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close this bookTeaching Practice at the National Teacher Training College in Lesotho (CIE, 2001, 49 p.)
close this folderChapter 4: The Structure and Organisation of Teaching Practice at the NTTC
View the document4.1 Introduction
View the document4.2 Descriptive Overview
View the document4.3 Teaching Practice Preparation (TPP)
View the document4.4 College/Schools TP arrangements
View the document4.5 Placement
View the document4.6 Orientation
View the document4.7 Teaching Practice Assessment

4.1 Introduction

This section explains the current structure and organisation of TP at the College, drawing on documents and reports, but also including data from the survey and interviews so as to incorporate stakeholders perceptions of practice.

4.2 Descriptive Overview

As the preceding section shows the National Teacher Training College's teaching practice programme has shifted from a 'sandwich' internship year to becoming a more integrated part of the programme. Teaching Practice Preparation (TTP) runs for approximately 10 weeks in the first semester of the second year, and TP takes up the whole of the following semester. Students do their TPP in the nearby schools but are spread out in various parts of the country while on TP.

There have been other related changes in organisation and personnel. Ntho (1998:3), writing about placement of student teachers in schools showed that until 1992, 'student teachers were placed in various schools throughout the 10 districts of the country under the supervision of college field based staff/intern supervisors'. Thus, selection of schools was more open this way. However, now students are placed only in schools accessible by road, along the road and from the furthest north and south districts (Butha-Buthe and Quthing) leaving out the three mountain districts: Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek and Thaba-Tseka.

Another development relates to the teaching practice supervision personnel. Whereas in the former structure there was a group of field-based supervisors, in the current structure, supervision is facilitated by the college-based tutors under the leadership of two coordinators, one for primary and another for secondary. It is clear that the process of supervising student teachers has been centralized and that TP supervisors and coordinators are all based in the college rather than in the field. However, Hopkin's recommendation to establish a Department of Teaching Practice has not been implemented, and the TP co-ordinators continue to carry an extremely heavy workload of teaching and co-ordinating the teaching practice activities.

4.3 Teaching Practice Preparation (TPP)

As already indicated NTTC has, as one of the TP components, the Teaching Practice Preparation (TPP) period. In an interview, the lecturers indicated that this 10 week long activity provides students an opportunity to go out to different schools to begin to learn how to put theory into practice. During the first week of TPP students familiarize themselves with the school system. They are introduced to the schools in which they will be practising, they collect topics to be taught, and they are assigned the classes they will be teaching. The student teachers then return to the college to draw up lesson plans and discuss these with the TPP supervisors. This activity is followed by a period of about 9 weeks allocated specifically to teaching. During the teaching weeks, students go out to schools once every week for TPP. The actual teaching period is structured in such a way that students spend the morning hours teaching and being observed by their colleagues and class teachers as well as College supervisors. Observation periods are followed by a short conference in which observers provide the student with feedback.

An added advantage of TPP is the fact that it prepares student teachers to learn to work with others in the school system. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the TPP seems to allow students to interact with one another, a practice which could go a long way towards helping them critique one another even after graduating from the College.

The lecturers who participated in the study are of the opinion that teaching practice preparation has its own values, and they believe students benefit from the post-observation conferences. In their view, TPP 'exposes student teachers to real classroom situation [sic] just before teaching practice and that [it helps them] develop confidence in the process'. However, they were unsure how far student teachers made use of their TPP experience during teaching practice. This ambivalence may be related to problems inherent in the administration and practice of TPP.

In interviews, the lecturers indicated a number of problems they thought needed resolving. For example, the fact that teachers choose the topics to be taught by student teachers, means students cannot choose topics that they feel comfortable with, and they may find themselves struggling with content rather than focussing on methods and on developing confidence. Administrative problems experienced during TPP include transport between the College and the various TPP schools. It is common for students to arrive late at the TPP schools mainly due to administrative delays in arranging for transporting students and their supervisors. Another is that student teachers may not get school syllabuses and textbooks on time. But, from the perspective of those interviewed, the worst problem is that, at the school level, some of the class teachers see TPP as waste of time.

The Teaching Practice Coordinator pointed out a further problem for supervisors, in that during TPP they work with a particular group of students, but that this is not followed through during the actual TP. Thus, supervisors often find themselves having to work with students during TP who they may be meeting for the first time. It is clear that supervisors would prefer to carry on with the student teachers they supervised during TPP and that working with the same group of students would ensure continuity.

4.4 College/Schools TP arrangements

The study asked the Primary Teaching Practice Coordinators to describe the College and schools' arrangements. They explained that the NTTC teaching practice has always been undertaken in the schools and that this has been a long-term arrangement between schools and the College. The procedure is that student teachers submit names of three schools that they would like to go to for TP. The first choice is always given preference, but where a school might not be prepared to take in students, the teaching practice office makes the final decision and places students accordingly. However, the Teaching Practice Coordinator indicated that there are no contracts signed with schools, but that the College is expected to apply to schools every year and schools are free to take the number of students that they can accommodate. He further indicated that the College's expectation is that the schools will provide student teachers with the professional and social support that they need. It is important to note that there are no formal partnerships between schools and the College and schools are free to accept or reject the College's application for placement of students in the schools.

These findings confirm another key issue highlighted by Hopkin i.e. that there seem to be no clear terms of reference between the hosting schools and the College. Such links as exist need reviewing in order to make the partnership work.

