10 SES 09 C, Growth, Sustainability and Nature in Teacher Education
In Finland teacher education is arranged at universities. It includes 60 ECTS pedagogical studies. The studies are research-based which means balanced scientific knowledge and skills in both theory and practice. Subject teachers are qualified to teach in secondary, general upper secondary and vocational schools as well as in higher education and in adult education institutions.
Supervised teaching practice periods at schools are essential elements of pedagogical studies. They consist of three different temporally successive periods extending from Basic Practicum to Intermediate Practicum and finally to Advanced Practicum. These authentic guided teaching practice periods provide the students with diverse opportunities to practice and develop their pedagogical skills and promote their pedagogical knowledge and thinking towards expertise (Britzman 1986; Niemi & Jakku-Sihvonen 2006; 2009).
During the teaching practice students observe lessons given by experienced teachers. They as well practice their own teaching observed by supervisory teachers, a university teacher and peer students. By reflecting critically (Dewey 1910; Mezirow 1990) on their own practices and social skills in teaching and learning situations students can find their personally significant learning experiences (PSLE) (Fink 2013; Merriam & Clark 1993; Silkelä 1999). According to Silkelä, PSLEs can be subjective, personal, authentic, unique or significant.
We build our theoretical framework on the educational model of professional growth by Mentkowski and Associates (2000). They suggest that an educational program can simultaneously develop four educational dimensions: mastery of thought in the disciplines and professions, meaningful self-reflection, development of the person as whole, and the performance in work, family, and civic settings (Mentkowski & Associates 2000, 215).
Based on the above idea, Mentkowski (2000) presents a model of professional growth that integrates learning, development and performance. According to Mentkowski there are four transformatively integrated domains of personal growth where an active learner is at the heart of the process. Those domains are 1) reasoning, 2) performance, 3) self-reflection and 4) development. Reasoning focuses on the role of contemplation skills. It is linked to declarative knowledge structure, formal, abstract and systematic reasoning and basic cognition and its underlying structure. Performance as a second domain is in relationship with learners’ interpersonally charged emotions and dispositions. Teamwork, developing others and analytical inquiry promote learning. The learner extends his or her experience by visualizing different possibilities of behaviour beforehand. The third domain, self-reflection, lies on the construction of meaning in personal experience. Learners can challenge and judge their assumptions and discuss their life experiences with other people. Development as a fourth domain can be characterized by deep enduring structures of the self. It focuses on how learners connect issues of personal integrity and purpose. These four domains are in a close relationship with transformative cycles of learning, in which learners move from one domain to another (Mentkowski & Associates 2000, 179-211; Ruohotie 2004a; Ruohotie 2004b).
Our understanding of personally significant learning experience (PSLE) is based on Merriam and Clark’s (1993) findings that are for learning to be significant: 1) it must personally affect the learner, either by resulting in an expansion of skills, sense of self, or life perspective, or by precipitating a transformation; and 2) it must be subjectively valued by the learner (Merriam & Clark 1993, 129).
This paper aims to present how teaching practice contributes to teacher students' professional learning and growth. Research questions are:
How does teaching practice contribute to teacher students' professional learning and growth? What kind of personally significant learning experiences do the teacher students have during their teaching practice concerning their learning and growth?
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