspective might be a mechanism for negotiating between the deceptive dichotomy of being a teacher or a researcher. Learning to articulate ideas orally and in a written format that resonates with academic communication styles does not have to represent a discarding of a previous self. Rather, the value in learning how to appropriate an argumentative style is a vital facet of gaining entry into the academic culture (Graff, 2003). The process of creating a new self along with accepting a new social identity (Ellemers, Spears & Doosje, 2002) becomes another defining characteristic of the transition from doctoral student interloper and toward someone who is seen, by self and others, as rightful member of the academic community.

Participating in a Small Research Study

The local museum of natural history, in collaboration with faculty in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, coordinates an annual inventory of all biological specimens within a designated natural area. During this twenty-four hour event, the public was invited to participate in science mini-lectures and nature walks. The June 2004 event was held within an urban center and we decided to investigate how that setting and the anticipated diversity of children participating in the nature walks might influence the perceptions and actions of the naturalists who led the expeditions into the nearby field and woods. This became a joint research study conducted with the two newly-admitted doctoral students and a science education faculty member. The product of that effort became a conference presentation (Harkins, Settlage & Haste, 2006). That experience is being examined here using the Rogoff et al. (2003) interpretive framework.

There were substantial differences between the two doctoral students in their engagement in this project and it seems likely that this reflects the mentor’s dependence upon tacit reasons for engaging in this effort. Both doctoral students participated in the data gathering: interviewing naturalists about their perceptions as well as continuing as participant-observers during the actual nature walks. However, the roles they were to assume relative to the mentor were never clearly articulated which may have contributed to a sense of ill-defined roles. While the mentor had expected this to be a joint effort which would culminate as a conference presentation, the motivations for participating seemed to be almost out of duty as opposed to the self-improvement and shared communication that would reflect an intent participation apprenticeship. By the conclusion, the mentor was operating in a manner which veered far from the Rogoff, et al (2003) descriptions of working within a collaborative context.


We sought to apply the theory of an apprenticeship through intent participation to our work as mentors of doctoral students in science education. We have examined our ongoing relationships as two faculty members working with our two students in the contexts of doctoral seminars, in methods courses, and during a modest research project. We’ve relied upon Rogoff, et al. (2003) to help examine our perspectives in terms of roles, participation structures, motivation, learning, communicating and assessments within these contexts. We recognize how our attempts to articulate these views might be re-interpreted by those who are “the subjects” of this inquiry. Admittedly, despite any efforts or claims of a non-hierarchical arrangement, the truth is that the authors have considerable influence and power over these two individuals. In attempt to mitigate tensions and difficulties, we have shared this work in its written form with our students and deliberately arranged for them to be in attendance when we presented this work in a public forum.

A hope expressed by Rogoff et al. (2003) regarding the value of intent participation was to promote greater attentiveness to this mode of learning, especially within communities where other forms of learning dominate. We feel justified in suggesting that far too many doctoral programs are designed in ways that foster learning through observation and listening-in; rather than critique the lack of such an orientation, we elected to attempt this locally and then to carefully examine, at this formative stage, the effects of such an orientation. Our motivation comes from multiple experiences in which we’ve noticed newly hired colleagues who struggle to negotiate the transition from doctoral candidate to assistant professor – and we wished to reduce the likelihood that our students would unduly suffer by making our work, as teacher education professors, readily apparent in an effort to help them understand how they must perform in that multi-faceted role.

We return to the contrasts between assembly-line and intent participation learning traditions as identified by Rogoff et al. (2003) as represented as six facets: roles, participation, motivation, learning, communication and assessment. In both the teaching that occurs within the undergraduate science methods courses and the practices associated with conducting science education research, we would like to believe we are relying more upon a joint effort model as opposed to an assign-and-supervise arrangement. This seems to be a practice we must continue to monitor despite our suspicion that such roles will continue to be engrained into the fabric of our collaborations. Toward that end, we are considering how the Joint Productive Activity as a pedagogical strategy (Dalton, 1998) that is advocated as an important aspect of working with diverse pre-college student populations may inform our ambitions. We see this role arrangement also contributing to the second facet in that responsibilities shift among the participants (i.e., the professors and the doctoral students) rather than maintaining fixed and hierarchical roles.

