Effective or Wise?

Teaching and the Meaning of Professional Dispositions in Education

by Julie A. Gorlewski (Volume editor) David A. Gorlewski (Volume editor) Jed Hopkins (Volume editor) Brad J. Porfilio (Volume editor)
©2014 Textbook VIII, 277 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 447


In our work as educators, we all aspire to be effective. We also aspire to be wise. If teachers are to represent and advocate for education, we must become the stewards of a discourse that nurtures education’s possibilities. This book explores how teacher dispositions are defined, developed, cultivated, and assessed. The authors in the volume consider the various and interconnected ways in which educators’ values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are performed and how these performances affect experiences and practices of learning. This text investigates complex questions, such as: How should teachers be? and Who should decide how teachers should be? In different ways, all the chapters in this book invite us into the work of reinvigorating educational discourse. The contributors contradict the idea that wisdom is the province of the lone genius who possesses knowledge that is obscure to the majority. Instead, they ask us all to participate in the necessarily collaborative endeavor of discourse stewardship in – as grand as it may sound – the pursuit of wisdom.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Organization and Chapters
  • Section 1: Myths, Lies, and Videotape
  • Section 2: Imagination, Joy, and Wisdom
  • Section 3: Practicing What We Teach
  • Section One: Myths, Lies, and Videotape
  • Chapter One: Practicing in the Panopticon: Teaching and Learning in the Surveillance Media Culture
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Re-viewing Frontline: The Education of Michelle Rhee, Teach Tony Danza, and Undercover Boss
  • The Cult of Personality: The Education of Michelle Rhee
  • The Cult of Personality: Teach Tony Danza
  • The Cult of Personality: Undercover Boss
  • Meritocracy and Individualism
  • Frontline: The Education of Michelle Rhee
  • Teach Tony Danza
  • Undercover Boss
  • Surveillance: Towering over Cells
  • Frontline: The Education of Michelle Rhee
  • Teach Tony Danza
  • Undercover Boss
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Filmography
  • Chapter Two: The Myth of the “Fully Qualified” Bright Young Teacher: Using Haberman Star Teacher Pre-Screener to Teach and Assess Professional Dispositions
  • Introduction
  • The Haberman Star Teacher Pre-screener
  • Purpose of Study
  • Literature Review
  • Teacher Effectiveness
  • Teacher Dispositions and Core Beliefs
  • Haberman STAR Pre-Screener
  • Methodology
  • Participants and Setting
  • Results
  • Years of Experience and “Persistence”
  • Education Level and “Persistence”
  • Discussion
  • Implications
  • References
  • Chapter Three: When the Obvious Isn’t True: What’s Really Wrong with Teacher Quality and Teacher Education?
  • Driven to Distraction: Teacher Quality in an Era of High-Stakes Accountability
  • Performance-Based Teacher Evaluations: Is Vam Credible?
  • Teacher Quality Mania: Backward by Design
  • What’s Really Wrong with Teacher Quality and Teacher Education?
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Four: Teach For America, the Neoliberal Alternative to Teacher Professionalism
  • Introduction
  • Neoliberalism and Teacher Professionalism
  • Neoliberalism’s Goals for Education
  • TFA, The Neoliberal Alternative to Teacher Professionalism
  • Conclusions and Discussion
  • References
  • Section Two: Imagination, Joy, and Wisdom
  • Chapter Five: The Joy of Educating
  • Education’s Joy
  • “The Joy of Cooking,” “The Joy of Sex,” “The Joy of Gardening;” “The Joy of Educating”?
  • Educational Perfectionism
  • Understanding Human Being/s
  • The Ontological Thesis
  • The Ethical Thesis
  • The Disclosure of Possibility
  • Education’s Space
  • Education and The New
  • The New As Frantic Mood
  • The New As Enlightenment Project of Progress
  • The New As Disclosing Possibility
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Six: Seeking the Authentic: Inquiry and Dispositions, Teacher Candidates, and Ourselves
  • Introduction
  • Inquiry Dispositions
  • The Context of Student Teaching Seminar
  • The Instructional Study
  • Inquiry on Inquiry
  • What Did We Learn?
  • Discovery through dialogue
  • Raising important questions
  • Designing and implementing authentic and intellectually rigorous instruction
  • Making mistakes and learning from them
  • Acknowledging and owning the complex process of inquiry
  • Limitations and Tensions
  • Beginnings
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Seven: The Big “O”: Occupying against Reductionism in Education Using Small and Sustained Actions
