Student Teachers’ Development of Learning-Focused Conceptions

Jul. 01, 2013

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 34, July 2013, p. 26-37.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study investigated how to educate student teachers to develop a focus on student learning during teacher education.
The designed learning environment characterized by the use of authentic contexts, authentic tasks and reflective dialogues.

The study was carried out in the context of a programme for student teachers in an Institute for Technical Teacher Education, which is part of a University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. This programme was carried out in the teacher education institute and the students’ practice schools simultaneously.
The participants were ten student teachers in their third year of teacher education participated in this study.
Data were collected through questionnaires, drawings, metaphors and learner reports, in order to gain insight into the development of student teachers’ conceptions and the influence of the learning environment on this.

Conclusions and discussion

The study indicates that it is possible to change student teachers’ conceptions in a relative short period of time, even though there were substantial differences between student teachers.
More specifically, six student teachers developed more constructivist and less transmissive conceptions as a result of the designed learning environment.

The other four student teachers showed the same change in the drawings, and also developed more or maintained constructivist conceptions as shown in the metaphors, but maintained or showed less constructivist conceptions in the questionnaires.
The student teachers attributed their learning experiences to specific aspects of the authentic context, the authentic task and the reflective dialogue, as well as to the subjects that were discussed in the learning community.

The findings reveal that the questionnaire and metaphors seemed to force participants to express a more dichotomizing view of teaching than they might actually hold.
The use of drawings to measure conceptions proved to be an instrument that gives a richness of information about the complex nature of conceptions, compared to the questionnaires and metaphors.
The questionnaires and metaphors seem to give a more general view of STs’ conceptions, whereas the drawings, and also the learner reports, seem to shed light on the more situation-oriented aspects of their conceptions.
Using different instruments thus may illuminate different aspects of conceptions.

Finally, the authors conclude that this is a small, exploratory study, where conceptual changes happened, but not always in a consistent way.
It shows the complexity of conceptual change and the benefit of using multiple assessment tools that enable tracing changes in relation to specific activities established within a particular learning environment.
They recommend on creating a tight relationship between theory and practical experiences by assigning student teachers an authentic task that is relevant for and carried out in an authentic context.
This task ideally consists of a research, design and performance component that forces student teachers to focus on student learning and helps them make explicit their conceptions.
Continuously stimulating reflection on useful theory and on practice and relating these in a reflective dialogue seems to stimulate the process of continuous progressive re-contextualisation deemed necessary to elicit this focus.

Updated: Aug. 31, 2015


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