10 SES 02 A, Becoming a Teacher
This study focuses on the development of teachers’ personal practical theories during the teacher education program in Austria. It is widely accepted that what teachers do is shaped by their personal practical theories of teaching. A practical theory includes the teacher’s personal philosophy of education and conceptions of human beings, knowledge, and learning, and it guides a teacher’s everyday choices (Elbaz-Luwisch, 2005). In this process, values and beliefs are important: they are behind the teacher’s choices directing those. The practical theory is not a ‘theory’ with a capital T; it is situationally specific and lacks generalizability across contexts and across different users, as well. ‘Practical’ in the practical theory refers that it works in practice (Marland, 1997). I view teachers’ work as relational and moral work (Hansen, 1998) and I acknowledge that the teacher–student relationship is the key element in the process of developing such a theory. In this study are listened to Austrian secondary-school student teachers’ stories where they tell about their previous teachers and also themselves as becoming teachers at the beginning of their teacher studies (i.e., during their first academic year in a teacher education program). The study asks what students tell about teacher-student relationships and how they change their positions from students to teachers in their stories. The study investigates how these positions takings inform the development of their personal practical theories of teaching. The concept of position refers here to the positioning theory by Harré and Langenhove (1999). We are related to social practices having moral justice, duties, and power to speak and take part in interactions. Positions are places along scales or continua that correspond to polarities of character such as strong vs. weak, flashy vs. understated (Herman, 2009, 55).
The research context of the study is an Austrian teacher education program that is currently being re-designed to meet new societal challenges, to harmonize teacher education for different school levels, and to comply with the Bologna Criteria. To this end, both curricula and the overall framework of teacher education institutions across Austria have been or will soon be modified. The Ministry of Education has formulated guidelines for curriculum development (Braunsteiner, Schnider, & Zahalka, 2014). As a necessary prerequisite for meeting complex demands, these curricula are competence-oriented in accordance with the definition provided by Weinert (2000). The aim of these teacher education programs is to prepare prospective teachers for the complexity of educational practice in schools and also for the problems they will face in practice.
Methodological framework. Narrativity forms a methodological framework in this research (Spector-Mersel, 2010). I understand human experience as narrative (Caine, Estefan, & Clandinin, 2013). When student teachers tell their stories, they reconstruct and make sense of their lives and experiences, constructing the meaning of their own experiences (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Elbaz-Luwisch, 2005). In their stories they examine their past life through the present and the future (see e.g. Chase 2003, Clandinin & Connelly 2000, Riessman 2008). Storytelling is situated temporally and is recollective in nature: personal histories and experiences are intertwined in their cultural and social contexts, in “master narratives” that represent the common values and conventions of societies (Baddeley & Singer, 2007). Data and methods. The empirical data consist of 25 teacher student portfolios that students made during their first semester between 2016–2017. For the portfolio, they were asked to describe their way to teacher education. They were also asked to write their memories about their own teachers as well as what kind of teacher they would like to be. In their portfolios they also reflected their experiences based on the first phase of the teaching practice. In the practice they observed teaching and interviewed the teachers. These experiences were later discussed in the seminar groups at the university of teacher education. The basic ethical principle of the study is to protect the participants. Their real names are not published. They have been informed the research and asked for their consent to use their portfolios as a research material in this research. The students represent the diversity of student teachers in Austria with regard to age, gender, and national background. The majority of them are women. Following the narrative approach (Riessman, 2008), the aim is to listen to the student teachers’ “voices” (Elbaz-Luwisch, 2005) through their stories of personal experience. Methods of narrative analysis (Riessman, 2008) have been used to analyse how student teachers position themselves in the scale “becoming teacher”. The analysis has involved the following two main activities: 1. Separating storied episodes from portfolios, in which student teachers describe their various teacher-student experiences, and 2. Reading the separated episodes and coding them according to the way how student teachers position themselves in the student-teacher relationships.
The preliminary results indicate that students’ first experiences in teacher education and teaching practice shift their look from a student position to a teacher position. In their stories, student teachers stress a good teacher–student relationship and teachers’ readiness to encounter diverse students as significant characteristics of good teaching, both in their memories of their former teachers as well as in their stories of the ideal teachers. Their experiences as students seem to have guided their way to teacher education and teacher role models from the first practicum seem to be them relevant in the process of “becoming a good teacher”. In many stories, they highlight a good subject knowledge and a teacher’s enthusiasm in her or his field as significant characteristics of a good teacher. Based on the results, I will further discuss how teacher education could facilitate reflection on student-teacher position in the process of developing personal practical theories.
Baddeley, J., & Singer, J. (2007). Charting the life story’s path. Narrative identity across the life span. In D. J. Clandinin (Ed.), Handbook of narrative inquiry: Mapping a methodology (pp. 177–202). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Braunsteiner, M.-L., Schnider, A., & Zahalka, U. (Eds.) (2014). Grundlagen und Materialien zur Erstellung von Curricula. Graz: Leykam. Caine, V., Estefan, A., & Clandinin, J. (2013). A return to methodological commitment: Reflections on narrative inquiry. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 57(6), 574–586. doi:10.1080/00313831.2013.798833 Chase, S.E. (1995). Taking narratives seriously: Consequences for method and theory in interview studies. In A. Josselson & A. Lieblich (Eds.), Interpreting Experience: The Narrative Study of Lives, 3 (pp. 1-26). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bas. Elbaz-Luwisch, F. (2005). Teachers’ voices: storytelling and possibility. Greenwich, CT: Information Age. Hansen, D. T. (1998). The moral is in the practice. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14(6), 643–655. Harré, R., & van Langenhove, L. (1999). Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action. Oxford, England: Blackwell. Herman, D. (2009). Basic elements of narrative. Oxford: Blackwell. Marland, P. (1997). Towards more effective open & distance teaching. London: Kogan. Riessman, C. K. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. Los Angeles, California: Sage. Spector-Mersel, G. (2010). Narrative research. Time for a paradigm. Narrative Inquiry, 20(1), 204–224. doi: 10.1075/ni.20.1.10spe Weinert, F. E. (2000). Concept of competence: A Conceptual clarification. In D.S. Rychen and L. H. Salganik (Eds.), Definition and selection of key competences (pp. 45–65). Ashland, OH, US: Hogrefe & Huber.
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