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Journal ArticleDOI

Purposeful Tensions: Lessons Learned from Metaphors in Teacher Candidates' Digital Stories

08 Sep 2017-The Teacher Educator (Routledge)-Vol. 52, Iss: 4, pp 291-307

Abstract: This collective case study examines how two teacher candidates' digital story projects created in literacy methods courses made visible their negotiated and evolving visions of teaching and learning. The digital stories were created to show and describe their future literacy classrooms. Using metaphoric analysis, the researchers uncovered the implicit metaphors of teachers and students present in each of the teacher candidates' digital stories. Looking across these metaphors, tensions and alignments between how the teacher candidates envisioned the role of teacher and the role of student and how these relate to prominent models of education including Industrial and Inquiry models are apparent. Implications for practice include modifications made to literacy methods courses to support teacher candidates to begin the negotiation of their professional identities as they explore multiple experiences of teaching and learning. These modifications include: (a) prompting teacher candidates to see themselv...
Topics: Literacy (55%), Teaching method (52%), Literal and figurative language (50%), Electronic publishing (50%)

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Purposeful Tensions: Lessons Learned from Metaphors in Teacher Candidates’ Digital Stories
In this qualitative study we present a brief overview of a digital story project and discuss how
two teacher candidates’ implicit metaphors of teachers and students within this project made
visible their negotiated and evolving visions of their future classrooms. The tensions present in
the teacher candidates’ metaphors allowed us, as researchers and teacher educators, to view
these tensions in response to our own teaching practices. This study served as a launching pad
to modify our methods courses to support teacher candidates to begin the negotiation of their
professional identities as they explore multiple experiences about teaching and learning.
Implications include how the digital stories challenged us to find ways to enhance our courses by
providing more intentional class engagements providing our students with opportunities to
explore the tensions between the industrial and inquiry model in the classrooms we visit and
work in, as well as the ones we hope to create.
Each semester, we set out with lofty goals of inspiring the aspiring teachers with whom
we work to thoughtfully consider the kind of educators they want to become and supporting
them on this journey. One method we have found beneficial in moving us toward achieving this
goal is a project in which teacher candidates create digital stories envisioning their own future
classrooms. This project was designed to elicit the developing visions our teacher candidates
were constructing in elementary literacy methods courses across three different university
settings. They are asked to create digital stories in which they present their vision of what their
future classroom will be like. They present images, voiceover, text, effects, and sometimes music
in order to demonstrate what they believe about literacy teaching and learning. This project
replaced the traditional beliefs and understandings paper previously assigned in these courses
which had become a rote exercise. The digital story project is intended to provide an authentic

space for teacher candidates to begin to sort out the complexities related to their evolving beliefs
and understandings and negotiate their professional identities as they explore multiple voices of
experience about teaching and learning they have encountered in their time as K-12 students, in
teacher education coursework, and in field placements (Authors, 2015).
Review of the Literature
Constructing Teaching Identities
We encourage the construction of a teaching vision based on our understanding that the
development of a teacher identity is a critically important component of the learning-to-teach
process (Alsup, 2006; Atkinson, 2004; Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009), as it is linked to teacher
growth and performance. Bullough & Baughman (1997) emphasize, “teacher identity, the
beginning teacher’s beliefs about teaching, learning and self-as-a-teacher, is a vital concern to
teacher education as it is the basis for meaning making and decision making” (p.21). This key
process of professional identity development is often overlooked in teacher education, however.
Fairbanks et al. (2010) point out that “…a sense of agency with the intent of purposefully
negotiating personal and professional contexts may be as important, if not more important, than
the more traditional conceptions of professional knowledge” (p. 162). Recent research (Ticknor,
2014; Authors, 2015) indicates the importance of intentionally providing teacher candidates
opportunities to begin to negotiate complex discourses inherent in learning to teach while still in
supportive teacher education environments. For this reason, envisioning the self as a professional
is a crucial stage in professional identity development and the construction of a vision of
teaching and one we choose to emphasize in our courses.
Affordances of Digital Storytelling

