Transition into the teaching profession and transformation of pedagogical practice in the secondary geography classroom
The experience of transitioning into the profession, from teacher education student (TES) through the early-career years, is an under-researched area, particularly in geography education. The experience of transition can be understood through enabling and constraining influences. The nature of, and responses to, such influences raise important implications for policy and practice in school and initial teacher education (ITE) contexts.
The present longitudinal, qualitative study drew on Archer’s reflexivity theory to focus on five TESs as they transitioned into the profession. Participants were purposefully sampled from one geography methodology unit at a large metropolitan university in Australia. The study followed them for 18 months, from their final year of study and professional experience in an initial teacher education program (ITEP), to a time of profession entry, and then to their first 12 months positioned in schools. Data generation occurred through social labs, lesson observations, and semi-structured interviews. A conceptual frame of reflection and pedagogy, derived from the Teaching and Assessing for Reflective Learning model, and the Professional Standards for the Accomplished Teaching of Geography informed the data analysis.
Results from the study show that participants enter and transition into the profession with an expectation of teaching their specialist subject amidst a supportive and collegial school environment. However, results also show that participants experience transition as a time of constraint, often in response to higher-than-anticipated levels of responsibility and workload, and the incidence of out-of-field teaching. The arrival of COVID-19 added another constraint as participants adapted their pedagogical practice to an online delivery. Participants also reported two enabling influences which contributed to the transformation of their pedagogical practice: personal values and beliefs about what it means to be a geography teacher, and a structure which provides an opportunity to engage with theory–practice reflection. Participant engagement with theory-practice reflection showed the Professional Standards for the Accomplished Teaching of Geography and use of recurring questions were effective tools of reflection that enabled the distinctiveness of a geography lesson to be developed in response to managing the challenges and opportunities of transition into the profession.
The study provides recommendations for future longitudinal research within and beyond the scope of geography education to inform policy and practice about how ITEPs, schools and other stakeholders can work together to mitigate the challenges of entering and transitioning into the profession.