Source: Action in Teacher Education, Volume 35, Issue 5-6, p. 418–425, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study examined the challenges encountered by student teachers during their practicum experience.
The authors examined two groups of students: 36 student teachers during the 2009 to 2010 academic year and 40 student teacher during the 2010 to 2011 academic year.
Of this sample, six student teachers were observed teaching at least once for a 50- to 90-minute class period.
Of the remaining 70 student teachers, one half were elementary education majors; the other one half were preparing to teach specific content areas at the middle school or secondary level.
Data from these groups were collected in three ways:
(1) through individual interviews following the observation of their teaching,
(2) through class discussions during the weekly synthesis course in which they were enrolled, and (3) through end-of-course questionnaires.
The total group of 72 students attended a midsized university in the Midwest where there is little racial/ethnic diversity, especially in teacher education.
The researchers collected data by note-taking during classes and interviews. Survey data were collected through anonymous participation by students.
The authors found similar themes in the data from both groups of student teachers.
They coded the data independently and found three major themes:
1. Student teaching is a very stressful period for preservice teachers, due to the workload and to student behavior issues;
2 . The most positive aspect of student teaching is the formation of positive relationships with the mentor teacher and with students.
3. If given a chance to do so, few student teachers would change their experiences and are optimistic about their futures.
First, student teachers reported feeling overwhelmed by the time requirements of teaching and lacked the skills to manage extremes of student behavior.
They felt overwhelmed by the amount of time they would need to spend preparing daily lessons and grading student work.
The staggering amount of time they spent on such chores increased their levels of stress during student teaching.
In addition, student teachers lacked the skills and experience to manage extremes of student behavior.
As a group, the secondary student teachers were much more troubled about student discipline than were their elementary counterparts.
Their accounts of behavior problems showed an escalated level of violence in the middle and secondary schools.
However, elementary student teachers who taught in the intermediate elementary grades were frustrated by the lack of respect from their students.
On the other hand, the elementary student teachers who taught only in the primary grades did not cite any issues related to lack respect or discipline.
Second, across the two groups, the most positive aspect of student teaching by far was forming relationships with their students and mentors.
Furthermore, at the end of their student teaching experience, all but one of the participants felt they had had a positive experience despite the time crunch, stress, and other difficulties. The participants were much more focused on the pleasurable aspects of the experiences than on their difficulties, and they felt they had successfully made the transition from students to teachers.
Finally, the participants believed that they would find teaching jobs.
An area of difference between the two groups of participants was their optimism or pessimism regarding job prospects.
Overall, elementary student teachers were more positive about their job prospects than those placed in secondary schools.
A key factor for all participants was their willingness or ability to relocate to secure a teaching position.
Overall, the two groups of student teachers had much more commonality of experience than might be expected.
The authors would suggest that teacher educators consider including coursework for stress reduction and time management for student teachers to help ease some of the transition shock they experience.
Those who work with student teachers know that often they are well prepared academically but lack the resources to shoulder the emotional toll that teaching can take.
Although colleges of education focus on curriculum and pedagogy in their courses of study, helping future teachers learn flexibility, time management, and coping skills may allow them to flourish in their careers as educators far longer than 5 years.
The student teachers in multiple settings complained about changing placements, feeling that they were just getting used to the classroom and its procedures when they had to move and start all over again in another classroom.
Student discipline and classroom management were concerns voiced, particularly with middle school and high school student teachers.
Students need to have multiple opportunities to see how teachers manage student discipline to be able to model these procedures when they are student teaching.