  • Introduction
  • Dispositions for Change
  • Reductionism
  • Using Reductionism for Issue Identification and Strategies for Change
  • Example 1: Teacher Education Admission Processes
  • The Issue
  • Strategies for Change
  • Question the context, assumptions, and impact of admission policies
  • Expect and demand transparency, research, and validity of admission criteria
  • Track the impact of admission criteria on prospective and admitted students
  • Shift focus to include dispositions
  • Example 2: Teacher Education Accreditation Compliance
  • The Issue
  • Strategies for Change
  • Avoid dichotomizing accreditation organizations
  • Identify and calculate real accreditation costs within an institution to more accurately assess costs and benefits
  • Identify and challenge “tail wagging the dog” mandates
  • Identify and challenge fallacies of presumption
  • Take back appropriate levels of local level responsibility
  • Example 3: The Impact of Previous Educational Experience, State Standards, and K-12 Standardized Testing on Future Teachers
  • The Issue
  • Strategies for Change
  • Include student voices to move from “self” to “other”
  • Include student voice to explore benefits and limitations of testing in teacher education curricula
  • Analyze state and discipline-specific standards to examine what is or isn’t valued and privileged in curricula
  • Assist students in exploring the context of issues. Critique educational case studies of models of education reform
  • K-12 Students: A Legion for Change
  • References
  • Chapter Eight: Ways of Being as an Alternative to the Limits of Teacher Dispositions
  • Introduction & Overview
  • Background
  • The Bricoleur’s Toolkit
  • Situating Dispositions
  • Dispositions as Giving a Language
  • Another Possibility: Ways of Being
  • Ways of Being a Teacher: Examples with Technology
  • Teacher buy-in as a way of being
  • Being fearful towards technology
  • Concluding Thoughts
  • Notes
  • References
  • Section Three: Practicing What We Teach
  • Chapter Nine: Seeking Balance: Rethinking Who Decides the Role of Dispositions in Teacher Evaluation
  • Introduction
  • Potential Outcome #1: Teacher Accountability Marginalizes Discourse on Dispositions
  • Stories of Selfhood in Action
  • Antonio
  • Peter
  • David
  • Elizabeth
  • Susan
  • From Selfhood to Solidarity
  • Potential Outcome #2: Standardizing Measurement of Dispositions
  • A Caveat
  • A More Preferred Outcome: Balance
  • References
  • Chapter Ten: Professional Dispositions for Teacher Candidates: From Standardization to Wisely Effective Classrooms
  • Introduction—Teaching as a Profession
  • One School’s Path to Professional Dispositions
  • Making Professional Dispositions Meaningful
  • A real-life scenario: Introducing professional dispositions
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching as a Professional Disposition
  • The Role of Cultural Capital in Achieving Just Classrooms
  • Social Justice and Wisely Effective Classrooms—the End Goal
  • Conclusion—Improving The Status of The Teaching Profession
  • References
  • Chapter Eleven: Teachers as Advocates for Democracy: Standardization of Public Education and Voter Participation
  • Voter Turnout in the U.S.
  • Education and Voter Participation
  • Educational Standardization in the U.S.
  • Critiques of Public Education
  • Current Standardization
  • Standardization Versus Differentiation
  • Narrowing the Curriculum
  • The Study
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Twelve: CSFE Principles: Wise and Effective Mechanisms to Translate Social Foundations Content to K-12 Classroom Practice
  • Different Concepts—Different Perspectives
  • Do Standards Help Support Teachers?—Balancing the Pragmatic and the Civic Focus
  • CSFE Principles Inform SFE Standards
  • Democracy: The Root of SFE
  • The Complexity of Democracy Practiced in the Schooling Context
  • SFE Operates as a Tool to Provide Support for Teachers
  • Lost in Translation
  • Practicality of CSFE Principles
  • Applied Liberal Arts
  • References
  • Chapter Thirteen: Urban Teachers and Technology: Critical Reflections in the Age of Accountability
  • Introduction
  • It’s Just The Way It Is
  • Urban Teaching: Training, Testing, and Technology
  • Teachers Using Technology: Dedicated and Determined
  • Summaries and Solutions
  • References
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

| vii →



Wise or Effective? A 21st-Century Classroom Vignette


Mr. Rhodes walks into his fourth-grade classroom on Monday morning. He turns the lights on and looks at his classroom. The 28 desks are grouped in seven pods. Above each pod hangs a cardboard cutout of a jungle animal with the names of each child in the pod attached to the jungle animal.

