10 SES 03 B, Teacher Education and Teacher Quality
In Iceland, five years of university education is required to qualify as a compulsory school teacher (children ages 6-16). Teacher education is offered at the University Iceland (UI) in Reykjavík, and in the University of Akureyri, in North-Iceland. At both universities student teachers can choose between campus-based attendance or online learning with obligatory periodical face-to-face sessions (blended learning), and can even choose which form they prefer per course.
Teacher education worldwide has been criticized for weak integration of theory and practice, lack of connection to school needs, and inadequate time for practice teaching in schools (Commission of the European Communities, 2007; OECD, 2005; Schwille & Dembélé, 2007). Research has shown that distance students tend to be different in terms of age and social background, and that distance programs – nowadays mainly performed online – support the recruitment of a more diverse group of student teachers. Distance education for school-based student teachers has also been suggested as a response to the criticism of insufficient relations to school practice in teacher education (Moon & Robinson, 2003; Schwille & Dembélé, 2007). However, there are doubts about the quality of distance education and how comparable it is to on-campus classes.
The idea of improving student teacher learning by spending more time in schools has been promoted with reference to theories on situated learning and communities of practice, presuming student teachers develop practical skills through induction into communities of practice guided by experienced teachers (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998). Van Huizen et al. (2005) suggest a Vygotskian perspective as a more comprehensive paradigm, emphasizing the importance of student teachers having an opportunity for close interaction between assigning meaning and realizing meaning in action. This calls for a focus on the relation between the pedagogy supporting the professional development of student teachers and the institutional conditions needed for realizing it, requiring teacher education in schools and universities to focus attention on the importance of their relationship.
In a survey conducted in UI in 2017, 52% of students at the master’s level described their status as studying fully as distance students (a blend of online and on-campus sessions), 25% said they chose both online and on-campus courses (following their convenience), and 23% said they were fully on-campus students (Social Science Research Institute University of Iceland, 2017a). Similar results were found in a survey for students who had graduated 26% said they had studied fully as traditional on-campus students (Social Science Research Institute University of Iceland, 2017b). This high number of students who enroll in an online program or online/on-campus interchangeably brings forth questions about their experience of different study forms and if and how this affects the quality of their education. It is also important to look at work experience because many students, in both online or campus-based programs, work while studying. Many work in schools or in fields related to their education, such as with children in preschools, leisure, sports, etc. It would be interesting to investigate if the form of study (online or campus-based) and experience of working in schools or in other activities with children supports the connections between theory or practice in their studies by asking:
- Are the backgrounds of online student teachers and on-campus student teachers different?
- What are the experiences of student teachers in the compulsory school teachers program at the UI, for both academic courses and practice courses?
- What kind of differences, if any, may be detected between on-campus and online students?
- What kind of differences can be detected between students working in schools or with children and those who do not work in fields related to their education?
The data was derived from an online questionnaire that was administered in the spring of 2017 in the School of Education at the University of Iceland. Participants and data collection: The participants were students (N = 208) in a five-year teacher education program who were training to be teachers in compulsory schools in Iceland. The data was collected online. A link to the survey was sent in an email to registered students and was also introduced to students in class both on-campus and during periodical face-to-face sessions. A follow-up email to encourage participation was sent twice to the email addresses. Materials: The questionnaire was translated from Norwegian to Icelandic and had been used for data collection in Norway (Christophersen, Elstad, Solhaug, & Turmo, 20156) and Finland (Christophersen, Elstad, Juuti, Solhaug & Turmo, 2017). In the questionnaire participants responded to items on a seven-point Likert scale measuring different factors, each factor being measured with two to four single items. Those factors include commitment of participants to staying in the teaching profession, alpha = .86; commitment and attraction to career as a teacher, alpha = .83; relevance of pedagogy to the profession of teaching, alpha = .92; relevance of subject-didactics, alpha = .94; communication with practice mentors, alpha = .81; skills of the practice mentor in relating theory and praxis, alpha = .90; and feedback and discussion with practice mentors, alpha = .89. Participants were also asked about their background and participation in the labor market. This part of the questionnaire included question about their parents’ education, if their parents were teachers, if they were working, and if so, how many hours they worked and what type of work they were doing. Finally, participants were asked if they were traditional on-campus students, distance students, or taking both on-campus and distance education classes. Data analysis: The data was analyzed using SPSS 24. Reliability for each factor was calculated and if it was found to be acceptable a factor score was calculated. Comparisons of means was done using One-way ANOVA and post-hoc comparisons.
Of the participants, 87% were female. Of on-campus students, 47% had a mother with a university education; the same was true for 29% of students in the distance education program and 49% of students in the flexible program (taking both on-campus and distance education classes). In the distance education program 35% of participants had a mother with only compulsory education, compared to around 26-27% of the on-campus students and those in the flexible program. About 13% of distance education students, 41% of on-campus students, and 35% of students in the flexible program had a father with university education. Around 30% of students were not working; this number was similar for distance, on-campus, and students in the flexible program. Of the online students, 20% were working as teachers in compulsory schools, 2% of students in on-campus and 8% of students in the flexible program had the same type of job, teaching without the proper qualifications. Of the distance education students, 48% were either not working or were working in a field unrelated to their study; the same was true for 55% of on-campus students and 54% of students in the flexible program. Of the factors listed in the method section, there was a significant difference between distance and on-campus students in only one factor: turnover intentions. Distance students were more likely to indicate intentions of leaving the teaching profession. There was a difference on two factors based on the type of work the students were doing. Those that worked as teachers were more committed to a career in teaching and they valued feedback and discussion with practice mentors more than the other groups.
Christophersen, K., Elstad, E., Solhaug, T., & Turmo, A. (2016). Antecedents of student teachers' affective commitment to the teaching profession and turnover intention. European Journal Of Teacher Education, 39(3), 270-286. doi:10.1080/02619768.2016.1170803 Christophersen, K.A., Elstad, E., Juuti, K., Solhaug, T. & Turmo, A. (2017). Duration of On-Campus Academic Engagements of Student Teachers in Finland and Norway Education Inquirym 8(2). Commission of the European Communities. (2007). Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament. Improving the quality of teacher education. Retrieved from Commission of the European Communities http://ec.europa.eu/education/com392_en.pdf Moon, B., & Robinson, B. (2003). Open and distance learning for initial teacher training. In B. Robinson & C. Latchem (Eds.), Teacher education through open and distance learning (pp. 72-90). London: RoutledgeFalmer. OECD. (2005). Teachers matter: attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers Retrieved 07.05.2009, from OECD http://www.oecd.org/document/52/0,3343,en_2649_39263231_34991988_1_1_1_1,00.html Social Science Research Institute University of Iceland (2017b). University of Iceland survey on students satisfaction. Faculty of Teacher Education – Master’s students. Social Science Research Institute University of Iceland (2017b). University of Iceland survey on students satisfaction. Faculty of Teacher Education – Graduated students. Schwille, J., & Dembélé, M. (2007). Global perspectives on teacher learning: improving policy and practice. Retrieved from UNESCO: International Institute for Educational Planning http://www.unesco.org/iiep/eng/publications/recent/rec7.htm van Huizen, P., van Oers, B., & Wubbels, T. (2005). A Vygotskian perspective on teacher education. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 37(3), 267-290.
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