Published in The Elementary School Journal, Volume 102, Issue 5, May 1, 2002, pages 389-413. © 2002 by The University of Chicago.
This article reports a case study of an elementary school teacher moving from her university teacher education program into her first full-time job teaching a K/first-grade class. Using activity theory, we analyzed her conceptualization of teaching as she moved through the key settings of her university program, student teaching, and first job. This conceptualization began with the university's emphasis on constructivism, a notion that diffused as she moved from the formal environment of the university to the practical environment of the schools. Data for the study included preteaching interviews, classroom observations, pre- and postobservation interviews, group concept map activities, interviews with supervisors and administrators, and artifacts from schools and teaching. Data analysis sought to identify tools for teaching and the ways in which those tools were supported by the environments of teaching. Results center on 2 aspects of constructivist teaching: the teacher's use of integrations and the decentering of the classroom. The analysis showed that the teacher, rather than developing and sustaining a concept of constructivist teaching, instead developed what Vygotsky calls a complex, that is, a less unified understanding and application of the abstraction. Implications of the study concern ways of thinking about the common pedagogical problem teacher educators face when students of their programs abandon the theoretical principles stressed in university programs.