|Becoming a Primary School Teacher in Trinidad & Tobago, Part 2: Teaching Practice - Experience of Trainees (CIE, 2000, 54 p.)|
|Chapter 1: Background To The Study|
One of the main goals of teacher preparation programmes is to help trainees to develop into effective, practising teachers. In the Trinidad and Tobago context, this goal is pursued at the primary level through both in-college courses and field experiences in cooperating primary schools.
The question of how trainees can best be prepared to become effective classroom practitioners has been engaging the minds of teacher educators world-wide. Calderhead and Sharrock (1997) note that, in grappling with this issue, some teacher educators have been at pains to make a clear distinction between teacher education and teacher training:
It has been argued that teacher education is involved in the all-round education and development of teachers, emphasising teaching as a profession involving well-informed judgment; whereas teacher training refers to a more mechanistic approach to teacher preparation, more akin to a craft apprenticeship involving the mastery of well-defined routines. (p. 192)
Calderhead and Sharrock argue, though, that such a distinction might not be very useful since the process of learning to teach is likely to embody aspects of both teacher education and teacher training:
Such a distinction, however, may be simplistic and unhelpful. Obviously, learning to teach does involve the acquisition of certain knowledge and skills that are essential to adequate classroom performance. It is also the case, however, that learning to teach involves being able to reason about one's actions, being able to justify particular strategies, understanding the subject matter, children and their ways of learning, and having a conception of the purposes of education and the ways in which schools operate in order to promote education. (p. 192)
The sub-study reported in this paper comprises one segment of a two-part study that was designed to investigate the process whereby primary school teacher trainees in Trinidad and Tobago learn to teach. The other sub-study - Becoming a Primary School Teacher in Trinidad and Tobago, Part 1: The Curriculum in the Teachers' Colleges - explored the primary teacher training curriculum as documented, espoused, and enacted within the Teachers' Colleges. This sub-study presents a detailed description and analysis of the arrangements for field experiences in practical teaching (hereafter referred to as teaching practice) and the actual teaching practice itself.
The overall intention of the study was to gain insights into the process of learning to teach by obtaining information on the teaching practice process, by observing teaching practice sessions, and by documenting and analysing the views of the major stakeholders involved in this process, that is, the trainees, the Teachers' College lecturers who supervise the teaching practice, and principals and cooperating teachers in the primary schools to which trainees are attached for field work. Specifically, the study sought to find answers to the following research questions:
· What are the provisions for practice within the Colleges and the cooperating schools?
· How do trainees make use of their preparation for teaching practice in the teaching practice sessions in cooperating schools?
· What are the views of the Teachers' College supervisors, cooperating teachers, cooperating principals, and trainees on the efficacy of the provisions for practice in teaching?
· What orientation to teacher preparation is evident in the teacher preparation programme of the Teachers' Colleges?
Early in the research project, it was discovered that some stakeholders view the teaching practice enterprise as problematic. The decision was therefore taken that two teaching practice rounds would be observed and analysed - the session in the second term and the one in the fourth term of the two-year Teachers' College programme.
The researchers relied on the goodwill of the Teachers' College administration and academic staff for the execution of the work. Consequently, the sample of lecturers (supervisors) for this investigation consisted of those who were willing to have the researchers observe their teaching practice sessions. For the most part, the trainees on the second teaching practice round were different from those on the first round since the policy is that trainees are rotated among supervisors.
The data-collecting strategies involved analysis of documents, observation of trainees as they taught classes in the schools, observation of post-teaching conferences between trainees and supervisors, and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with trainees, supervisors, cooperating teachers, and principals of cooperating schools.
In the analysis of teaching practice field data, use was made of Shulman's (1987) distinctions among the various kinds of knowledge that are important for teaching. Shulman identified these as content knowledge, general pedagogic knowledge, curriculum knowledge, pedagogic content knowledge, knowledge of learners, knowledge of educational contexts, and knowledge of educational aims and values. The particular Shulman categories used in this analysis were content knowledge, general pedagogic knowledge, and pedagogic content knowledge.
In addition to this chapter which sets the scene for the study, the report consists of four other chapters. Chapter 2 describes the arrangements for teaching practice. Chapter 3 presents and analyses data obtained in the observation of the first round of teaching practice sessions held in the second term of the 1998-1999 school year for the 1998-2000 student cohort. Chapter 4 presents and analyses teaching practice data for the same cohort, but for the second round of teaching practice sessions held in the first term of the 1999-2000 school year. Comparisons of performances in the two rounds are also presented. Chapter 5 presents a summary and discussion.