On one wall, labeled prominently the “data wall,” are all the charts and graphs that clearly demonstrate Mr. Rhodes’s commitment to data-driven instruction. Mr. Rhodes’s students know where they are and, most importantly, where they need to be—clearly written goals comprise another section of the “data wall.”

Each child will walk into the classroom in the morning, look at the data wall, and see his or her individualized learning goal for the week clearly written on the wall. Also, just in case the child is interested, Mr. Rhodes includes the state standard that aligns with each child’s goal (Mr. Rhodes’s principal will surely be impressed). It is clear, to reiterate, that Mr. Rhodes wants his students to know where they are, where they are going, and where they need to be.

Mr. Rhodes walks over to the side of the room and turns on the 10 tablet computers, ensuring that each has the new math “simulation” ready to go so the children can get to work when the time is right.

And all around the room are inspiring posters reminding the children that there is “No Time for Failure,” and exhorting them to “Shoot for the Stars” even as they “Listen Respectfully.” Clearly Mr. Rhodes has set in motion a plan during which “effective” teaching will dominate the day. ← vii | viii →

However, is it possible that the children who enter Mr. Rhodes’s classroom will spend the day demonstrating effectiveness but never really engaging in learning?

Even though Mr. Rhodes’s practices seem to indicate that he is “effective,” can we really be sure that his children will experience education? Will they listen to great stories and use their imagination? Will they get to think deeply about issues in their own community? Will the children “explore,” “discuss,” “discover,” “dig up,” “pretend,” and “wonder?”

The answer to these questions can’t really be determined because that would require regular visits to Mr. Rhodes’s classroom. We would need to watch as the daily routine that is a school day takes on a life. However, without observing, we can be pretty sure that Mr. Rhodes has an “effective” classroom. And isn’t that enough for today’s technocratic, hyper-measurement-oriented, results-driven system of schooling?

I’m sure some would say, “yes.” But what if some said, “no”?

In the pages that follow, you will have the rare opportunity to engage with scholars willing to push for more than “effective” as an acceptable descriptor for education.

Instead, the authors explore education that they call—wise.

Tim Slekar

Dean, School of Education

Edgewood College

January 15, 2014

| 1 →



Wise vs. Effective


For the last few years, Jed Hopkins has used this ice-breaker in his undergraduate and graduate courses. Students are seated in a circle and are asked to introduce themselves and then to share their response to this prompt:

If you had to choose between these two alternatives—more precisely, if you had to place one in front of the other—which would you choose: (1) to be an effective educator, or (2) to be a wise educator?

It is emphasized that it has to be a choice; that you are disallowed the opportunity to have both equally (whatever that might mean). Instead, you have to put one in front of the other and volunteer an explanation for your preference. It is explained that the point of this thought experiment is to get us to identify which one is taken to be, in some sense, more fundamental. Of course the challenging nature of this activity makes for a good ice-breaker, setting the tone for a course that, it’s hoped, will provide lots of opportunities for further reflection. But, additionally, the consolidated results from this activity are themselves particularly revealing about the way many of us tend to think about education. Pooling the responses of all the classes exposed to this particular ice-breaker reveals that, typically, 90% of the classes choose “effective.” What follows is a discussion of the rationales the students provide.

For many, it’s a struggle to come down on one side only. For example, some point out that perhaps you can’t be wise without also being effective—and so ← 1 | 2 → they must, therefore, go together “in the end.” Nevertheless, when pressed, “effective” is the popular choice because students reason that a wise educator is worse than useless if wisdom can’t be effectively communicated, whereas someone who is effective at least gets something done. When asked to explain what made them think of associating wisdom with poor communication they often evoke images of the lone genius worthy of respect but possessing knowledge that is obscure to the majority (perhaps a negative experience with academic discourse has reinforced this). In contrast, “effectiveness” is a notion associated with wide and non-exclusive appreciation. For many students, then, “wisdom” is respected but restricted to an individual’s capacity and, as a result, suffers from being confined to the few, or only to the person who is wise. “Effectiveness,” on the other hand, connotes utility, getting the job done, or the objectives met—abstractable and generalizable public events—and therefore promises some sort of egality. Other explanations are given that employ similar connotative antagonisms, such as “effective” is collaborative while “wisdom” is self-centered; or “effective” is efficiency while “wisdom” is obscurity, if not impotence.

