Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Science Education

First Advisor

Dr. Marcia Fetters

Second Advisor

Dr. Brandy Pleasants

Third Advisor

Dr. Katharine Cummings


Cohort, teacher education, communities of practice, altemative certification, teacher candidates, professional learning community


Post baccalaureate teacher education programs are an effective way to increase the teaching pool with candidates who are content experts (Beijaard et al. 2004; Brantlinger, A., & Smith, B., 2013; Zeichner, K. M., & Schulte, A. K., 2001; Schultz, K., & Ravitch, S. M. 2013; Humphrey et al., 2008). Many of these programs utilize a cohort model design where students progress through the program together as a group (Maher, M. A. 2005; Jorissen, K. T., 2002; Ross et al., 2006; Mandzuk, D. et al., 2005). In his book, Deep Knowledge (2013), Larkin describes the complex nature of preparing candidates for teaching and calls on the need for research to consider how the nature of thinking like a teacher develops so we can optimize our teacher education programs.

Studies in cohort model research are dominated by data collected after program completion and aimed at only the time during coursework. Additionally, there is a lack of data that extends cohort benefits achieved during coursework to their internship experiences. (Maher, M. A. 2005; Ross et al., 2006; Knorr, R. 2012; Beck, C., & Kosnik, C., 2001). Warhurst, R. P. (2006) discusses cohort design as “learning as belonging” and how the dynamics of participating in a cohort over time means that there is an inevitable component of co-constructing knowledge and forming a community of practice within that group. He further states that the cohort community creates an intrinsic component and that learning becomes inevitable by simply participating in the group. If cohort literature is considering the development of communities of practice and co-construction of knowledge during coursework, the lack of data collected outside of coursework is a major oversight. The research in this study is to look beyond coursework and see how cohort membership impacts teacher education candidates. Focus group data was collected three times during a year-long internship and alternative certification program.

The data collected during the focus group interviews was transcribed and coded for analysis to look deeper into the impact of cohort membership during an alternative certification teacher education program. The theoretical framework was a community practice lens, including Wenger’s Community of Practice dimensions: joint enterprise, mutual engagement, and shared repertoire. Wenger (1998) states that the presence of the three dimensions demonstrates active participation in a shared learning process. Data analysis demonstrates that cohort membership can have benefits for teacher candidates beyond their coursework, particularly during their internships. There is additional time to reflect together within a common goal. The shared knowledge creates a much richer space to understand professional expectations and strategies than if candidates were participating individually. Looking forward it will be important to see how cohort membership is impacted among new cohorts.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access