|Becoming a Primary School Teacher in Trinidad & Tobago, Part 2: Teaching Practice - Experience of Trainees (CIE, 2000, 54 p.)|
|Chapter 4: Teaching Practice - Second Round|
The following significant features of this second teaching practice round were observed:
Changes in trainees' performance over the two rounds
There was no consistent trend in terms of growth observed between the first and second teaching practice rounds. Seven supervisors did indicate that they saw improvements in the general standard of performance of trainees supervised in the second practice, but one supervisor said she saw no significant shifts in different aspects of trainees' performance and that, in her experience, the real shift came during the last teaching practice. Another supervisor said that there were some trainees who appeared to have regressed, and who actually performed worse during the second round. In the cases where this happened, however, the supervisor attributed their apparent regression to the fact that trainees did not feel comfortable teaching the age groups to which they were assigned for the second teaching practice. This suggestion was borne out by the comments of some of the trainees themselves. In the one case where a researcher saw the same group at both teaching practices, he indicated that the trainees he saw seemed to have improved in their grasp of the concepts central to their subject areas, and in their techniques. He noted, too, that their lesson plans seemed better conceptualised, and that they seemed more confident.
Trainees' preparation: Content knowledge
There continued to be some deficiencies in trainees' knowledge of subject content, especially in areas that may not have been emphasised on the curricula of the primary schools from which trainees came to the Training College. Areas which are traditionally emphasised on the primary school curriculum are often also those areas where many trainees demonstrated a surer grasp of content knowledge. Some trainees, and one supervisor interviewed, suggested that trainees' level of experience with teaching the content of certain subjects on the primary school syllabus before coming to the Teachers' College was a significant factor in determining their grasp of the content at this stage. However, this is not invariably true, as college lecturers in subject areas like mathematics and English, which are emphasized on the primary school curriculum, described significant deficiencies in trainees' grasp of important concepts in these subjects.
Trainees' preparation: General pedagogical skills
Trainees observed on this round generally demonstrated a significantly greater knowledge of a range of strategies for facilitating learning, including a wider range of student-centred approaches, than was the case with trainees observed during the first teaching practice round. They also showed a greater willingness to use these strategies. At this stage, however, their ability to utilise the strategies effectively was still somewhat uncertain. Trainees also still seem challenged in terms of their ability to respond spontaneously to the dynamics of classroom situations, although many who were interviewed seemed more aware of the sorts of contingencies that may arise, and made some attempt to consult with the cooperating teachers beforehand, where possible, and to plan for such contingencies.
Trainees often said that they did not feel adequately prepared to employ methods and strategies which might be appropriate for meeting the specific developmental needs of pupils at different levels of the primary school. As before, trainees established an excellent rapport with their pupils, and made every effort to bolster their confidence, and to establish a classroom environment where they felt emotionally secure.
Trainees' preparation: Pedagogical content knowledge
While there was some improvement on the part of the trainees, at least two demonstrated that they were still uncertain about how to deal with concepts, and to make them accessible to pupils in some subject areas.
Professionalism of trainees
A decline was observed in the work ethic of some trainee teachers at Valsayn Teachers' College, as compared to those observed during the first teaching practice round. This manifested itself in different ways, including a greater level of unpunctuality, absenteeism, and failure to prepare lessons adequately. Trainees and cooperating teachers also admitted that, for these trainees, there was a clear difference in the type of effort they were willing to expend when observed by their supervisors as compared to what they did when supervisors were absent.
Quality of practice sites
The wide range in quality of the facilities offered at different practice sites continued to play a significant role in determining the types of opportunities offered to trainees to apply the strategies and techniques they were being taught at the Teachers' Colleges. Range in quality subsumes such features as: physical characteristics of the host schools, professional expertise and cooperativeness of cooperating teachers, and school cultures which are more or less receptive to innovative teaching approaches. In schools and classrooms observed, however, with only a few exceptions, attempts were made to make the trainees feel welcome, and to help them to fit into the culture of the schools.
Trainees' perceptions of the teaching practice
All trainees agreed that the teaching practice was an important and valued part of the Teachers' College experience. However, most trainees continued to speak of it as highly stressful, and as being of varying helpfulness. This was due mainly to the following features of the experience:
1. Trainees' consciousness that they were being evaluated by their supervisors, which, they said, sometimes constrained them in the risks they were willing to take in trying new things when observed by supervisors.
2. Trainees' perceptions that different supervisors provided different levels of guidance and supervision, even in terms of the number of visits paid to different trainees.
3. The gruelling workloads imposed in cases where cooperating teachers were absent, and trainees took full responsibility for their classes, without getting adequate feedback on their practice.
4. The differing levels of cooperation and professional expertise of cooperating teachers, so that there were significant differences in the type of guidance and feedback trainees got in sessions which were not observed by their supervisors. Such sessions necessarily constituted the greater proportion of the teaching practice.
Communications between host schools and colleges
Host schools, and some supervisors, continued to express the hope that the communication lines between the College and the host schools might be improved. Interviews elicited the fact that, although some supervisors tried to make principals and staff aware of what was hoped for from the host schools during the teaching practice sessions, and what was expected of the trainees, this was not always the case. As a result, different principals and cooperating teachers had different understandings of what practices and outcomes might be expected, and regulated their own conduct to the trainees accordingly.