Beginning Teachers’ Experience of the Workplace Learning Environment in Alternative Teacher Certification Programs: A Mixed Methods Approach

Aug. 01, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 42, (August, 2014), p. 79-88.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper discusses to what extent students of teaching in early entry teacher education programs experience their work environment as a stimulating learning environment.

This research was carried out in the context of the early entry tracks in one-year postgraduate alternative teacher certification programs in Flanders, Belgium.
This research combines qualitative and quantitative research methods in a mixed method design.
First, semi-structured interviews were used to explore the perception of 11 students of teaching of the learning opportunities in their work environment within the first five domains of corporate curriculum.
Subsequently an online survey was used to examine whether the findings of the qualitative study would be confirmed by a larger population of 83 student teachers.


The results indicate that in most schools opportunities for learning are incidental and not in the form of labour.
Teaching full-time does not leave any space for peripheral participation.
Student teachers are not gently introduced into the practice of teaching, gradually taking more responsibilities and becoming experts.
Schedules of student teachers need to be reorganized so that reflection, collaboration and problem solving are integrated in the work time.

Besides, the core of the practices for teachers is enacted in classrooms where student teachers are left to their own devices.
This creates a kind of freedom, of autonomy, that most teachers appreciate, and protects against intrusion in and outside the classroom.
However, autonomy is highly valued but double-edged: a source of motivation and isolation.
Some of the participants report that colleagues in the school and they themselves fear that offering one’s expertise to a colleague will be interpreted as bothering, intrusive and/or pedantic.

This study identifies a shift from the focus on individualism and autonomy to a focus on collective responsibility for student learning as a key characteristic of effective professional communities.
Responses from the participants indicate that isolation tends to take over from autonomy and together with the isolation comes the risk of tensions, irritations, and conflicts that only diminish the access to the knowledge of team members.
However, well-understood autonomy is explicitly mentioned to be one of the main conditions that provides room for participants to self-regulate their motivation and emotions.

Furthermore, when knowledge exchange, reflection and problem solving occur, they have little prospect of improving student teachers’ conceptual knowledge and deep understanding.
When trying to solve the problems that they met, student teachers tended to turn towards avoidance and denial strategies or short-term expedient solutions to problems that have also been identified in previous studies.
Good mentoring and opportunities to reflect on professional development at a team level were absent.
The authors recommend that in order for student teachers to develop deep understanding a cyclic interaction between different kinds of knowledge is needed.

Updated: Jan. 06, 2015