Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2013, p. 55–67.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article explores how mathematics students enrolled in the Bachelor of Education )Honours) degree programme offered by the Faculty of Education of the University of Malta experience the feedback they receive from tutors while out on teaching practice (TP).
More specifically, this paper analyses what these students had to say both with regards to how they perceive the TP feedback they receive and the suggestions they put forward aimed at improving this feedback.
Data were collected through e-mails.
Analysis of the data shed light on:
(i) the quality of tutor feedback;
(ii) students’ understanding of feedback and related issues; and
(iii) students’ sense of practicality.
The quality of tutor feedback
Most students claimed to experience professional growth while out on TP and attributed a good proportion of this learning to the tutor feedback they received.
The fact that some tutors offer monitoring rather than feedback is problematic as it does not support students’ learning.
Therefore, when feedback levels are not consistent across different tutors, one cannot claim that all students are receiving the attention and support that they deserve and have a right to.
Students’ understanding of feedback and related issues
The students emerged as still holding a rather traditional view of assessment.
For a start, they overwhelmingly accepted to be passive throughout the assessment process. Most of the students who received tutor feedback that did not guide them towards improved practices did not see anything wrong in this.
Moreover, their assessment preoccupations had largely summative roots that built on the notion that tutor feedback is essentially about determining whether they get a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ in TP.
On the other hand, a number of comments and suggestions by some students revealed certain affinity to basic concepts of Assessment for Learning (AfL) which are all somewhat linked to feedback.
Students’ sense of practicality
The evidence suggests further that students’ nascent understanding of AfL is conditioned however by their apparent ‘sense of practicality’ which is characterised by a powerful sense of what works and what doesn’t for them within the context in which they operate.
This sense emerges most strongly in their apparently contradictory comments concerning verbal and written tutor feedback.
In spite of many students maintaining that they get more professionally out of verbal feedback, they still claimed to give greater importance to the written feedback on the TP evaluation booklet.
The reflections suggest that the BEd (Hons) mathematics teacher education tutors are facing three important challenges.
The first challenge concerns the need for all TP tutors to provide good quality feedback.
The second challenge concerns the need to widen and deepen students’ understanding of feedback from an AfL perspective.
The third and final challenge concerns the need to adopt feedback improvement strategies that appeal to students’ sense of practicality.
The author concludes that the approach being proposed here builds on the realisation that TP offers a strong common purpose among the interested parties.
During TP visits, both tutors and student teachers are involved simultaneously in the same assessment activity – that is, providing feedback to their respective students within an assessment scenario that carries both formative and summative connotations.