4.5 Placement

As has been pointed out earlier, the teaching practice schools are now basically in 7 out of the 10 districts. The College no longer places students in the three mountain districts. Student teachers were asked to indicate whether or not they participated in the placement activity and table 1 shows their answers.

Table 1: Who Decided on the Trainees' Placements

Who decides on placement

Frequency

Percent

Myself

108

90...

TP Coordinator

11

9.2

Others

1

0.8

Total

120

100...

There were 108 (90%) respondents who indicated that they played an active role in choosing the schools they want to go to. This information is consistent with what happened in the past; student teachers still play a significant role in choosing schools in which they want to practise. An insignificant number 11 (9.2%) reported that the TP Coordinator contributed to the selection of practice schools. In effect, the College relinquishes control over the placements to the students; schools are chosen for personal and/or geographic reasons rather than whether they meet any College criteria for good teaching.

The question of placement was taken further by asking students to indicate the district in which they were placed. During the 1998 academic year, the majority of the students (29.2%) were placed in the Maseru district. This percentage is not surprising since the College is located in this district. Otherwise, the distribution of student teachers by district indicates that Leribe had 22.5%, Berea 15%, Mafeteng 12.5%, Mohale's Hoek 8.3%, Butha-Buthe 6.7% while Quthing had lowest percent (5.8%). It would seem therefore that on the whole students prefer to be in the Maseru district since the majority of them were placed in Maseru.

4.6 Orientation

Having selected the schools that they would like to go to, and having completed their TPP, student teachers are given an orientation to teaching practice. Ntho (1998:69), in commenting about the NTTC orientation writes 'one other significant observation is that student teachers' orientation to teaching practice is a “contrived collegiality” yet in principle the session has to be an open and democratic endeavor which should encourage all participants to communicate their perceptions and expectations'. She established that teaching practice orientation is characterized by a one-sided presentation, whereby the administration spells out the College requirements/expectations while student teachers have to listen to what is being communicated to them, instead of providing them with an opportunity to share their expectations of the process. The tendency to focus on administrative matters seems to be consistent even today. An analysis of the TP orientation seminar shows that in 1999, orientation for teaching practice focused only on introducing the students to the various teaching practice forms. This way, the College assumes it has given prospective teachers an orientation to the teaching practice, but in fact this is limited to certain bureaucratic elements.

4.7 Teaching Practice Assessment

The Hopkin Report (1996) discussed assessment extensively and made several recommendations. The College now has procedures in place for evaluating students on teaching practice and has developed various forms for the purposes of collecting information about each student. These include forms for tutors, head teachers, and for the students to evaluate themselves. According to interviews with the TP Coordinators, the forms are intended for assessment purposes at different times and by various evaluators who have a role to play in TP. They are all supposed to be sent to the college, where the Coordinators collate the information in order to arrive at a final grade.

4.7.1 T.P. Observation and Assessment Forms

These are used by visiting tutors, who are asked to leave a duplicate copy with the student. The final assessment form provides space for assessing the following areas: introduction, lesson plans, teaching aids, communication skills, methods used, teaching techniques, pupils' involvement, classroom management, questioning skills and classroom atmosphere. There is a five-point scale and space for comments for each item; at the end the tutor comments on the general presentation and gives a total score.

There is said to be a similar form, but without the grading points, used for observing lessons for formative comments. This has levels such as poor, average, excellent, etc. and space for tutors' advice. The form was not made available to the researchers, and in view of the paucity of visits, it may be that tutors most commonly use the 'final assessment' form, regardless of when they visit.

4.7.2 Head Teacher's Evaluation Form

This form, which also has a 5 point rating scale, covers different but complementary aspects of the trainees' performance, such as: punctuality, regular attendance, scheme and record of work done, relations with others, discipline, personality and appearance. It appears that the headteachers are expected to work with the student using the same criteria as are used in managing members of staff. This form is then sent to the Teaching Practice Office.

4.7.3 Student Self - Evaluation

The student-self evaluation form invites answers to questions such as: Were the objectives achieved? What content was covered? And how did you assist in creating a learning environment? It suggests that the student evaluates one of their own lessons each day. To help them, a 'Complementary Observation Guide' is given to students as part of the teaching practice package, covering items such as aims and objectives, methods and procedures, teaching aids, pupil response and participation, pupil teacher relationship, general classroom atmosphere, physical atmosphere of classroom, individual differences, classroom discipline and assignments.

4.7.4 Some reflections on assessment practice

It appears that some of Hopkin's recommendations about revision of assessment procedures and documentation have been carried out. On the whole, the content of the forms as well as the way they are structured seem to have been well thought out. They could work as an important tool for helping prospective teachers as well as their tutors to achieve the teaching practice objectives, particularly that of helping them practise the theory of teaching. The student teachers' guide for evaluating themselves and for assisting one another are a good example of this. It would seem that such questions could, if proper support is given to students, be of great assistance in helping student teachers to reflect on their teaching experience, but our study was unable to find out how or whether these forms were used. In fact, if one bears in mind students' responses in other parts of this report, that tutors do not pay regular classroom visits and that some cooperating teachers fail to observe them, it seems that the policy behind the forms has not been implemented; they may in fact be redundant and an unnecessary expense.

Another recommendation concerned allocating a mark for teaching practice, which has now been written into the new Diploma in Education (Primary) document. It remains to be seen whether or not this will be put in practice, and whether the recommendations about other aspects of assessment, such as the number of visits and the participation of the schools, will also be implemented in future.