The third facet of motivation might seem self-evident within a professional preparation program. The assembly-line tradition relies upon extrinsic rewards. But what we are also grappling with are the challenges of making the goals of our joint work explicit rather than relying upon osmosis or immersion as the causative agent for learning. In this regard, we recount what Dewey (1938) identified as the two features of a quality learning experience: the level of agreeableness at the moment one is involved with the experience and the subsequent influence of this work on later experience. We are continually challenged to make our work as professors more transparent to the doctoral students which requires an entirely new level of self-examination. Articulating the thought process underlying our decision-making is a practice we endorse for science learners; however, the reflection-in-action process (Schön, 1983) is much less obvious when we turn it back upon ourselves.

The next facets, the fourth and fifth, seem to tie in closely with those presented above. Learning within intent participation occurs within the context of doing the work while in the assembly-line the ultimate purpose of the work may seem obscure. Further, the communication facet relies upon the exchange of information during shared tasks as opposed to being used solely for the transmission of knowledge and as a means to communicate evaluative information. Because learning and communication seem so intimately embedded within participation we can recognize the original authors’ decision to refer to these as facets rather than components; the distinctions between elements are not definitive.

Assessment, the final facet, is used within the assembly-line tradition as a means for evaluating the extent of knowledge and skill acquisition. Rogoff et al. (2003) assert that this means of assessing is typically disconnected from the learning act. In other words, assessment is used to judge but not as a tool for shaping. In contrast, within intent participation assessment is used in a much more formative (Black & Wiliam, 1998) because the assessment occurs while the work is underway.

We recognize the inherent danger when positioning practice and theory against one another. It should be acknowledged that the wisdom-of-practice does offer a certain measure of capital, although with insufficient intellectual cachet: “Even when empiricist theories of knowledge prevail, knowledgeable practice constructs positions of power and privilege that are by no means impartially ordered as strict empiricism would require” (Code, 1991, p. 243). The issue depends upon the particular culture in which dialogue is occurring since the value of theory is not uniformly embraced within all educational communities. As Code (1991) describes the situation, “Knowledge gained from practical (untheorized) experience is commonly regarded as inferior to theoretically-derived or theory-confirmed knowledge, and theory is elevated above practice” (p. 243) we would contend that this is true within many, but not all academic settings. When viewed from the perspectives of those who are mentoring individuals into the academy, we advocate a balance between the two realms. Without diminishing the significance of practice, we do see the need to squelch anti-theoretical perspectives, to disrupt untheorized experience, and to promote theory-informed dialogues—all for the purpose of assisting those in our charge to gain access to the culture of the university professorship.

It is plainly evident that we have a ways to go if we wish to portray our science education doctoral program as being characteristic of a cognitive apprenticeship as opposed to a factory assembly model. Our laundry list includes doing a better job of creating situations in which the participation in joint work is less hierarchical and truly collaborative; the motivations for involvement should have reduced extrinsic elements even as the learning advances for all as we communicate within our shared tasks, and; the assessments of the work should guide the learning and not be separated from the work itself. Admittedly, we may be holding ourselves to standards that are too high in the first semester of a four-year program. But we are troubled by our shaky efforts even at the very preliminary stages; we must do a much better job.

In closing, we find ourselves referring to Labaree (2003) who supplied guidance for helping practitioners make the transition into the academy. He has identified several dualisms we need recognize if we are to assist our doctoral students to grow and become successful: from the normative to the analytical, from the personal to the intellectual, from the particular to the universal, and from the experiential to the theoretical. Keeping with the cognitive apprenticeship model, we ought to create opportunities in which we, faculty and students together, can begin negotiating the significance of these in terms of its impact upon an intent participation framework.


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