|Learning to Teach in Ghana: An Evaluation of Curriculum Delivery (CIE, 2000, 51 p.)|
|Chapter 5: Teaching Practice|
Teaching practice is composed of three segments each lasting one month, thus making up 12 weeks. A school attachment/observation programme for the first year trainees precedes actual teaching practice. This takes place during the long vacation; that is after the first year course and before the second year, and involves lesson delivery observation. This component of the practicum is not assessed. The aim is to provide first year students with an insight into the teaching-learning situation in schools and classrooms.
The District Director of Education grants permission for schools in a district to be used for teaching practice. Students are expected to experience teaching at the two levels of the basic school system - primary and junior secondary. A group of college tutors (normally five), with one as the team leader, is assigned to a cluster of schools in which students undertake teaching practice. Each student is expected to receive at least two supervisions a week.
The discussion of the teaching practice starts with a look at the survey findings and concludes with the additional findings from the focus group interviews.
The survey analysis indicates that the majority of trainees spent between 16 to 20 days (i.e. three to four weeks) on their last teaching practice. During this period about 3% of final year trainees reported not teaching at all; 26% taught between 1 and 4 lessons per week, 22% 5 to 10 lessons per week, 16% 11 to 15 lessons per week, 24% taught 16 to 20 and 9% taught above 21 lessons per week. Officially, on average, a primary teacher is expected to teach about 30-32 lessons a week. The statistics suggests that trainees are teaching fewer subjects when on teaching practice and therefore are not teaching the full range of subjects expected of a primary school teacher. Interview evidence indicated that because of lack of regular supervision, some trainees simply stayed in the school and did very little teaching.
The survey revealed the following general observations about teaching practice:
· The majority of trainees (82%) had their practicum in the primary schools. 18% had teaching practice in junior secondary schools and less than 1% taught in a kindergarten. Since learning to teach at the primary and junior secondary levels makes different professional learning demands on the beginning teacher, the focus on primary level teaching may disadvantage the development of certain important personal and professional skills for teaching in junior secondary.
· The main people who supervised student teachers on teaching practice were the college tutors. College tutors supervised about 86% of trainees on more than one occasion on teaching practice. 68% of the trainees reported that they received some supervision from teachers of the classes they were assigned to teach on teaching practice. The remaining statistics of people who observed them teach were as follows: teachers from other classes 43%, headteachers (42%) and education officers (15%). Although it would appear that trainees are getting supervision from a wide range of professionals, this was not always seen as beneficial. From the interviews, trainees felt that sometimes teachers' and head teachers' suggestions and advice were in conflict with those of their tutors, leaving them confused. In Ghana, no attempt is made to train regular class teachers as co-operating teachers and this may be the cause of the conflicting messages that trainees sometimes receive about their developing practice.
· The survey results regarding the preparations made before teaching practice paint a picture of support from quite a wide range of sources. 88% of preparation came from tutor notes, presumably methods notes that tutors give, 73% came from college micro-teaching activity, 71% school visits and 53% discussion with primary school teachers. Clearly, tutors' methodology notes feature prominently in teaching practice preparation and this reveals the emphasis on knowledge accumulation in teacher training. How all of the other preparatory inputs contribute specifically is not evident and will require much more in-depth study to determine their relative contributions and value in preparation for teaching practice.
· The survey results on what trainees found useful and not so useful in their preparation before teaching practice are not very conclusive as far as relative value to preparation is concerned. For example, about 94% and 89% respectively found discussion with tutors and tutors methods notes useful; this, however, adds to the picture that trainees see "methods notes" and tutors' discussion of learning to teach as perhaps the most significant in their learning to teach at the college level. It is important to point out that these trainees have to pass subject methodology exams before achieving qualified teacher status and that this may be the underlying reason for rating tutors' teaching methodology notes highly in learning to teach. School visits were valued by 83%, discussions with primary/junior secondary teachers were valued by 79% and college-based micro-teaching was valued by 76%. Project work was least valued in their preparation for teaching practice.
· Follow up activities after teaching practice constituted the following: assignments based on teaching practice (68%), individual discussion with class teachers (63%), individual discussions with college tutors (63%) and whole class discussions with methods tutors (56%). The results of the survey on follow up activities after teaching practice suggest that there is a good level of feedback on student teachers' teaching practice experience. This is an area that will require in-depth qualitative study to explore the quality of teaching practice feedback activity in the form of assignments, individual and whole class discussions.
· To improve teaching practice, trainees would want to see improvements in all aspects of teaching practice preparatory inputs. This is hardly surprising and is an indication of more room for the improvement of teaching practice experience. The following results emerged as to what was needed more to improve teaching practice: more teaching/learning materials (95%), demonstration lessons by tutors (94%), preparation in college (93%), watching experienced teachers teach (90%), follow up discussions in college (86%), school teacher input (84%), micro-teaching (83%), headteacher inputs (78%), college tutors (76%) and number of days on teaching practice (51.3%).
The survey findings on teaching practice create four main impressions:
(i) What we see is the importance attached to college training but also the need to make learning to teach more practical by providing more school practice context e.g. the opportunity to see experienced teachers at work.
(ii) A big value is placed on teaching practice preparation in the form of methods notes, although other inputs are recognised as equally important. The trainees seem to be echoing the view that training should focus on more in-depth knowledge of pedagogy as the basis for teaching. This would appear to fit in with the model of teacher training in which emphasis is placed on learning information vital to teaching.
(iii) Supervision for teaching practice is received from a wide range of education professionals, with the potential for conflict for trainees, especially since there is no attempt to co-ordinate their roles and support for teaching practice. Interview evidence shows that there are often conflicts between the kinds of advice about teaching that trainees receive from heads, school teachers and college tutors
(iv) Trainee calls for more preparations for teaching practice may simply be an indication of their inability to clearly understand the relative value of each of the inputs towards teaching practice. Why do student teachers feel they need more of everything? Is it an indication of general dissatisfaction with the current inputs into their training? A possible explanation is that the model of teacher training in Ghana does not provide sufficient understanding of the value of different professional learning experiences for teacher development, and that the student teachers' call for more preparation is indicative of the need for a broader perspective on learning to teach. This approach to learning to teach would enable student teachers to place into proper perspective the different roles and values of professional learning experiences. This needs to be given more thought in teacher programme design in Ghana. For example, if trainees are to do projects how can the task be made to support the whole effort of preparing trainees to learn teaching - what should the projects be related to, professional practice or professional knowledge? The more challenging issue is whether all of the different preparatory inputs can be explicitly and satisfactorily developed with clear themes in mind to enrich the whole teaching practice experience.
As was pointed out earlier in this report, the interview data generated much more insights into trainees' experience of teaching practice and is discussed next.