10 SES 09 C, Beyond Mainstream Education and Becoming a Teacher
Many universities in Austria, but also in many other parts of Europe and the world, struggle with coping high student numbers and also high numbers of drop outs. In Austria, drop out numbers are not part of evaluation studies of universities, instead, a “social report” including the variables of gender, age, chosen subject and university and graduate numbers are published (see Zaussinger et al., 2015a/2015b/2015c). The teacher education programme is at the moment especially attractive for new students, which results in high numbers of beginners. Also, students have to decide before starting their studies which two subjects to choose. These are also the (only) subjects they will teach after finishing their studies. Furthermore, from the beginning alongside the two subjects, students attend courses in pedagogy which include on-site teaching practice.
For universities around the world it is important to plan their organization of teaching in accordance to the number of students. For the University of Vienna this means to organize teaching for about 12.000 teacher education students enrolled (in total there are 94.000 enrolled students at the University of Vienna). In the teacher education programme at the University of Vienna there are some subjects with an exorbitant high number of students (for example History, Philosophy and Psychology, German, English). This makes planning difficult and the student number development unforeseen. On the other hand, the student as individual also has difficulties in planning and/or finishing his/her studies. Heine et al. (2006) and Heukamp et al. (2009) stress the importance of the individual perspective meaning that to choose the “right” subjects is of great importance for both, the students and the university. Connected to the question why students change subjects and how students motivate their decision, is the slightly better researched question of dropouts. As stated by Sarcletti/Müller (2011), Thaler/Unger (2014) and Unger et al. (2009) dropout rates, but also dropout reasons vary greatly across different academic studies.
To research the phenomena of changing one or two subjects in teacher education and drop out, this presentation focuses on results from a qualitative interview study. In Austria, student numbers in teacher education are statistically not reliable. As students have to choose two subjects, but could also study three or more subjects at the same time, official statistics (at university level or at ministry level) cannot connect the student numbers that are shown for the individual subjects. Therefore, the “real” student numbers in the beginning, throughout the teacher education and at the end (graduates) can only be estimates. Also, because of this statistical shortcoming, there are no available numbers for students who changed their subject(s) and for drop outs.
While we focused heavily on student numbers statistically in our research and presentation (at ECER and other conferences) last year, our following qualitative research widens the statistical results with results on individual student levels. We can now show how the process of deciding and conducting a change of subject(s) starts and continues, and how students decide for stopping the teacher education programme (for the moment being). There were three main categories becoming visible in the research, which not only shed light on a unexplored field of teacher education, but also give insights in what students would need from universities in order to fulfil their choice of study.
In this research project, we focused on the following research questions: 1) Why do students change their subjects while studying teacher education? 2) How do they report the changing process? We conducted 17 qualitative interviews with teacher students that had changed (or were shortly before changing) one or more of their subjects. With regard to drop-outs, we could find two ex-students that were interested in taking part in the research. Drop-outs are a difficult group to research as it is difficult to obtain access to the field (Chamberlain/Hodgetts 2017). Not being students anymore, they cannot be contacted via university channels (website, newsletter, university mail address or university social media). We analyzed the interviews by using qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2014). Furthermore, we included the qualitative methodology approach of visualization (Banks 2007) after we finished the oral interview. Students drew a picture of their emotional and decision process on a timeline including the years before the change of subject/drop-out.
At the moment, research regarding this aspect of teacher education in Austria is extremely scarce. In contrast to many other countries in Europe, data of student numbers in Austria are not very transparent, especially student numbers for the different subjects and graduates in different subjects. There are no studies up to now with regard to the specific student population in teacher education when study change or drop-out are discussed, but this research project has already resulted in a first publication about this topic (see Neunteufl et al., 2018). In this presentation we want to evolve on the three main categories for students decisions which are: 1) Individual reasons (job security, entrance exams, study satisfaction, expectations etc.) 2) Systemic reasons (study conditions, experiences during on-site teaching practice, job expectations etc.) All our interview partners are eager to become teachers and have thought through their study choice and their individual decisions very richly. This love to become a teacher was still felt by the drop-outs, too, they felt that for the moment university teacher studies were a too big obstacle on the way to obtain their goal.
Banks, Marcus (2007): Using Visual Data in Qualitative Research. LA et al: SAGE Chamberlein, K. / Hodgetts D. (2017): Collecting Qualitative Data with Hard-to-Reach Groups. In Flick, U. (ed).: The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection. LA et al: SAGE Heine, C., Egeln, J., Kerst, C., Müller, E. & Park, S. (2006). Ingenieur- und Naturwissenschaften: Traumfach oder Albtraum? Eine empirische Analyse der Studienfachwahl. Baden-Baden: Nomos. Heukamp, V., Putz, D., Milbradt, A. & Hornke, L.F. (2009). Internetbasierte Self-Assessments zur Unterstützung der Studienentscheidung. Zeitschrift für Beratung und Studium, 4(1), 2-8. Mayring, Ph. (2014). Qualitative content analysis. Theoretical foundation, basic procedures and software solution. Klagenfurt, 2014. URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-395173 (12.01.2017). Neunteufl, B., Atanasoska, T. & Cechovsky, N. (2018). Universitäre Einsparungen durch Unterstützung der Studierenden. Journal für LehrerInnenbildung, 2 (in review process). Sarcletti, A. & Müller, S. (2011). Zum Stand der Studienabbruchsforschung. Theoretische Perspektive, zentrale Ergebnisse und methodische Anforderungen an künftige Studien. Zeitschrift für Bildungsforschung, 1(3), 235-248. Thaler, B. & Unger, M. (2014). Dropouts ≠ Dropouts. Wege nach dem Abgang von der Universität. Institut für Höhere Studien, Wien. Unger, M., Wroblewski, A., Latcheva, R., Zaussinger, S., Hofmann, J. & Musik, Ch. (2009). Frühe Studienabbrüche an Universitäten in Österreich. Institut für Höhere Studien, Wien. Unger, M., Thaler, B., Dibiasi, A., Binder, D. & Litofcenko, J. (2017). Studienverläufe und Studienzufriedenheit. Zusatzbericht der Studierenden-Sozialerhebung 2015. Institut für Höhere Studien, Wien. Zaussinger, S., Unger, M., Thaler, B., Dibiasi, A., Grabher, A., Terzieva, B., Litofcenko, J., Binder, D., Brenner, J., Stjepanovic, S., Mathä, P. & Kulhanek, A. (2015a). Studierenden-Sozialerhebung 2015. Bericht zur sozialen Lage der Studierenden. Band 1: Hochschulzugang und StudienanfängerInnen. Institut für Höhere Studien, Wien. Zaussinger, S., Unger, M., Thaler, B., Dibiasi, A., Grabher, A., Terzieva, B., Litofcenko, J., Binder, D., Brenner, J., Stjepanovic, S., Mathä, P. & Kulhanek, A. (2015b). Studierenden-Sozialerhebung 2015. Bericht zur sozialen Lage der Studierenden. Band 2: Studierende. Institut für Höher Studien, Wien. Zaussinger, S., Unger, M., Thaler, B., Dibiasi, A., Grabher, A., Terzieva, B., Litofcenko, J., Binder, D., Brenner, J., Stjepanovic, S., Mathä, P. & Kulhanek, A. (2015c). Studierenden-Sozialerhebung 2015. Bericht zur sozialen Lage der Studierenden. Band 3: Tabellenband. Institut für Höhere Studien, Wien.
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