10 SES 13 D, Research on Teacher Educators
Teachers’ shortage has become a critical issue in most countries in the world. One of the solutions has been the initiation of special short-term teacher education training programmes which attract adult career changers who would like to take up teaching (Richardson & Watt, 2005; Tigchelaar, Brouwer & Korthagen, 2008; Donitsa-Schmidt & Zuzovsky, 2016). Second career teachers enter the programme with prior working experiences, they bring with them maturity, professionalism, world knowledge and transferable skills (Resta, Huling, & Rainwater, 2001; Tigchelaar, Brouwer, & Korthagen, 2008). However, the process of transferring previous knowledge or skills is quite challenging and teachers need to navigate new horizons. Research shows that at the beginning they act predominantly within their former horizons (Tigchelaar, Brouwer, & Korthagen, 2008), with the need ‘to develop a completely new way of making sense of self within a ‘‘teaching frame of reference’’ (Snyder, Oliveira, & Paska, 2013 p. 621). The process of shifting from one professional mindset to another entails considerable mental and emotional effort and depends on each person’s background and experiences (Powers, 2002).
Our study focuses on the knowledge transformation of second career teachers who joined an accelerated retraining programme for English teachers initiated by the Ministry of Education in Israel, in order to overcome a shortage of English teachers countrywide. It is argued that second career teachers are an intriguing group for teacher education programs as they differ from first career teachers regarding their experience (Tigchelaar, Brouwer, & Korthagen 2008; Mayotte, 2003), demographic, academic and occupational profiles (Donitsa Schmidt & Weinberger, 2014) and also in the way they learn (Knowles, 1980; Mezirow & Associates, 2000).
The aim of the study is: 1. to identify the shifts in teachers’ perceptions 2. what experiences in the programme triggered these shifts.
The theoretical framework is based upon the concept of second career teachers as adult learners and Mezirow’s theory of learning transformation (Mezirow & Marsick, 1978; Mezirow, 1978, 1991, 2000). Transformative learning involves participation in constructive discourse, mental and behavioral shifts from previously held beliefs to new ones by modifying meanings and undergoing changes. Mezirow (1990) defines learning as: "the process of making a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of an experience, which guides subsequent understanding, appreciation, and action." (p.1). During the learning process the adult learner relies on his/her frames of references, assumptions and habits to make new ones. Therefore, to understand the nature of adult learning we need to take into account the important role these habits have in making new meaning.
Teacher career changers are people who come into teaching as a second career-choice (Lovett, 2007). Second career teachers are known as "professionals who leave their jobs to become a teacher" (Tigchelaar, Brouwer, & Vermunt, 2010, p. 165). They are described as professionals in their decision-making considerations, their life experience, wisdom, maturity and working habits, in comparison to the young teachers who have chosen teaching as a first career (Richardson & Watt, 2006). Studies on adults with prior careers include investigating reasons that draw career-changers into teaching and the effects of prior successful careers on their developments as teachers (Chambers, 2002). Other studies looked at career changers' profiles by examining personal narratives regarding their choices, and their experiences during their training period (Priyadharshini & Robinson-Pant, 2003). Lovett (2007) contends that there is a constant increase of second career teachers entering the profession as part of a continued career change, not necessarily seeing teaching as "a long-term commitment but as one of many career choices" (p. 40).
The research questions of the study are: • What processes of knowledge transformation do second career EFL teachers experience, in an accelerated retraining programme, if at all? • What experiences in the course of the programme triggered these changes? It is grounded in data collected from in-depth interviews conducted with 15 students. Thus, the research approach was inductive. The aim of the study is not to generalize but to identify knowledge transformation of a small-scale group studying in a particular programme and arrive at propositions that can be investigated in other similar contexts (N=15). The sample is purposeful as students are chosen by accessibility, past experience and level of articulation. The researchers (N=4) selected students who had no prior experience in teaching English in the education system and who they thought would be most articulate and could provide thick data. Interviews were conducted at the end of the academic year (2017-2018) after the students had completed their studies and practicum. Each interview lasted approximately 60 minutes and was conducted at the college. Interviews exposed participants' personal stories in order to identify turning points in their beliefs and perceptions regarding their new career. Special attention was given to the language and choice of words used to describe different aspects in their ‘story’. Participants were asked about their motives for career change and the influence of previous experience on their present frame of reference. All interviews were audio taped and transcribed producing 90 pages of text. Transcriptions of all interviews were read by each independent researcher in order to obtain a holistic view of the interviews. Recursive reading, discussions and constant comparison between researchers produced a common ground of themes. Further sorting and condensing of themes and categories generated a final analytic framework. Students were notified about the purpose of research and its voluntary basis. Anonymity was secured, and identification details were not included. The research abides by all the ethical protocols certified by the Ethics Committee of the college.
Findings present five core categories: teaching and learning, the educational system, knowledge as capital, perceptions of self and the community. Each category focuses on turning points in the teachers' beliefs and perceptions regarding their new career. Teaching and learning focuses on participants' views regarding their role as teachers and educators. Students’ prior assumptions about teaching and learning appear to have framed their decisions to make a career change but were challenged during their training. Those who had worked in highly competitive professions such as law, marketing, and manpower recruitment, see teaching as a profession which would enable them to belong to a community, an aspect they had found lacking in their prior professions. This sense of community was strengthened during their training programme. A salient theme that emerged was participants’ realization that teaching a language means far more than imparting knowledge. Participants conveyed strong criticisms of the educational system as they have experienced it. They have strong views of how they see themselves acting as change agents within the system. Nevertheless, some are acutely aware that their ability to bring about change, may be limited by the constraints of the system. Findings show how 'capital knowledge' is expressed in their teaching and whether or not they think they can make actual use of it in their second career. Teachers' Self sheds light on their identity, conflicts, changes, dissonance, and insecurities with respect to their suitability for the new profession. Studying second career teachers’ conceptions during their transition to teaching from this perspective can contribute to understanding their development in the profession and can help curriculum designers and policy makers in better cater for these teachers’ needs. This can enhance recruitment of ‘good’ teachers and reduce attrition making this study relevant to the European audience.
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