Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 36 (November, 2013), p. 112-120.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article explores the pedagogical learning of South African pre-service teachers during a practicum in special schools.
The participants were 15 third year Bachelor of Education pre-service teachers who, in 2011, requested a practicum placement in a special school in their sixth (out of eight) practicum session.
Fourteen participants were women and one man, and the group was racially mixed.
Data were collected from three sources: focus group interviews, Facebook posts, and individual journal entries.
The analysis suggests that pre-service teachers initially regarded special education as substantively different from mainstream education.
These placements do not only serve to promote an understanding of difference and disability.
These pre-service teachers noticed aspects of pedagogy that had been less visible to them during previous practicum sessions in ‘mainstream’ schools.
Some tacit pedagogical knowledge became more explicit within the unfamiliar setting.
The attention of these pre-service teachers was drawn to the value of multiple representations of core concepts, lesson pacing and behavior management in responding to learning differences.
Pre-service teachers in this study were unanimous in claiming that their practicum in special schools had been beneficial to them.
The encounter with children with disabilities has led to an enhanced awareness in pre-service teachers of the challenges experienced by some students within the classroom context.
Sensing some kind of freedom from the relentless demands of a curriculum that must be completed, in a practicum placement in a special school, pre-service teachers seem able to focus on what it means to enable learning by acknowledging student difference, organizing concepts hierarchically by distinguishing core ideas from supporting information, and representing knowledge in multiple ways, using relevant examples.
The authors conclude that a practicum placement in such settings has the potential to advance their pedagogical learning.