As we go around the circle, usually only one or two will be brave enough to admit support for “wisdom” over “effective.” One popular rationale given here hinges on a semantic strategy; a definition of “wisdom” is provided that makes “effective” part of the definition. They’ll say something like “wisdom means you can’t be wise and not also effective and, furthermore, that it doesn’t work the other way around: you can be effective and not wise.” So, wisdom trumps effective because when “correctly defined,” the two concepts are asymmetrically related.

Another given rationale, though rarer still, wants to recognize that “effective” isn’t necessarily a moral category whereas “wisdom” is. Here, it’s pointed out that concern with “effective” is a concern with the quality by which ends are achieved but not, necessarily, the ends themselves. “Effective” connotes a concern with means, while “wisdom” connotes a concern with both means and ends. This idea that wisdom is a moral category, while a concern with effectiveness can be morally neutral, explains why we feel comfortable admitting that Adolf Hitler’s political techniques may have been quite effective (unfortunately for humanity) but would shudder to call him, in any way, wise. For a less dramatic example, but one more in line with our focus on education, it would explain why we could say that a method of teaching reading that may be very effective (at least according to a narrow source of publicly measurable results) should nevertheless be resisted by a wise teacher because, in this case, the method of the program tends to kill the joy of reading in the long term, and/or is restrictive about what reading makes possible, and so forth.

So, putting all this together, we could say that those few students who vote for “wise” over “effective” are being driven by the intuition that when we think about educational endeavors, we shouldn’t separate out means from ends. How students learn is as important as that they learn, and how we teach is as important as any ← 2 | 3 → kind of measurable result. All of this is to suggest that when we consider teaching, in an educational context, we are not simply aiming towards pre-determined results (that can be measured) but something else. But, what is this “something else”? Whatever it is it seems to carry deep moral implications. (Let’s hear it for wisdom!)

And, now let us come clean about our stand on all this; if it’s a choice between “effective” and “wise,” we too would recommend that we try to err on the side of wisdom when education is at stake. Hence, we want to argue that teaching reading, any kind of teaching in fact, is not a job primarily to be understood in terms of effective technicality but a job for wise educators (who, of course, will also need to possess some technical skill). But what is “wisdom”? How do we talk about education in ways that allow for this moral aspect to be given the attention it deserves? For though it may not be too surprising, the result of the thought experiment is disturbing, is it not? For the majority of in-service teachers, “effective” seems to be the overwhelmingly popular choice, while “wisdom” gets mostly a bad press, connoting such undesirable things as unconnectedness, obscurity, and perhaps even impotence. Just as worryingly, why does “effectiveness” often seem to connote only positive things—as though it were intrinsically a moral category? What can we do about the idea that professionality in education is increasingly being approached in terms of resource optimization and standardization rather than a matter of, say, sensibility and joy—words that sound oddly quaint, or out of place, in a context where “effectiveness” rules?

It might be an obvious claim that professional educators, if the phrase is to mean anything important, must take the core of their work as representative of, and advocating for, education rather than some distorted idea of it—whatever “it” is. And we know that for so long educational discourse has had a fairly predictable focus revolving around knowing—a concern with such things as what is to be known (think of the standards movement); how quickly and effectively it can be known (think of the search for and promotion of “best practices” and “effective instructional materials”); how it can be shown, by measurement, that knowledge is being mastered (think of standardized testing), as well as how to use measurements for making global estimates of the state of schooling at national, state, district, school, and teaching levels (think of the myriad legislated reform efforts). But, many of these foci are often pursued with unexamined assumptions about the meaning of education and the specific challenges and possibilities afforded to educators. So, perhaps a less obvious claim might be made to the effect that in order for teachers to represent and advocate for education, they must also become the intentional stewards of the richest discourse we can “grow” around it—a discourse that nurtures the possibilities of education.

