10 SES 16 C, Research on Values, Beliefs & Understandings in Teacher Education
Teacher education attracts varying amounts of applicants in different countries. In Europe many countries suffer the lack of qualified applicants into preservice teacher education. In a few countries, such as Finland, the number of applicants has been abundant, being often 5 to 8 times more than the number of admitted students.
Like the recent report by the European Commission (2013) states, career as a teacher “has lost much of its power to attract the most promising prospective teachers”. The same report assumes the reasons being in the decline of prestige, deterioration in the working conditions, and relatively low salaries compared with other academic professions (European Commission (2013). The TALIS 2013 survey to European teachers indicated that 90 percent of teachers in the EU stated being satisfied with their job and about the same proportion with their school environments. In the same study only 18 percent of respondents perceived their profession to be valued by the society. There were countries in which this percentage was lower than 10 percent. (OECD 2014.) The results seem to indicate that experienced job satisfaction and perceived respect from outside the profession do not correlate.
Although the popularity of teacher education programs is a good indicator of the attractiveness of teaching profession, it is also important to consider teachers’ perceptions and/or conceptions of their actual work, and teacher attrition, particularly during the early career, to understand how teachers perceive schools as working places and teaching as a lifelong career. However, in this study we restrict data collection to teacher students aiming to enter the career as a teacher. Understanding the differences in conceptions may help in directing the educational and school level policies, student and teacher assessment, and teacher education in general.
Our general focus in this project is to study teacher students and particularly their conceptions of teacher profession and the context of work as a teacher. We assume that popularity of teacher education in different countries may be related - in a complex way - to those kinds of perceptions and conceptions. Our assumption is that conceptions, based on one’s experiences and related to the life context and the person’s future expectations, are important when a student considers her/his vocational career choices.
The paper and presentation focus on teacher students’ conceptions of teaching career and teachers in Finland, Latvia, and Norway. The situation in the number of applicants to teacher education between the countries differs a lot. In Finland only less than 10 percent of applicants are admitted to primary school teacher education programs. The problem is opposite in Norway. More than half of the study positions are open in the northern universities because of the lack of qualified applicants. In Latvia the situation is in the middle compared to Finland and Norway. There are no major historical or contextual reasons for these big differences, therefore, it is interesting to find out what kind of differences there are in the student conceptions between the countries and universities.
With the conception as a scientific concept we mean student teachers’ subjective understanding and interpretation of the investigated topic or phenomenon. We assume that conceptions are based on, for instance, personal history and experiences, but also positioning oneself in the certain contexts, such as school (about positioning see Hárre & Langenhove, 1998) but also societal, social and cultural values and expectations. The student constructs subjective conceptions to makes decisions about the future including work and career. We do not assume that conceptions are fixed. For instance, contextual factors and situations, like time and place, emotions and mood, may influence on the conceptions of certain phenomena.
In the past conceptions have typically been studied qualitatively, based on data collected, for instance, with interviews. The informants in this study are teacher students from four universities in Norway (1), Latvia (1) and Finland (2). The data have been collected with focus group (FG) interviews. Focus group as a method fits well in this kind of data collection in which the question concerns values, career expectations and work as a teacher in the future society. The interviews were done using the students’ mother tongue. The number of respondents differed between institutions, however, there were at least two focus groups of students from each institution took part in about one-hour focus groups. The total number of students participating the FG interviews was 38. The informants are 3rd and 4th year teacher students. They are both males and females.
Analyses are made by applying the phenomenographical approach in which the conceptions are categorized in different themes. In the analyses one theoretical approach is Bourdieu’s habitus theory (Bourdieu 1990). Analyses indicate that teacher students’ conceptions differ in many aspects between the three countries, for instance, in students’ conceptions of how much the society appreciates teachers. The nature of differences and implications will be discussed in the presentation.
European Commission 2013: The attractiveness of teacher profession. Retrieved in January 31, 2019 from ec.europa.eu/assets/eac/.../study/2013/teaching-profession1_en.pdf OECD, 2014. TALIS 2013 Results. An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning. Paris: OECD. Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Harré, R., & Van Langenhove, L. (Eds.). (1998). Positioning theory: Moral contexts of international action. Wiley-Blackwell.
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