|Becoming a Primary School Teacher in Trinidad & Tobago, Part 2: Teaching Practice - Experience of Trainees (CIE, 2000, 54 p.)|
|Chapter 2: Arrangements For Teaching Practice|
The study focused on the preparation of trainees at the two Government Teachers' Colleges - Valsayn Teachers' College and Corinth Teachers' College.
2.1.1 Valsayn Teachers' College
There is a very structured programme for preparing trainees for practice teaching at Valsayn Teachers' College. The programme is co-ordinated by one of the staff members who is a lecturer in Education. The programme is referred to as PET - Professional Enhancement for Teaching. The aims of PET are:
...to prepare student-teachers to develop and demonstrate the pedagogical skill necessary for effective teaching. In addition, it seeks to motivate them to display an attitude of professionalism in their approach to teaching, as well as, to stimulate a desire for improvement of their competence and performance through membership in professional organisations. Moreover, it seeks to imbue in student-teachers an enthusiasm for this dynamic profession, so that graduates will recognise the need to continually upgrade their skills through professional readings, personal research in the classroom and participation in workshops, courses and conferences.
(Trinidad and Tobago. Ministry of Education, n.d., p. 57)
The programme commences in the first year of the College programme and continues into the second year. The year group is divided into three smaller groups. A staff member is in charge of each of these sub-groups, and is responsible for exposing the students in her group to strategies and techniques that are suitable and useful for teaching at a particular level of the primary school system. The three levels considered in this programme are the infants, the juniors, and the seniors. Trainees spend one term in a group and then switch to another group in the following term. In this way, all trainees are exposed to teaching methodologies for each of the three levels in the primary school.
PET is timetabled for 120 hours of in-College work (each session being 1.5 hours long) and 12 weeks of teaching practice. The in-College sessions focus on general preparation for teaching practice, but there seems to be some overlap between what is done in the PET programme and what is done by subject area specialists in preparing trainees to teach their particular subject. PET tutors also invite subject specialists to be a part of the PET programme from time to time, for example, when the groups are doing micro-teaching in a particular subject.
The level of co-ordination between preparation in the PET programme and the preparation by subject area specialists does not seem to be satisfactory. The rationale behind preparing trainees for teaching practice through the subject areas (in addition to the PET programme) is that there are specific techniques that are appropriate for the subject areas that may not be available in a general preparatory programme. However, the net result of the different types of preparation seems to be some confusion in the minds of trainees. Some trainees have complained that they are sometimes required to prepare different types of lesson plans for the different areas, based on the preferences of the lecturers concerned.
The topics that are covered in PET include the following:
· Teaching strategies
· Unit planning
· Lesson planning
· Classroom management and organisation
· Making appropriate use of resources, for example, using recycled materials
· Teaching specific parts of the lesson, for example, the introduction
· Questioning techniques
A PET Juniors handbook exists. This outlines the PET programme as it applies to the junior level of the primary school in more detail. The strategies employed by tutors in the PET programme include whole group discussion and micro-teaching.
Teaching practice is conducted in three blocks during the two-year period. The block periods are arranged in three-week (2nd term), four-week (4th term), and five-week (6th term) sessions, to give a total of 12 weeks of teaching practice in primary schools. In preparation for teaching practice, trainees must develop a set of units to be taught to the primary school class to which they have been assigned for the period. Trainees must do background diagnostic work with the class and cooperating teacher before embarking on the preparation of their units. The units (with accompanying lesson plans) must be checked and signed by the subject specialists before the trainee goes into the field on teaching practice.
The Colleges are responsible for making arrangements for trainees to be assigned to schools for teaching practice. Trainees from Valsayn are assigned to schools in the northern part of the island. Attempts are made to send trainees to schools that are not too distant from their homes. The administration at Valsayn tries to assign trainees to schools in groups so as to maximise the use of the tutor's time when he/she visits the schools. Trainees are even allowed to suggest the names of other trainees with whom they would like to work in a particular school. For the final teaching practice in the 6th term, attempts are made to use schools with low noise levels and an environment that is generally conducive to teaching and learning.
All lecturers from the College are involved in the supervision of trainees on teaching practice. Typically, a lecturer would be assigned 7-8 trainees distributed in 2-3 schools for a given teaching practice period. Lecturers are expected to visit trainees in their schools, listen to them teach, and generally help them to reflect on their efforts in the attempt to become more proficient. These lecturers also award grades to the trainees at designated points.