This book is meant as a small contribution to such stewardship. In different ways, all the chapters invite us into the work of reinvigorating educational ← 3 | 4 → discourse. We believe this to be a crucial responsibility for all of us, especially when certain key concepts such as “education” suffer from the neglect of over-familiarity (Hopkins, The Joy of Educating), or when our understanding of “professional” might be damagingly influenced by its use in the media, restricting the more nuanced understanding we seek when we consider professionality in the context of authentic education (Gorlewski, Gorlewski, and Lalonde, Practicing in the Panopticon: Teaching and Learning in the Surveillance Media Culture).

In sum, this book contradicts the idea that being wise is only the province of the lone genius worthy of respect but possessing knowledge that is obscure to the majority. Instead, it asks us all to participate in the necessarily collaborative endeavor of discourse stewardship in—as grand as it may sound—the pursuit of wisdom.


Section 1: Myths, Lies, and Videotape

The first chapter of this section, Practicing in the Panopticon: Teaching and Learning in the Surveillance Media Culture, uses the framework of critical media literacy to analyze how representations of professionalism, particularly with respect to leadership, learning, and culture, relate to the identity development of educators. In this chapter, Julie Gorlewski, David Gorlewski, and Catherine Lalonde “investigate how selected reality television programs…portray the notion of professionalism, and how these portrayals relate to the experiences of teaching and learning.” Situating contemporary television media representations against a backdrop of neoliberalism, the authors reveal how visual texts reinforce myths related to the cult of personality, meritocracy, and panopticism—myths that undermine the development of critical pedagogical practices in teachers and teacher candidates. Beyond theoretical considerations, the chapter argues that teacher preparation programs must reinforce skills and dispositions consistent with critical literacies in order to foster “lifelong critical social engagement.”

In the second chapter in this section, The Myth of the “Fully Qualified” Bright Young Teacher: Using the Haberman Star Teacher Pre-Screener to Teach and Assess Professional Dispositions, Nicholas D. Hartlep, Sara McCubbins, and Grant B. Morgan report the results of research related to the Haberman STAR Pre-Screener assessment. The authors

were interested in better situating what Haberman (2012) identified as the myth of the “fully qualified bright young teacher” in the context of teacher education professionalization generally, but specifically in the context of how or how not, the educational community thinks about dispositions. ← 4 | 5 →

Their study resulted in two implications. The first involves “revealing the myth of the ‘fully qualified’ bright young teacher” and the second involves the impact of graduate education on teacher effectiveness. In concluding their chapter, the authors claim that “It would be wise and highly effective to build pre-service teachers’ dispositions and core beliefs so that they will be able to effectively teach and reach diverse students.”

The third chapter in this section, When the Obvious Isn’t True: What’s Really Wrong with Teacher Quality and Teacher Education? P. L. Thomas argues that the debates around teacher quality


VIII, 277
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2013 (August)
experiences knowledge learning beliefs behaviors
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 277 pp.

Biographical notes

Julie A. Gorlewski (Volume editor) David A. Gorlewski (Volume editor) Jed Hopkins (Volume editor) Brad J. Porfilio (Volume editor)

Julie A. Gorlewski (PhD, the State University of New York at Buffalo) is Assistant Professor of Secondary Education at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Her books include Power, Resistance, and Literacy: Writing for Social Justice and, with David A. Gorlewski, Making it Real: Case Stories for Secondary Teachers. She is coeditor of English Journal. David A. Gorlewski (EdD, the State University of New York at Buffalo) is Assistant Professor of Educational Administration at the State University of New York at New Paltz. David is coeditor of English Journal and has published numerous articles and chapters on school reform and school leadership. Jed Hopkins (PhD, the University of Minnesota) is Associate Professor of Education at Edgewood College in Madison, WI. His teaching and research interests straddle literacy, teacher education, drama-in-education, and philosophy of education. Brad J. Porfilio (PhD, the State University of New York at Buffalo) is an associate professor in the Educational Leadership for Teaching and Learning Doctoral Program at Lewis University. His research interests and expertise include: urban education, gender and technology, cultural studies, neoliberalism and schooling, and transformative education.


Title: Effective or Wise?