How do pre-service teachers engage students in learning during professional experience?
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 02:25 authored by Sandy Nicoll
Across the initial teacher education (ITE) literature, professional experience programs (PEP) are recognised as a key component of pre-service teachers’ education (Le Cornu, 2016; Zeichner, 2010). There is limited research on pre-service teachers’ (PSTs) experiences of participating in professional experience programs and an area that is least understood is how they engage primary school students in learning. Set against these gaps in the literature this narrative inquiry explored the experiences of PSTs during their professional experience placements in primary schools. I was interested in how PSTs were engaging their students in learning. The research focused on a small group of PSTs who completed their professional experience placements in primary schools within New South Wales in Australia. The study is a narrative inquiry into the experiences of these pre-service teachers and how they inquired into the way they engaged their students in learning during their day-to-day teaching. In the study I was positioned as a researcher and a teacher educator who worked with the pre-service teachers through their coursework. Field texts (data) for this study included focus groups, one-on-one conversations and questionnaires. Narrative accounts presented as portraits were composed from the data for each of the six PSTs. These portraits were then analysed further and I identified four emergent threads across the portraits: the connection/disconnection between theory and practice; the importance of relationships with key people who taught the pre-service teachers about engagement; the power of reflection on experience in the context of classroom practice; and how the pre-service teachers’ professional identities were shaped through each of these threads. My research revealed that, for these preservice teachers, Dewey’s (1938) concept of experience, engendered through narratives of critical events during professional experience, was a powerful influence on learning. The thesis highlights that an approach to pre-service teachers’ professional experience that is inquiry focused and grounded in the day-to-day practices of teaching may contribute to valuable opportunities for learning how to engage primary school students. These findings have implications for the design of professional experience programs in ITE.