10 SES 07 E, Beginner Teacher Narratives and Visual Cartographies
Developing pre-service teachers’ abilities to critically reflect on their practice has been facilitated through many processes. One common aspect of this is to encourage pre-service teachers to explore their past schooling experiences (Harford and Grey, 2016; Chang-Kredl & Kingsley, 2014; Miller and Shifflet, 2016). This exploration of their memories of schools, it is argued, can enable them to examine how past experiences influence current beliefs (Uitto & Syrjälä, 2008; Haught, et al., 2015; Van Hook, 2002). Through this process hidden assumptions of what constitutes ‘good’ teaching can also be unpacked (Furlong, 2013; Brookfield, 1995). Notwithstanding the value of these autobiographies for pre-service teacher development, this paper argues that recalling and reflecting on past schooling experiences is not without its limitations.
Looking at this through the lens of autobiographical memory, recollections of past schooling experiences can be highly selective in nature. In addition, these highly selected memories are not static but rather they undergo a constant level of ‘maintenance’ being modified and edited based on the individual’s developing life story and understanding of teaching. Hence what the pre-service teacher now recalls about their schooling experience, and specifically about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teachers, is not only influenced by what they initially perceived as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teaching at the time of encoding, it will also be influenced by their emerging understandings of teaching and learning acquired through exploring educational theory as part of their teacher education programme. Recalled memories of schools and past teachers may therefore draw on prevailing normative scripts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teachers and educational theories acquired in teacher education programmes.
The role of past teachers in pre-service teachers’ recounting of memories is common in studies exploring past experiences (Chang-Kredl & Kingsley, 2014). Research has shown that these are normally presented in a polarised manner, being described as very good or very bad (de Lima et al., 2014). Research has also found that positive teachers tend to have a long-lasting impact on students’ memories (Haught et al, 2016) and that the positive strategies used by these teachers are also remembered (van Hook, 2002) as well as their qualities (Miller and Shifflet, 2016).
Through an analysis of written accounts of their educational histories completed by pre-service teachers on a one-year master’s programme in a Spanish university this study aimed to explore two issues. Firstly, it aimed to explore whether, when memories of their education experience was recalled, teachers were presented in a polarised manner, similar to the work of de Lima et al (2014), or whether more balanced accounts were presented. Secondly, viewed through the lens of autobiographical memory and recognising the constructed nature of memory, the study specifically examined the extent to which pre-service teachers’ memories simply recalled their experiences of their teachers (we have termed recycled memories) or whether their recollections underwent a level of revision and modification since the experience (we have termed upcycled memories). Previous research indicates that past teachers are influential in the developing pre-service teacher’s identity (Haught et al., 2016; Furlong, 2013; Van Hook, 2002) and the way in which they were recalled can shine a light on how they view their own roles as teachers.
This research study collated the written learner diaries of pre-service teacher education students on a teacher education programme in a Spanish University. The diary task completed by the students formed part of the key tasks of a pedagogy module. The task in question asked the pre-service teachers to write an account of their time in education ranging from the earliest memories of school to more recent memories before entering University. They diary was required to outline the story of their educational journey through formal schooling, the experiences, emotions and learning situations they encountered. These written submissions were open-ended in nature allowing the student teachers to freely recall their experiences of school. Completed assignments ranged from 1000 words submissions to larger 4000 words entries. A total of 60 students were enrolled in the programme and from this a random sample of eighteen student submissions were analysed. From this sample diaries that made specific references to teachers either positively or negatively were identified. We firstly identified all memories of past teachers recounted by each student. Having identified these they were then coded as either positive or negative memories. The memories were also categorised according to whether they were memories of their direct experience of the teacher (what we have termed recycled memories) or whether it was recalled through subsequent evaluation of the teacher and their practices (we have termed upcycled memories).
In the pre-service teachers’ recollections, positive schooling experiences were frequently associated with specific teachers. These positive descriptions appeared to provide an opportunity for the student teachers to present their understanding of ‘good’ teaching. Accounts of ‘good’ teachers emphasised teachers’ qualities such as ‘caring’, ‘kind’, ‘patient’ and ‘honest’ traits. They also appeared to use the opportunity to highlight the characteristics of ‘bad’ teachers. Therefore, the pre-service teachers appeared to present teachers in a polarised manner with the majority of teachers recalled considered ‘good’ teachers. The recalled memories appeared to draw almost exclusively on more original memories at the time of encoding with little subsequent evaluation. Of the 60 descriptions of teachers all but 9 could be described as descriptions drawn from their original memories with little evidence of any subsequent evaluation of the teachers recounted. The considerably smaller number of ‘upcycled’ memories recalled memories of teachers involving a level of evaluation/subsequent revision. The finding suggest that the pre-service teachers’ recollections of past teachers are not significantly influenced by pedagogical/professional lenses they may have acquired as part of their teacher education programme. Instead, they appear to primarily reflect the pre-service teachers’ experience at the time of encoding, i.e. bored, humiliated, excited, happy etc. Therefore, when asked to recall instances of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ teaching from their own learner memories do they have a sufficient databank of experiences to draw from? This raises questions about the use of memories of schools in teacher education and the extent to which users of these types of tasks are aware of the biased encoding at the time of experience.
Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Chang-Kredl, S. & Kingsley, S. (2014). Identity expectations in early childhood teacher education: Preservice teachers' memories of prior experiences and reasons for entry into the profession. Teaching and Teacher Education 43, 27-36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2014.05.005 de Lima, M.P., Rebelo, P.V. & Barreira, C. J (2014). Teacher Development: Contributions of Educational Biography and Personality. Journal of Adult Development, 21, (4), 216-224. DOI: 10.1007/s10804-014-9193-y Furlong, J. (2013) Globalisation, neo-liberalism and the reform of teacher education in England. The Educational Forum, 77(1), 28-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131725.2013.739017 Harford, J. & Gray, P. (2016) 'Emerging from somewhere: Student teachers, professional identity and the future of teacher education research' In: Hudson, B. (Eds). Overcoming Fragmentation in Teacher Education (pp. 27-48) UK: Cambridge Haught, P. A., Nardi, A. H. & Walls, R. T. (2015). Preservice Teachers’ Academic Memories of School: A Tool for Learning. American Journal of Educational Research, 3 (2), 166-172. DOI: 10.12691/education-3-2-9 Miller, K. & Shifflet, R. (2016). How memories of school inform preservice teachers' feared and desired selves as teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 53, 20-29. 10.1016/j.tate.2015.10.002. Uitto, M. & Syrjälä, L. (2008). Body, Caring and Power in Teacher–Pupil Relationships: Encounters in former pupils' memories, Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 52, 4, 355-371. DOI: 10.1080/00313830802184517 Van Hook, C. (2002) Preservice teachers reflect on memories from early childhood. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 23 (2), 143-155, DOI: 10.1080/1090102020230206
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