|New Qualified Teachers: Impact On/Interaction with the System (Trinidad & Tobago) (CIE, 2000, 29 p.)|
The newly qualified teachers were asked a variety of questions about their classroom practice in order to elicit from them whether they felt that the Teachers' College experience had been helpful. They were also asked whether, in their first years of teaching, they drew upon any knowledge and skills they had acquired during their training programme. They were also observed in the classroom. The responses ranged from those who said that their training had not helped them at all, to those who felt that it helped somewhat but not much, to those who felt that it had helped a great deal. The general consensus was that the Teachers' College programme was too academic, that the content of some subjects was not relevant to the content taught in the primary school, and most importantly, that they had not been exposed to enough methodology. However even those who said that their training had not helped much, when asked about specific aspects of their practice acknowledged the input of the training course.
Cheryl was one such teacher.
Cheryl was teaching at a Roman Catholic girls' primary school. At the time of the interview and observation she was in her first term at the school. After leaving The Teachers' College she had spent one year at another Roman Catholic primary school. She herself was a Roman Catholic. She was teaching Standard four in which the average age of the student was ten. This was unusual as newly trained teachers were usually given the lower forms. Cheryl however had graduated from Teachers' College with ten distinctions. Despite her success she indicated that she did not think that the Teachers' College programme had affected her teaching in any significant way. Prior to attending College Cheryl had taught for three years in a primary school:
To be perfectly honest, I think I was a much more enthusiastic teacher before I went to College. But maybe I have benefited from some of the measures they have taught us with regard to discipline and how to deliver your content, I can't say I have benefited significantly or changed my methods vastly.
Yet she admits that she has tried to implement some of the things she learnt although she questions how relevant they are in the real life situation:
I think maybe I am more competent with regards to how I diagnose the children and assess them and stuff like that. But what I did at College writing notes of lessons for every lesson and so on. I no longer do that. That is just not very practical.
As far as methods were concerned she admitted that she had been trying to use the approach to reading that she had been exposed to at College. She was selective however in the aspects she chose to employ:
Some of the reading methods are very helpful. But again like some of the things like in composition, that although I find the writing process very helpful I can't go into as much detail as they advocated in college. It's just not possible I don't have that kind of time to spare.
She reiterated several times that her teaching had not really changed because of the College experience and that "I just continued teaching the way I know how to before I went to College".
Concerning the content of the subject area courses, Cheryl found that some of the material covered was not relevant to the work done in the primary school. With reference to the content of the language arts syllabus at College she expressed the view that while it was useful to know how language evolved the details were not helpful:
But some of the things I don't see how learning about phonemes and graphemes and stuff is doing much to me right now, not really.
She also indicated that some of the content that was taught was not useful since the schools lacked the resources needed for teaching:
As I said some of the content is just not relevant. And you know things with regard to PE and stuff, they teach you all those things knowing well you don't have the equipment and stuff to apply it when you come here.
Cheryl believed that she was already a good teacher before she went to College and that classroom experience is superior to the College experience:
I think I was a good teacher before I went to Training College. Maybe I have learnt some things that I have applied along the way but I think teaching is...a good teacher basically learns from her experience. I think had I stayed in class I would have learnt just as much as I learnt from Training College. Because I am not teaching the way I started when I first came to school. I think teaching is practice and experience. And I think that is where I have got most of my learning from, in the class.
Cheryl had a small class, only 14 students, which she taught as a whole class during the lessons observed. The classes were teacher-centred as the main teaching strategy used was exposition by the teacher using the chalkboard, followed by teacher questioning of the students. Students were evaluated orally and in writing. Cheryl explained that she used a whole group strategy since the class was small and this facilitated interaction. During the three lessons observed a chart was used only once in a mathematics class. Based on the results of the lesson evaluations Cheryl felt that all the lessons were successful, as the students had achieved the objectives set out, were attentive and responded well.
While Cheryl was an effective teacher her methods were traditional and did not reflect a creative and innovative approach to student learning which supported her own view that her practice had not been significantly changed by the Teachers' College experience.
Shalini's experience was different from Cheryl's. She had a very positive view of her Teachers' College programme and how it had helped her and was continuing to help her teach more effectively. Shalini was teaching at a Hindu school. She herself was Indo-Trinidadian and Hindu. She had graduated from Teachers' College with six distinctions a year before. Prior to entering College she had been teaching for three years. Like Cheryl she too had been given a senior class to teach, Standard Five, the eleven year olds who would be taking the Common Entrance examination for entry into secondary school. Since leaving the Teachers' College Shalini has started a degree programme at the university as a part-time student.
Shalini said that she had learnt a lot at Teachers' College, which had helped her become a more effective and focused teacher:
Well training for me, while there were some things that were not applicable, it did a lot for me in terms of delivering the curriculum and actually getting methods to bring out what I want to teach. You become more focused. You know now objectives what you wanted to achieve in each lesson. Well it has helped me immensely in terms of time management, getting my point across in a specific time frame, seeing about the readiness of the children, making sure they are ready for the lesson.
Shalini also credited the Teachers' College with giving her skills in classroom management, assessment, record keeping and specific teaching skills such as questioning. Regarding the content of the subject areas, Shalini found that the material covered in the College courses was very relevant to the work done in the primary school:
Yes. Especially in social studies, things that we covered on our social studies syllabus in College is [sic] very relevant to Standard five. So I have used that. In terms of science the experiments like electricity what we did there, you bring it back to the classroom because it is relevant. The materials, for comprehension, all the comprehension skills, study skills. The writing process in comprehension has been very effective.
