Newly Qualified Teachers’ Reflections on the Quality of Initial Teacher Education in the Republic of Ireland

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Oct. 01, 2013

Source: Action in Teacher Education, Vol. 35, No. 5-6, p. 405–417, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article discusses the impact of initial teacher education (ITE) on teachers’ professional experiences around the classroom teaching and interpersonal relationships with colleagues and parents.
The discussion is based on the following research question of this study:
What are the effects of ITE on teachers’ socialization experiences in schools?

The following research subquestions are discussed:
(1) What is the attitude of teachers toward their ITE?
(2) How well did the teachers feel prepared for their first year in practice in relation to their skills and knowledge?
(3) What are the areas which require more attention within the ITE course as identified by the study participants?
The article also explores what areas newly qualified teachers (NQTs) identified as deserving more attention within college courses.

Methodology
This article discusses the findings of a large scale mixed-methods research (2006-2010) conducted on a variety of early professional experiences of beginning primary teachers in the Republic of Ireland.
The data was collected through a postal questionnaire administered to a sample of 1,635 graduates of University of Dublin, Trinity College, from teacher preparation programs and 52 semi-structured in-depth qualitative interviews with first-year teachers.

Discussion

The findings reveal that 69 % of the sample expressed that they generally felt well prepared for teaching and carrying out teaching duties through their first year in practice.
Further, four beginning teachers expressed their satisfaction with initial teacher preparation in college to some extent.
In addition, 92.1% of teachers completing the questionnaire identified teaching practice as the most important element of the ITE course.
88.1% of the teachers identified teaching methods as the most important element of the ITE course.

Similar findings were mirrored by the interview data.
In total, seven teachers regarded the periods of practical teaching placements in schools as a central component of teacher educational courses.
The reasons as to why teaching practice was regarded by the study participants to be the most important component of the course were the opportunity to teach, to gain actual teaching experience, and, as such, the opportunity to develop essential teaching skills and knowledge of the classrooms in context.
Furthermore, the teachers highlighted that it was the only time when they could be in the classrooms and experience real classroom situations.

However, teachers who took part in the interviews also noted that teaching practice only partly reflected the reality of the classroom situation in the first year of teaching.
They concluded that while teaching practice is “good,” there are only a few such experiences available and that more time is needed to practice and improve instructional skills learned in college.
The questionnaire findings revealed that teachers felt insufficiently prepared in a number areas.
These were dealing with parents, working with pupils of different abilities, discipline problems, communicating with colleagues, assessment and working with different-sized groups of pupils.

In contrast, the areas for which teachers felt to be most prepared were the organizational side of teaching; for example planning, using a wide range of teaching methodologies effectively and using a wide range of teaching resources.
Almost one third of teachers did not feel competent to teach subjects like English, Mathematics, Art, Music, and Drama.
It can be concluded that overall teachers felt sufficiently equipped with the generic knowledge and skills in aforementioned areas but perhaps did not see them as adequate to suit some distinctive characteristics specific to the immediate social and cultural contexts in which teachers work.

Subject areas like Music, Drama, and Mathematics received the first, second, and third ranking, respectively, as the areas in teachers identified the scope for further learning and development.
Beginning teachers’ comments in relation to a greater relevance of the college course to their classroom situation represented the fact that many teachers did not see their ITE as preparing them sufficiently to for the contemporary context of teaching.
In total, 24% of the interviews sample identified their learning needs in respect of working with children whose English is not their first language, views that were informed by the characteristics of the class, teachers were teaching in their first year.
 

Conclusion

The author summarizes that the views of the majority of the respondents on what areas should be addressed within the college courses were informed by the structural contexts in which they were teaching in their first year, the contexts, which incorporated the background of their pupils and the characteristics of their classrooms and schools.
The general impression is that ITE was regarded as good but viewed as needed to be more relevant to the real classroom situation.

The accounts of teachers indicated that the need to observe more experienced teachers in different situations and classrooms was a valued learning experience, which they liked to be part of the college courses.
This learning experience could be particularly beneficial for the socialization of teachers at the classroom level as can indicate how a good teaching should be done.

Updated: Oct. 06, 2014
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