Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 39, No. 4, 491–506, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This research examines the quality of student–teachers’ (STs’) verbal communication during their teaching practice on the ‘Studies for the Environment’ subject. It also identifies potential factors affecting it.
The participants were 3rd year student teachers of a Department of Primary Education located in northern Greece. They had minimal teaching experience, ranging from 0 to 1 teaching hours.
The data included forty-one sessions of teaching performed by the student teachers.
The results reveal that student teachers clearly dominate classroom discussion, the questions they address to their students are of poor quality, and are not facilitating the development of students’ critical thinking. The authors found that one aspect of student teachers’ control over classroom communication is expressed through the seeming balance observed between the utterances expressed by student teachers’ and young students.
The authors note another finding signifying STs’ domination of classroom verbal communication is the total number of sentences expressed by them, corresponding to 7 sentences per minute. The authors argue that only a marginal amount of time is left for students to express their own questions and comments and to be engaged in activities.
The authors note that regarding the content and quality of STs’ verbal communication, they found that only a small portion of student teachers’ verbal communication was in the form of questions, and from them even fewer had the potential to stimulate students’ higher order thinking skills.
The results indicate that the ‘Studies for the Environment’ teaching sessions were more traditionally oriented, requiring students mainly to recall already-known information.
It was found that in the greatest number of the cases, STs’ seemed to be more interested in how to evaluate their students’ knowledge rather than providing them with opportunities to extend their ideas and scaffold their thinking.
The authors also examined the extend to which STs’ verbal communication facilitates the implementation of ‘Studies for the Environment’ curriculum principles.
The authors found that observed patterns of verbal communication mainly prevent their realisation, since it is considered as traditional and stable. The findings reveal that the student teachers used types of questions that do not consider students as researchers and do not provide them the opportunity to develop the fundamental skills specified in the ‘Studies for the Environment’ curricula, requiring them to be able to investigate complex issues.
The authors also found that the factors influencing STs’ verbal communication are the absence of relevant theoretical and practical background, the inappropriate training school setting and the lack of teaching experience are the most prominent.
In addition, the authors argue that verbal interaction and classroom discussion as well as the principles of new curricula, are explicitly discussed in several academic courses. However, it seems that STs are unable to transform this new theoretical knowledge into praxis.
Implications for teacher education
The authors suggest that STs need to be more aware of how questioning works in ‘Studies for the Environment’ classes, aiming to facilitate their students’ learning and understanding.
The authors recommend that teacher educators have to focus on STs’ theoretical and practical preparation.
Furthermore, the authors offer to use examples of student-oriented verbal communication, through the use of video- or audio-taped teaching sessions or good examples of transcribed questioning patterns with open-ended and follow-up questions, originating either from other STs or experienced teachers in order to give STs some valuable experience in regard to the issue.
The authors also recommend on actual teaching and appropriate feedback, both in personal and plenary levels regarding the particular issues should also take place after classroom teaching.
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