10 SES 09 C, Research on Professional Knowledge & Identity in Teacher Education
Paper/Ignite Talk Session
In the very beginning of a teacher education, the student teachers can often relate to teaching practice. They have observed teachers for at least 13 years as pupils, and they often have an idea of what it entails to be a teacher. Many also envision how they will fit into this role themselves. According to Chong et al. (2011), the pre-service teachers' experiences and understanding of school are often associated with their own experiences. The focus is to a lesser extent on learning within an entire class. From being concerned about their own learning at the beginning of the study, it is an ongoing development towards a more social view where focus is on the classroom and the students in the class.
The teacher education in Norway has gone through many reforms over the past ten years. Since 2017, all teacher educations are at the master's level. Indicators of quality appear to be: A good relationship between theory and practice, the experience of completeness and context, and good, reflected practice experiences (Hammernes & Klette, 2015; Darling-Hammond, 2014). Developing a teacher identity takes time and is a continuous process (Akkerman & Meijer, 2011; Beijaard et al., 2004; Rodgers & Scott, 2008). Many claim that professional identity is related to the individual's personal and social life and to interactions between personal experiences and institutional settings in which the profession is performed (Day & Kington, 2008). Socio-cultural thinking also supports that development is socially and culturally conditioned (Chong et al., 2011; Stenberg et al., 2014; Akkerman & Meijer, 2011). Korthagen (2004) claims that one of the most important factors for the development of a good teacher identity is that the education takes the students` concerns and worries into consideration.
The term theory is often used within higher education. In our context it is associated with theory in pedagogy, which new students often find demanding. Unneland (2009) argues that the theory can be viewed as "something you read in the books, having it "in mind", which is to be applied in practice", while practice deals with doing something, related to actions where school practice is understood as an opportunity to try out the theories. However, if theories govern practice and the job of a teacher is to apply theory, this will be instrumental . Then it is perhaps not surprising that many perceive the theories as useless or abstract.
In this project, we intend to gain better insight into how the student teachers experience their very first meeting with school: The survey is about the observation practicum, which provides students with a first insight into the school as a working place. The student groups follow a teacher's week and get a first glimpse of everyday life in school, which not only is about teaching, but also about planning, meetings, parents, and other school events. Beforehand, the students have briefly been introduced to the subject of pedagogy, with focus on the teacher as the leader of a learning community.
By means of an on-line questionnaire, we have asked students to reflect about their first observation practicum, seeking answers to the following research questions:
How do teacher students experience their first encounter with school practice?
- What happens to their understanding of teacher identity?
- What happens to their understanding of the connection between practice and pedagogy?
The survey showed that student teachers experience a change, over the course of the observation practicum, in their understanding of the tasks and content of their career choice. Their identity is changing from pupil to student teachers; the observation practicum provides a concrete start on the development of a professional identity.
During practice periods, where the student teachers themselves are to teach, they often focus on teaching and at themselves in the role of a teacher. Contrary, during the observation practicum they do not need to focus on their own teaching. Beforehand, the student teachers have had a theoretical introduction in how to observe from various perspectives. In addition, the groups were given tasks in which they had to look at different aspects of the school's activities. The week after the observation practicum, the student teachers were asked to complete an on-line reflective questionnaire. In total 126 paticipants answered the questionnaire. Some weeks after the practice period, two focus-group interviews were made, with a total of eight student teachers, in order to explore the participants’ experiences. The research approach is based on Grounded Theory (Creswell, 2013), and we used a constant comparative method. All returned questionnaires were read and open-coded by the members of the research group, using the research questions as guidelines. The focus-group interviews were carefully read and transcribed. According to our research questions, the axial coding process led to two categories: 1: From pupil to pre-service teacher and 2: The connection between theory and practice.
From pupil to student teacher In their observation practicum, the student teachers focused on the teacher's work and what a teacher really does. Despite the fact that they had long experience as pupils with teachers themselves, they found something new: The teacher did a lot more than just teach the pupils. They planned the lessons, prepared themselves, had to think about possibilities for things to be different from first thought and cope with unforeseen situations in a sensible way. Developing a professional identity takes time, but many student teachers reported that they had changed their understanding of the profession or got a better understanding than they had experienced as a pupil in school. They gained a new perspective: From a pupil to a student teacher. The connection between theory and practice A large group of student teachers also believed that the observation period provided a better basis for their study, because they were given a new understanding of the relevance of what they had learned theoretically in pedagogy to practice. On the other hand, many also believed that having this practicum in school this early in the study, made it easier to understand what they were working on at the theoretical level. One student teacher said: I knew that there is a lot of pedagogy within the teacher profession, but that there are so many different things to think about each time you appear in front of a class, I had not imagined. So, how do we, as teacher educators relate to this? Do we properly facilitate these young students and their view of their prospective profession?
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