|Face-to-Face Training in a Conventional Preservice Programme: A Case Study at Edgewood College of Education in South Africa (CIE, 2002, 36 p.)|
|6. Teaching Practice|
The teacher educators and fourth year students evaluated the Teaching Practice component of the teacher education programme and first year students indicated their expectation of teaching practice. The fourth year students rated Teaching Practice as the most useful part of the teacher education curriculum because it provided hands-on experience and they were able to apply theory to practice. About three-quarters of the teacher educators also thought that teaching practice was the most useful part of the teacher education programme for primary teachers.
Analysis of the patterns of teaching and observation of lessons during the previous teaching practice sessions indicate that fourth year students taught between 11-21 lessons per week, (out of a maximum of 24 x 1hour periods), with three-quarters of the students teaching over 15 lessons. Students were observed by college teacher educators between 2 and 5 times (three-quarters being observed either 4 or 5 times) during the 5-week teaching practice session. Class teachers observed all students and these observations ranged from one to five times a week. In addition some students were observed by other class teachers (25%); by the principal (40%) and by other student teachers (30%). About 90% of the teacher trainees observed lessons of class teachers, but the number of lessons observed varied.
The teacher educators who completed the questionnaire indicated that each had assessed between 10 to 25 students and visited between 5 to 14 schools during the teaching practice session. Most first year students expected the college teacher educator to visit them between 1-5 times for the 5-week period. Almost all first year students wanted the schoolteachers to observe them between 1 -5 times a week during the teaching practice period.
There is a wide range in the number of lessons taught by the trainees, observed by the teacher educators, class teachers and others. There is a need for more consistency in the number of lesson observations and what guidance is offered to students during the teaching practice session.
In their school visits all teacher educators observed student teachers teaching both their subject and other subjects. During the teaching practice session all teacher educators discussed the lessons observed with the trainees at school and gave students written feedback on the lessons observed. Three-quarters of the teacher educators marked lesson plans and two-thirds of the teacher educators discussed lessons observed with the supervising schoolteacher.
Fourth year students rated the support from the class teacher very highly for the school-based training. In addition they rated the discussion with the school-teacher and school visits as very important for the preparation for school-based training. The first year students rated watching experienced teachers as the most important preparation for teaching practice. It is interesting to note that both first and fourth year students saw help from the school and class teacher as more valuable for teaching practice than visits and discussions by college teacher educators. Half the teacher educators agreed that student teachers received valuable guidance from primary school teachers during teaching practice session. However, according to the teacher educators the main source of preparation for teaching practice comes from discussion with teacher educators and doing mini-lessons. Discussion with schoolteachers featured lower on the list of teacher educators and featured first on the list of students.
Teacher educators were not very positive about the organisation for Teaching Practice. Only about half the teacher educators rated the arrangements for selection of schools, support from class teachers, and quality of experience for students, as good. About half the teacher educators thought that the primary schools used for Teaching Practice do not provide good examples of teaching from which students can learn. Students were very positive about the teaching practice experience and about three-quarters of the students thought that the school where they did their teaching practice had enough resources for their work.
The teacher educators were also not very positive about the college's preparation of students to teach. Between half to two-thirds of the teacher educators rated the preparation on the use of teaching aids, teaching skills, subject knowledge, professional attitudes and classroom management as 'very well' or 'well'. Fourth year students thought that teaching practice could be made more valuable by increasing preparation at college, for example if college teacher educators gave more demonstration lessons and provided help in lesson planning. Students also indicated that Teaching Practice could be made more valuable by increasing the time for Teaching Practice, with more observation of lessons. In addition fourth year students wanted preparation on classroom administration. They wanted skills such as marking a register, keeping of a journal, dealing with parents, planning the term's work, and keeping records.
For lesson preparation during the Teaching Practice session most students borrowed textbooks from the college library and from the schools. About half the students indicated that they saw the basic school textbooks at college before using them in school. Students in Technology, Art, Music and English indicated that they had not seen the school texts before going to school. The Edgewood library has a well-stocked collection of books and has created teaching packs for teaching the different topic areas. Students can and do borrow these teaching packs for the teaching practice sessions. The resources in the library are organised so that the students can, over the four years, build up a portfolio of resources for teaching.
Students lamented the fact that Teaching Practice was seen as a discrete and separate part of the curriculum. There was not much preparedness beforehand and there was not much follow-up when students returned from the teaching practice session. Teacher educators also rated the need for follow-up discussions from Teaching Practice at the college highly. They saw preparation at college as a very important way of making the teaching practice experience more valuable. Most teacher educators agreed that there was very little discussion of the teaching practice experience when students returned to college. Less than one-third of the teacher educators indicated that they discussed the lessons observed at Teaching Practice with students at college.
Students expressed a concern about the assessment of Teaching Practice by teacher educators. They wanted less criticism and more constructive discussion from teacher educators. They wanted to see a less biased way of assessing teaching practice. About 40% of the teacher educators indicated that they used an observation checklist for teaching practice. Students indicated that in the teaching practice evaluations they planned their lessons in accordance with each teacher educator who came along and the preference of the teacher educator. They amusingly related how they knew which teacher educator liked group work, which teacher educator liked lots of teaching aids and a performance, and if the teacher educator who knew mathematics was coming along to evaluate their lessons they would choose an English lesson! This highlights the fact that teaching practice evaluation was a game. Students wanted to see a more coherent, co-ordinated policy for teacher practice evaluation.
In the interviews students also highlighted the disjuncture between the teacher education programme at the college and the realities of the majority of classrooms. One student [Black] indicated that the teaching methods from Edgewood worked well at White schools with less classroom based problems, more resources and different class sizes. When she did her Practice Teaching at a Black school there were other realities to cope with and the Edgewood curriculum had not given her the skills to cope with this reality. One student [White] indicated that she had done her practice teaching at a Black school. This was very different from the experiences at a White school and she felt that all students should also have teaching experience at a Black school. The nature of the different classroom realities raises questions of the curriculum of the Edgewood teacher education programme. Is the teacher education programme designed for a Model C type school or a township school? And is the purpose of the Teaching Practice component to provide a quality education about classroom practices based on good pedagogical content knowledge only or should it be that plus a range of skills to manage the various other dynamics in the classroom and the school.