Research on the use of digital video composition (Authors, 2015; Pandya, 2014; Rish,
2013) shows that most teacher candidates’ videos in which they are asked to reflect upon and
represent their beliefs and/or visions of teaching multimodally are more complex and cognitively
demanding than writing written reflections about one’s teaching beliefs and understandings. As
each of us, the four researchers, viewed the digital story projects created by the teacher
candidates in our courses, it became apparent that they were using the digital composing process
to negotiate their evolving beliefs as they created and "substantiate[d] their stances" (Mallette,
Kile, Smith, McKinney & Readence, 2000) while visioning their future classrooms. According to
Leander and Boldt (2012), texts like the digital stories our teacher candidates create are “not
about the world; rather they are participants in the world” (p. 25). As such, our teacher
candidates do not simply produce these texts but rather use them to interact with and negotiate
discourses present in learning to teach.
This study describes work developed by a research group who came together as teacher
educators with a common digital story project, across three universities. Fueled by our combined
experience of over 60 years in elementary classrooms, we share a passion for finding ways to
allow the digital storytelling project to inform our own teaching practices.
Given the literature on the affordances of digital composing/storytelling in supporting complex
negotiations of discourses of teaching and the creation of a teaching vision (Authors, 2015;
Beach, 2014; Pandya, 2014; Rish, 2013; McVee, Bailey, & Shanahan, 2012; Albers, 2011, 2008)
the questions guiding our study were:
How does digital storytelling make visible teacher candidates’ visions of teaching and

How can we, as teacher educators, learn from these digital stories?
This study focuses on the digital stories of two teacher candidates, Ellie and Charlotte
(pseudonyms used). They were both enrolled in a literacy course during their elementary teacher
education program. Charlotte’s university was located in a mid-size Midwestern city and Ellie’s
was in an urban metropolitan university in the South. They were both White females in their
early twenties.
As the final project for their literacy methods course, Ellie and Charlotte, along with their
classmates, were asked to compose a digital story in which they envisioned their future literacy
classroom. Within this digital story, they were asked to “consider potential interpretations of
their design choices” (Pandya, 2014) including language, images, and music that would allow
their audience of this first-person narrative to realize the theoretical rationale for their
instructional, material, and assessment choices in their future classrooms.
Data Collection
Ellie and Charlotte’s digital stories were selected using critical case sampling because
they were likely to "yield the most information and have the greatest impact on the development
of knowledge" (Patton, 2002, p. 236). Our use of two cases, collective case study (Creswell,
2007, p. 74) across multiple sites, allowed us “to show different perspectives on the same
Data was collected under an approved exempt protocol from IRB at each
university. Additionally, willing participants were not identified to the researchers until after the
semester was completed. Institutional Review Boards permission was granted for analysis of
Ellie and Charlotte’s course projects.  Their stories were not analyzed until after the course

ended. We organized the data involved by transcribing the digital story images and
corresponding voice-over in a table format (See Table 1). These were segmented by sentences,
unless in some cases, they were broken into two segments when needed to correspond with
Data Analysis
The following questions guided our analysis of the visual representations chosen and
language used by each teacher candidate as she described visions of her future classroom:
What phrases or phrasing reveal themes related to teachers and students?
How do these phrases unveil implicit metaphors (paying particular attention to metaphors
of teaching, teachers, learning, and students)?
We were guided by Saldaña (2009) to analyze the themes of the digital stories in order to
glean meaning. Using this thematic analysis, we identified and brought together components to
construct themes or patterns that might otherwise be thought meaningless. Looking this closely
at the digital stories allowed us to derive a deeper meaning from each (Saldaña, 2009). Next, we
took note of “resonant metaphors” that Ellie and Charlotte used during their digital story because
these metaphors contained and gave shape to the experiences and perspectives of the
participants. According to Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis (1997), “The metaphors—spare like
poetry—embrace and express a large area of human experience” (p. 198). Finding the metaphors
in the digital stories allowed us, like Musoff (2012), to “make experience coherent” (p. 302).
Metaphors were also useful in uncovering the ways people understood the world around them.
Lakoff and Johnson (1980) maintain that metaphoric processes are fundamental forms of human
understanding, and they argue that the human mind grasps unfamiliar ideas only by comparison
with or in terms of things that are already known. Therefore, metaphoric language used in the

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