The content, particularly the psychology component, was also very helpful to Shalini who saw its relevance to every aspect of her teaching:
Where you might have dealt with a problem before, now after training and dealing with the psychology aspect of everything, I think it brings a new dimension to what I'm doing. I am able to deal with students in (sic) a more individualistic level. I am getting through to them in that way. Now my teaching is not more instruction anymore it is facilitating.
Overall, Shalini, unlike Cheryl, felt that her teaching had improved significantly after being exposed to the Teachers' College programme:
[My teaching] has changed in terms of the way I approach the class. I am no longer getting flustered about problems that arise. For every problem that I have seen so far I have been able to find a way to deal with it, a method. Even the weakest child, there is some method that I have used from my training college years to try to deal with the problem. Before training college, it would have been getting flustered, calling the child, doing my way, not knowing the proper method of doing it and the child still not understanding what I was doing. I had no training in the processes and the psychology behind it.
Shalini's classroom was a less traditional one. Instead of a whole class approach, Shalini varied the strategy according to the task. In a composition class she started with a whole class strategy where she elicited from the students ideas to develop the composition and showed them how to develop these ideas. Then she walked around monitoring and helping individual students as they wrote their compositions. In a comprehension lesson she used small groups as well as a whole class group using handouts and a variety of activities such as questioning, reading aloud, writing answers to questions, doing exercises in the workbook.
Shalini's classes were student-centred. Rather than being the transmitter of knowledge Shalini tried to involve the students in generating ideas and building on their own experiences. She tried to apply some of the new methods and approaches that she had been exposed to at College and was clearly using all the knowledge and skills acquired during training.
Gender did not seem to be a factor in the newly qualified teachers' perception of the value of the knowledge and skills acquired at the Teachers' College and the use they made of these since leaving College. The two male teachers in the sample, like the female teachers, had different views.
Ray felt that he had gained a great deal from Teachers' College which was useful to him in doing his job. He singled out the methodology, particularly in the core areas of mathematics and English:
[My teaching has changed] in terms of the different methods in some of the subject areas I have been using, especially maths and the reading. I have learnt more in terms of the reading...Now I have gone to College because of the lecturers I know how to do like Direct Reading Approach, Direct Reading and Thinking Approach and the Language Experience Approach. So all these things I have learnt have prepared me for the classroom.
He also indicated that he had benefited from learning to use specific strategies for delivering instruction more effectively such as how to get children's attention and to interest and excite them by the way in which the content was presented. Like all the teachers he singled out the psychology learnt at College as helping him to understand children better.
Ray also felt that the College experience was extremely valuable for the opportunity it presented for interaction with other students and with the lecturers:
Well, interacting with other teachers. I think that was very [good]. You know you getting different ideas, really the socialisation, and you know there are some lecturers will inspire you to do good.
In spite of his positive experiences, however, there were some drawbacks, which were related to the lack of resources at the College. This impacted on the quality of the preparation which the teachers received:
I guess the problem with the College in terms of the resource materials they don't have enough in terms of finance to give you the resource material. For example I was doing educational technology at the College and you will find we are supposed to be dealing with computers. But the thing is there were computers but they were not working. So that is why also in terms of them providing the resources for you to be properly trained as a teacher...that was lacking, the resources, the materials.
Ray's classroom teaching reflected his positive attitude. In a Standard One class he aroused students' interest by the way he introduced the story, eliciting from the students their own experiences of birthday parties. Students were exposed to a variety of activities, they listened to the story then answered questions, sang the birthday song and wrote their own story. The class was small so the activities were done as whole class activities. He used cutouts as teaching aids in this lesson and sentence strips in another lesson on grammar. It was clear that he was trying to implement some of the things he had learnt at College and was having success.
Imran, unlike Ray did not feel that College had helped his teaching. Like Cheryl, Imran seemed to feel that he was as good a teacher before he went to College as when he left. Particularly in the area of methodology he felt that the College had not helped. When asked if he was helped in teaching by what he had been exposed to in College he said:
Well as far as lessons go what I learn from College, I find that is like totally the opposite. I don't think College actually help me with actually teaching the lessons. You know the lesson planning, the objectives...when I was teaching [before] it wasn't say written down but I knew what I was doing.
Imran seems to feel like Cheryl that teachers are born not made. He feels that he was destined to teach.
Because I had loved this thing [teaching] from the first day I started. I had the love for it and to me I did it with a certain amount of class.
He also felt that the academic content of most of the subject areas was not relevant to teaching in the primary school and recommends that the content be cut down and more time allotted to methodology, different ways of putting things across to children. Like others he also felt that many of the recommended strategies did not work in the real world of the classroom. He gave the example of classroom control where the suggestions made by the College lecturers did not work with the children in his class.
There were some positive aspects however. Like most teachers he found the psychology courses useful in helping him to deal with children's individual differences and making him more aware of the relationship that the teacher should have with the students. Yet he qualifies this by saying that he was always conscious of these things even before coming to College. Overall, Imran does not feel that his teaching has been affected in any real way by his College preparation.
Imran used a whole class approach and traditional teaching aids, blackboard and chalk, during the class which was observed. The physical facilities were not conducive to individual or group work since he was in an extremely small and cramped classroom, which did not allow the teacher to move around the class. However, Imran got around this by having students come up to the teachers' table where he dealt with them on an individual basis. His concern for his students was evident and the class was an effective one where the students showed evidence of having grasped a difficult mathematical concept for seven year olds.