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  • PRESERVICE TEACHERS’ PERCEPTIONS

    OF THEIR MIDDLE SCHOOLING

    TEACHER PREPARATION: A SAMPLE OF

    THE AUSTRALIAN CONTEXT

    SUZANNE HUDSON

    MEd; BEd; TESOL; TEFOL; Dip Teach

    A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the degree of

    Doctor of Philosophy

    Southern Cross University

    2011

  • I

    Statement of Original Authorship

    School of Education

    Southern Cross University

    I certify that the work presented in this thesis is, to the best of my knowledge and

    belief, original, except as acknowledged in the text, and that the material has not been

    submitted, either in whole or in part, for a degree at this or any other university.

    I acknowledge that I have read and understood the University's rules, requirements,

    procedures and policy relating to my higher degree research award and to my thesis.

    I certify that I have complied with the rules, requirements, procedures and policy of

    the University (as they may be from time to time).

    Print Name:

    Signature:

    Date:

  • II

    Abstract

    Reviews into teacher education and reform measures, such as implementing

    professional standards for teachers, are designed to raise the quality of education.

    Such reviews and reforms also target preservice teachers; hence universities examine

    their teacher education programs to address these issues, including developing

    programs that are current with the literature. Over the past fifteen years, concerns

    have arisen about Australian early adolescents and their disengagement from the

    schooling system, their “at risk” behaviour and their need for social, emotional and

    academic support. These concerns have prompted a middle schooling movement in

    Australia with the literature recognising a need for specialised middle school

    teachers. As a result, various universities have responded by developing courses

    specifically designed to graduate teachers who possess the theoretical and

    pedagogical knowledge for engaging early adolescent learners. This mixed-method

    study analysed the responses of preservice teachers from three universities across two

    states in Australia near the completion of their middle years teacher preparation

    program. The three aims of the study were to: (1) investigate final-year preservice

    teachers’ perceptions of their confidence to teach in the middle years of schooling; (2)

    analyse the experiences included in their teacher preparation course that made them

    feel confident; and (3) describe strategies for enhancing middle schooling teacher

    education preparation. Data were gathered from final-year preservice teachers

    (n=142) using a survey that was developed in response to middle schooling literature

    and the Professional Standards for Queensland Teachers (Queensland College of

    Teachers, 2006). A questionnaire collected extended information about the

    participants’ (n=142) experiences that made them feel confident. It also gathered

  • III

    information about strategies for enhancing middle years teacher preparation. One-to-

    one, 45-minute interviews (n=10) were conducted to elicit in-depth responses aligned

    with the research aims. Quantitative results indicated that the majority of preservice

    teachers (n=142) claimed confidence associated with survey items relating to creating

    a positive classroom environment (range: 70-97%), developing positive relationships

    for teaching (71-98%), pedagogical knowledge for teaching (72-95%), and

    implementation of teaching (70-91%). Qualitative findings suggested that the

    experiences that assisted them to be confident for teaching were practicum and

    associated field studies coursework, a positive mentor teacher, specifically designed

    middle years subjects, the pedagogical approaches of university staff, and other real-

    world experiences such as volunteering in schools and participating in professional

    development alongside their mentors. This study demonstrated that universities

    presenting middle years teacher preparation need to consider: the quality of the

    practicum experience; the suitability of mentor teachers; the significance and

    practicalities of middle years subjects; university lecturers’ modelling of pedagogical

    practices; and the inclusion of real-world learning experiences. Although the findings

    of this study provided evidence as to how preservice teacher confidence for teaching

    has been influenced by their middle schooling teacher preparation, further research is

    required to investigate how confidence translates into practice within their first years

    of teaching.

  • IV

    Preface

    I completed my teacher education training in New South Wales, Australia in 1978.

    After three years of teaching in a metropolitan school I felt I was developing into an

    effective teacher that could engage, motivate and encourage learning. I had positive

    student outcomes which instilled a notion that I was doing a “good job”. In my fourth

    year of teaching I moved to a regional area in northern New South Wales and was

    allocated to a grade 6 class. I now reflect upon this time as one of the greatest

    learning experiences of my teaching career. Although I had the content knowledge for

    teaching, I had difficulty engaging these particular students. My focus each day was

    on behaviour management and importantly, I was concerned about student

    achievement levels under my guidance. At this time, I had limited knowledge of early

    adolescent development or concepts around the middle years of schooling.

    In frustration, I sought advice from a colleague who was teaching grade 6 in the

    classroom next door. She had a range of effective teaching strategies that she shared

    with me on a daily basis. Her behaviour management approaches, which were geared

    towards understanding and knowing the students, were explicit with clear

    expectations, and at the same time, empowered the students with the notion that they

    were responsible for their own behaviour. Diversity in the classroom was celebrated

    each morning by students telling stories about their cultural heritage and family life.

    As she said, it was an opportunity to get to know what “made the students tick”.

    Emphasis on hands-on learning activities meant that when I visited her class, it was

    buzzing with the excitement of learning. Parents were invited to assist in the

  • V

    classroom and I noticed she took the time to speak to those parents who came to

    collect their children after school.

    I began to experience success when I adopted many of the same strategies my

    colleague had modelled for me. After two terms, I had confidence to implement my

    own approaches and, it was not long before I shared them with my colleague. My

    classroom became an exciting place to be with students engaged and interested in

    learning. Not only was I enjoying the students and teaching, but my colleague and I

    had a rewarding year comparing our ideas, discussing teaching strategies and talking

    about our students. Working together made us all the more motivated for teaching

    and we felt our students benefited from our collegial approach. At the end of the year,

    we decided to have a parent / student information session about the expectations for

    the following year at secondary school. We invited teachers from the surrounding

    secondary schools to present information about the different contexts. Our principal

    noted this was an “innovative idea”.

    The growth of the middle years of schooling movement in Australia over the past

    fifteen years, combined with my own experiences of teaching early adolescents has

    been the impetus for this study. I often reflect on my experiences in that year 6

    classroom all those years ago, the assistance I gained from my colleague, and how

    much I benefited from the sharing of conversations about the students and strategies

    for teaching. Teachers of early adolescents need knowledge about middle schooling

    philosophies, and the practices and attributes to be effective in the classroom. It is

    hoped this study provides some insight into the preparation of middle school teachers

  • VI

    and promotes continued dialogue around the need to support early adolescents in our

    Australian schools.

  • VII

    Table of Contents

    Contents Page

    Statement of Original Authorship i

    Abstract ii

    Preface iv

    Tables of Contents vii

    List of Figures xiii

    List of Tables xiv

    List of Appendices xv

    Acknowledgements xvi

    Dedication xvii

    1. Chapter 1: Introduction 1

    1.1 Chapter preview 1

    1.1.1 Introduction 1

    1.1.2 The need to support early adolescents 4

    1.1.3 Teacher confidence for teaching in middle schools 7

    1.2 Context for this study 10

    1.3. Purpose of this study 11

    1.4 The research problem and direction of this study 12

    1.5 Th

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