Laura and Jim and What They Taught Me About the Gap Between Educational Theory and Practice

By Dona M. Kagan

Subjects: Educational Administration
Paperback : 9780791416563, 165 pages, November 1993
Hardcover : 9780791416556, 165 pages, November 1993

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

1. Motivation and Method

Method and Overview
The Utility of This Project
How This is a Different Kind of Educational Research
The School Context


2. What I Saw in Laura's Classroom


The Cognition Underlying Laura's Practice


3. Beth's Course on Methods of Teaching Secondary English


Beth Evaluates My Description of Laura's Practice


4. Laura's Response to Beth

5. What I Saw in Jim's Classroom


The Cognition Underlying Jim's Practice


6. Liza's Course on Methods of Teaching Secondary Social Studies


Liza Evaluates My Description of Jim's Classroom Practice


7. Jim's Response to Liza

8. Where and Why the Professors and the Teachers Disagreed


Points of Difference: Comparing the Two Perspectives
Interviews with the Student Teachers
Echoes in the Literature of Teaching and Teacher Education: The Functional Value of Each Perspective
Inferences and Implications
Where We Might Go from Here: The Moral of the Story





Many teachers do not conform to the views of teaching espoused by professors of education. Yet these teachers are often judged as outstanding by colleagues, students, parents, and administrators. This thoughtful, timely book is a qualitative inquiry that addresses this contradiction. It focuses on two outstanding high school teachers, Laura and Jim, who were observed and interviewed by Kagan over a five month period. Two education professors who teach methods courses in corresponding fields (English, social studies) were also interviewed.

Kagan juxtaposes the two entirely different views of teaching that emerged from her observations and examines the functional value of each. This book then is ultimately about the politics of teaching: the power to define 'good' teaching and determine how novices will be prepared for the classroom. Laura and Jim represent a silent underground of practitioners who have lost the right to legislate their own profession. This is their story.

Dona M. Kagan is Professor of Education at the University of Alabama.


"The stories illustrate in thick, rich description what we know as the great divide among classroom teachers and college professors. It's a great book to analyze in teacher education courses, qualitative research courses, and others dealing with research-to-practice issues and preservice teacher training. " — Francine Peterman, Ball State University

"I liked the manner in which the author developed the tension between what is frequently taught in methods classes in colleges and universities and what is perceived as 'good teaching' by seasoned professionals in the field. The book was very interesting to read; I didn't want to put it down. " — Ralph H. Ware, Siena College