The administrators at Valsayn have indicated that they experience some difficulties with the teaching practice exercise. Some of these difficulties are:
· There is no AV equipment available at the College for micro-teaching.
· Trainees do not serve well as pupils during micro-teaching exercises in the College.
· Some principals are unwilling to have trainees assigned to their schools for various. reasons, with the result that some degree of difficulty is sometimes experienced in finding places for trainees.
· The Standard 5 (Common Entrance) class is never used whenever teaching practice is conducted before those students have taken the examination.
· Trainees do not like to work with the post-primary classes because of their perceived intellectual deficiencies.
· There is a high number of trainees living in certain areas, making placement in schools difficult in those areas.
During the first week of teaching practice, trainees are encouraged to return to the College to sort out any difficulties that they might be experiencing at that initial stage of the attachment.
2.1.2 Corinth Teachers' College
Trainees are required to fulfil a minimum of 12 weeks of practical teaching during the two years of training. This period is inclusive of the four weeks of final teaching practice. Corinth Teachers' College does not appear to have as structured a PET programme as Valsayn Teachers' College
During the first term, trainees engage in their first practice session. This session extends over three weeks and consists of two half-day teaching sessions; usually Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Different classes are taught on each of these two days. Trainees are divided into groups of six and are placed under the supervision of one lecturer. Some lecturers have responsibility for two such groups, which means that some of them will be out with students on both Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
For this first teaching practice, trainees are exposed to some of the methodological skills (e.g., questioning, set induction, using pupils' prior knowledge) in the PET programme as it is organised at Corinth. Subject area departments also equip trainees with some methodological skills. During the course of the PET programme, each subject area department is given a slot in which to present the methodology for teaching that particular subject area.
Before embarking on the first practice, trainees must seek permission from school principals at least three to four weeks prior to the start of the practice. Following this, the first pair of trainees pay a preliminary visit about two weeks before the start of practice. This visit facilitates their meeting with the Principal, the cooperating teacher, and the pupils. During this visit, the trainees gather information about the lesson to be taught and any other information that might be relevant to its delivery. An information sheet is provided by the PET Department for this purpose.
At the College, periods are allotted on the timetable for pre-conferencing. At these sessions, trainees and supervisors critique a first draft of the lesson to be taught by the pair of trainees. Amendments are made and the other trainees take responsibility for other aspects of the planning (e.g., the preparation of resources). An assessment instrument, designed by staff at Corinth and used only at Corinth, is discussed since this is what will guide the other trainees in their observation and assessment of specific aspects of their peers' lesson. A teaching roster is made up for the remaining trainees so that each trainee in the group gets a chance to teach a lesson as part of a team of two. Supervisors, as well as subject lecturers, are available for any consultation subsequent to this planning session.
Prior to the actual delivery of the lesson, the trainees who would not be teaching select which aspects of that lesson they would like to observe. These areas are rotated over the three weeks. At the end of each lesson, a post-conferencing session is held either at the school itself or at the College. Each trainee is encouraged to share his/her comments, as objectively as possible, taking care to address both positive and negative issues arising out of the lesson. Trainees are also required to do a self-appraisal of their lessons. At this time as well, either before or after the lesson, the second pair of trainees meet with the facilitating teachers and the classes, to gather information for the lessons that they would teach.
Around the middle of the second term, trainees embark on their second (three-week) practice. At this time, the trainees can decide whether they wish to go out singly or in pairs. After schools are selected and permission is sought from the principals, trainees pay a preliminary visit about three to four weeks prior to the beginning of the practice. Approximately 12-17 trainees are assigned to a pair of supervisors. Sessions are not allocated on the timetable for conferencing with students but meetings are arranged at the convenience of both supervisors and students. Subject lecturers can also make an input in the planning of units. All units must be seen by supervisors before students proceed on practice. This means that each supervisor is expected to be knowledgeable about the entire primary school syllabus. Supervisors are expected to observe at least two lessons together. During this practice, trainees are required to teach five lessons per day. Post-conferencing is conducted at the end of every lesson. Trainees are encouraged to do a self-appraisal of each lesson.
The third practice takes place during the fourth term. This can either be a three- or four- week practice where students go out singly. The preparation for this practice is similar to the previous one.
The final teaching practice takes place during the sixth term. Here, again, the preparation is similar to the previous practices. Trainees are advised that they are required to teach a minimum of four lessons per day. During the first week of final practice, supervisors post-conference with trainees, after which feedback is reduced. Counselling forms a major part of this practice in particular, since students experience serious stress throughout the evaluation exercise.