Source: Teacher Development, Vol. 19, No. 3, 311–327, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study aimed to identify challenges that pre-service teachers face when developing a learning community within their clinical practice classrooms. Furthermore, it also aimed to identify which strategies pre-service teachers employed during clinical practice to assist in the development of a learning community in the elementary classroom.
This qualitative study was conducted at a state university in the north-eastern United States.
The participants were seven pre-service teachers, who receive two beginning courses based on the learning community philosophy. The seven pre-service teachers were under the direct supervision of the researchers throughout their clinical practice experience. All participants were in their final semester of their professional academic experience and were completing the clinical practice (student teaching) experience.
Data were collected from self-reports, surveys, university supervisor observations and informal post-observation conferences.
The findings include the discrepancy between the clinical practice pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy ratings and the implementation according to the supervisors’ reports.
The findings also refer to classroom management in the open-ended responses and the post-observation conference discussions.
It appeared that upon the start of their clinical practice experience, the pre-service teachers reported a strong sense of self-efficacy, but in actuality, through conversation and discussion, they struggled with confidence in their abilities as learning community teachers and classroom managers during the early phases of their clinical practice experience. During their methods courses prior to clinical practice, candidates received instruction on how to develop a learning community within the classroom as well as different management techniques and strategies. With strong cooperating teachers as models, supervisors serving as mentors and good hands-on experience, the self-efficacy in these areas slowly returned and became even stronger by the end of the semester. The authors recommend that educational and pedagogical course content, prior to this semester, should include more classroom management strategies and techniques along with adequate time in real classrooms.
In addition, the authors discovered through informal discussions and observations of interactions that it would be helpful for school personnel to have some professional development in the learning community philosophy.
The authors argue that assisting these candidates in making the transfer from theory into practice is a recurring challenge for teacher educators. The authors recommend that when candidates have strong background knowledge of theory and obtain positive self-efficacy, coupled with a capable cooperating teacher and mentor during clinical practice, we believe this to be a formula for success.
Furthermore, the authors recommend on the infusion of additional classroom management strategies throughout the teacher education program would strengthen the pre-service teachers’ skill set in this critical domain. Through increased exposure to a wide range of classroom management strategies, clinical practice candidates will be better equipped for the ever-increasing challenges of twenty-first-century classrooms.