10 SES 02 B, Research on Programmes and Pedagogical Approaches in Teacher Education
This paper considers the development of the student teacher as reflective practitioner and challenges the notion that teacher reflection is developed only in the classroom setting. Drawing on findings of a small-scale study into peer-teaching sessions, it argues that development of reflective processes may be repositioned within initial teacher pre-service university programmes, through actively discussing explicit links between theory and practice, enabling student teachers to reflect more efficiently once they are within the future ‘real life’ teaching environment of the school practicum. In Scotland, where the study took place, in accordance with the Barcelona agreement stating that all school children should learn two languages in addition to their home language (EU, 2002) all primary teachers are expected to teach a second or foreign language (Scottish Government, 2012). Other European countries have adopted the Barcelona agreement, however, Scotland is the first country in the UK to promote the learning of langauges as policy (Scottish Government 2012). The mandatory inclusion of foreign languages in the primary curriculum since 2012 resulted in a great deal of stress for primary teachers, the majority of whom have very little foreign language proficiency, nor understanding of its pedagogy (Valdera and Crichton, 2018). Furthermore, in line with the current Scottish curricular framework, teachers are expected to make links to cultural issues through the learning of foreign languages (Education Scotland (n.d). Primary student teachers, therefore, are keen to obtain as much input on cultural insights, language development and languages teaching strategies as possible during their university studies. As teacher educators with responsibility for training secondary student teachers of modern languages(MLSTs) and postgraduate primary teaching students (PSTs) about the primary modern languages (ML) curriculum, in addition to the weekly lectures to the PSTs, we set up a series of micro-teaching sessions in which MLSTs taught aspects of French and Spanish language and culture to groups of PSTs. We considered the micro-teaching sessions to be beneficial for both cohorts: MLSTs could practise planning and delivering lessons to a sympathetic audience and the PSTs would receive targeted input in the foreign language which included core structures and vocabulary which feature regularly in primary school curricula. In essence, the MLSTs were planning a series of primary language lessons and teaching them to the PSTs as they would to a class of primary children. The students’ reflections were sought to support the planning of future similar micro-teaching events which we deemed important to inform further course improvement, but more importantly also to provide insight into their developing reflective processes, to identify areas where links between theory and practical applications in the classroom could be highlighted. Our research questions, therefore, focused on whether the students’ reflections revealed understanding of the underpinning theory related to their evaluations of their teaching and learning, as well as how much support the micro-teaching sessions provided to both cohorts of students as preparation for their school practicum.
- To what extent does micro-teaching prepare student teachers for school placement?
- To what extent do student teachers make links between the practice in the micro-lessons and theory?
Theories of language learning and pedagogy were an important part of the input with both cohorts in lectures (PSTs) and seminars (MLSTs) and the MLSTs' lessons had all been planned taking these theories into account. We were interested in whether their reflections would show understanding of how these translated into practice.
There were 22 MLST and approximately 200 PST participants. The input for the PSTs in ML was a weekly lecture. Staff availability and the time allocation for each subject area precluded any increase in input; however, we were keen to explore other ways of supporting the PSTs’ language learning while providing the MLSTs with teaching experience before starting their school placements. The 200 PSTs were therefore divided into 8 groups of approximately 25 and allocated a group of 3-4 MLSTs as teachers. Each MLST group took responsibility to design a comprehensive interactive lesson plan with resources, on an area covered in the primary school. Core language was kept simple and limited in structure, so that the PTSs could envisage the lessons being taught in the primary classroom. Each week for 4 weeks, the 8 groups of MLSTs taught one of the lessons planned by their peers, that is, the same lesson was taught to all of the PSTs. The ‘extra’ four lesson plans were placed on the student VLE for both cohorts to download and use as they wished. After the four lessons, all students were invited to send by email reflections on the teaching and learning processes which took place in the micro-teaching lessons to the researchers, who immediately anonymised them. Students were asked to evaluate their teaching and/or learning in relation to the micro-teaching session, focusing on the active nature of the tasks and the interaction between teachers and learners. 20 PSTs and 10 MLSTs subsequently took part in focus groups, where salient themes arising from the email reflections were discussed. Questioning was very open, leaving it up to the students to raise any links to theory. The students’ responses were analysed individually by the researchers, using thematic analysis (Braun and Clark 2006) to identify specific recurring patterns, before coming together to discuss our individual analyses and organise the data into clear themes. When examining the PSTs' responses we were keen to determine whether they could be considered reflective learners, who recognise patterns which could link to past experience, which can then be used to construct deeper learning (Sugerman, 2000). We used Brookfield’s lenses (1995) as a frame to scrutinise the MLSTs’ responses, as this allowed us to identify themes within the various perspectives he categorised relating to reflection.
One of the overarching findings related to student confidence. All the students who responded mentioned increased confidence over the four weeks.The students from both cohorts appeared focused on the future SE placement due to take place two weeks after the last micro-teaching session, however, the secondary students’ focus was more oriented to their use of the target language as a medium of communication in the classroom, organisation of tasks and the engagement of the learners. The primary students’ reflections were more centred on their learning, their confidence using the language and the activities that they could use themselves in the classroom. While all students stressed the practical advantages of the micro-teaching, a significant number also made reference to socio-cultural theory and Vygotsky's ZPD (1986). The MLSTs also identified language learning theory related to interaction (Long 1996), target language use (Krashen 1988) and language anxiety (Horwitz et al. (1986). Participants all mentioned how valuable the sessions had been, with most indicating that also appreciated the opportunity to reflect on their teaching and learning and that they felt better equipped to evaluate their lessons in the forthcoming school placement. We conclude that stimulation of initial reflection on practice in the university setting through practical exercises such as the micro-teaching may offer a helpful perspective for teacher educators across Europe, so that when the students enter their school practicum, they understand how to interrogate their practice with a view to enhancing their pedagogy.
Braun, V. & Clarke, V (2006) Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3, 1: 77-101. Brookfield, S. (1995) Becoming a critically reflective teacher, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass. Education Scotland (n.d.) Curriculum for Excellence: Modern Languages Experiences and Outcomes https://education.gov.scot/Documents/modern-languages-eo.pdf European Council of Barcelona (2002) ‘Presidency conclusions’ Barcelona, European Council. http://ec.europa.eu/invest-in research/pdf/download_en/barcelona_european_council.pdf Horwirz, E. K.; Horwitz, M. B.; Cope, J. (1986) Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety. The Modern Language Journal. 70 (ii) Krashen, S.D.(1988) Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Prentice-Hall International, Long, M. (1996) The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In W. C. Ritchie & T. K Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (413-68). New York: Academic Press. Scottish Government (2012a) Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2012/05/3670/downloads Sugerman, D. A., Doherty, K. L., Garvey, D. & Gass, M. A. (2000) Reflective Learning: Theory and Practice. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company Valdera Gil, F. & Crichton, H. (2018) Mother tongue plus two languages: are Scottish primary teachers confident to deliver? The Language Learning Journal online publication, Vygotsky, L.S. (1986) Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT.
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