Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 44(6)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study explored preservice teachers’ developing self-efficacy for classroom management over the course of their professional development sequence (PDS).
Analysis was guided by the following research question:
What was the effect of a four-semester professional development sequence, consisting of strategically aligned coursework and field-based experiences, on preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for classroom management over time?
The authors of this study were focused on what teacher candidates (TCs) reported about their self-efficacy for classroom and behaviour management, to include changes over time, and self-reported training needs.
Data were analyzed using descriptive procedures for survey data and constant comparative analysis procedures, guided by elements of grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2008; Strauss & Corbin, 1990), for open-ended question responses.
Context: Professional Development Sequence
The authors report that the professional development sequence (PDS) was strategically designed to align coursework and field-placement experiences as part of the participants’ preparation program. The PDS encompassed all the professional development courses and field-based training that lead to teacher certification and spanned four consecutive long semesters over the course of two academic years.
Overall, participants completed more than 1300 hours of field-based experiences over the course of the PDS.
These experiences consisted of three practicum placements and a culminating student teaching semester.
During the practicum and student teaching placements, students observed cooperating (host) teachers, implemented whole-group, small-group, and individual lessons, and conducted formal and informal assessments of students.
Participants were observed by their cooperating teacher and university appointed supervisors.
Both cooperating teachers and university supervisors provided participants with feedback on instruction to include classroom/behaviour management via face-to-face debriefing sessions and written observation forms.
Participants - Participants were recruited from an all-female cohort of 23 preservice teachers enrolled in a dual certification (elementary and special education) program at a large Southwestern university in the United States.
Thirteen members of the cohort consented to participate in the study yielding a 56.5% response rate.
Instrumentation - A 29-item Likert-type survey was developed to obtain information about preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for classroom and behaviour management.
In addition to the Likert-type items, participants completed 13 open-ended questions related to their knowledge of classroom management practices and field placement experiences.
This article reports on findings from the Likert-survey and one open-ended question related to an expressed need for additional experiences in the area of classroom and behaviour management:” Pertaining to classroom management, what do you feel that you need additional knowledge and/or training in? Explain your answer.”
Procedures - The survey instrument was administered at five different points in time over the course of the two-year professional development sequence.
The first administration of the survey occurred at the beginning of the first semester of the professional development sequence.
Each subsequent administration was conducted within the final two weeks of each semester of the professional development sequence, to include the end of the first , second, third, and fourth semesters.
A total of five surveys were administered to each of the 13 participants.
Findings and discussion
The authors report that this study demonstrated that certain changes were observed in participants’ sense of efficacy as they progressed through the PDS.
Findings indicated statistically significant changes in mean self-efficacy levels at the end of each placement semester when compared to levels at the beginning of the PDS.
Overall mean self-efficacy scores increased at the end of each placement semester when compared to beginning PDS scores.
In addition, participants consistently rated themselves highest on items related to ability and lowest on items pertaining to knowledge and locus of control.
Furthermore, participants consistently reported additional training needs in the areas of extreme behaviour, evidence-based practices, and a general need for additional practice at the end of each placement semester.
The authors note that this study supports previous findings that self-efficacy changes over time and may not remain constant (Pfitzner-Eden, 2016; Yüksel, 2014).
Similar to the findings of Chambers and Hardy (2005), the percentage of participants with high levels of self-efficacy remained the same at the end of the first semester of the PDS (EOS I) when compared to BOS I levels.
By the end of the first year of the PDS (EOS II), this percentage decreased.
It should be noted that the first PDS semester placement was in a general education setting with the second placement split among a pre-school program for children with disabilities (PPCD) setting and a Functional Life Skills setting.
The authors suggest that it is possible that participants questioned their self-efficacy for classroom/behaviour management following their first PDS field placement semester in special education settings (i.e., PPCD and Functional Life Skills) where students frequently exhibit more challenging behaviours.
At the end of the PDS (EOS IV) the percentage of participants with high levels of self-efficacy increased from the end of the first year in the PDS (EOS II).
These findings support previous findings in which participants indicated higher levels of self-efficacy post-placement.
The authors also note that these findings echo self-efficacy research which highlights the impact of mastery experiences on the development of self-efficacy.
This is to say that as participants gained more field-based experiences over the course of their PDS, both with students who exhibited challenging behaviours (e.g., EOS II) and cooperating teachers implementing strategies to address those behaviours, their self-efficacy levels increased.
Additionally, while engaged in field-based experiences at the start of the PDS, participants noted very general needs, with many identifying needs for additional training in ‘everything’.
Over time and exposure to a variety of placements, students, and teachers, participants began to identify more specific areas of need (e.g., extreme behaviours, older students, etc.).
It is likely that these field experiences provided new experiences and challenges that disrupted participants’ preexisting beliefs, thus challenging them to reassess their perceived capabilities, knowledge, and training needs (Yüksel, 2014).
The authors note that participants persistently reported the need for additional training in specific evidence-based practices and strategies across the PDS.
They feel that this is particularly disconcerting considering that throughout the PDS, coursework was strategically aligned with their field placement settings and the students served therein.
Although participants persistently noted the need for instruction in specific evidence-based practices across all survey administrations highlighting their awareness that such practices exist, it also reinforces the idea that the gap between research and practice remains an ongoing concern and provides further evidence that the gap is not narrowing (Cook & Odom, 2013; Sciuchetti et al., 2016). The authors ask: Is this a gap between research and practice? Students receive instruction in evidence-based practices but they feel they need additional training?
Implications and Future Directions
The authors suggest that in order to prepare preservice teachers to meet the varying demands of classrooms serving increasingly diverse student populations, multiple field experiences are imperative. As demonstrated by the findings of this study, participants’ levels of self-efficacy decreased following their first special education placement setting (EOS II).
It is possible that preservice teachers need multiple opportunities, in a variety of settings, to engage with students and increase their perceived self-efficacy for classroom management. Although participants in this study were engaged in multiple field experiences over the course of a four-semester PDS, they indicated a need for more classroom practice at the end of each field-based experience, including at the conclusion of student teaching.
The authors suggest that teacher training programs should look to identify opportunities for multiple field-based experiences, prior to a culminating student teaching semester.
These field-based experiences should be introduced early in the participants’ program and continue throughout their course of study.
Furthermore, teacher preparation programs must provide explicit instruction in evidence-based practices (Sciuchetti et al., 2016).
With participants still noting the need for additional training in evidence-based practices at the end of student teaching, a concerted effort is needed to ensure that the accurate information pertaining to evidence-based practices is disseminated widely into the field through a variety of channels (e.g., the internet, practitioner journals; Sciuchetti et al., 2016).
The authors add that findings from this study offer insights into the development of preservice teachers’ perceived preparedness to address issues of classroom/behaviour management.
Teacher preparation programs might incorporate measures of preservice teacher self-efficacy, particularly in the area of classroom/behaviour management, during the course of field-based professional development in an effort to identify and target needed experiences and/or content area instruction to strengthen participants’ perceptions of ability before moving into the profession.
They also suggest that future research might explore the effects of using self-efficacy measures to drive instructional and field placement decisions to enhance the preparation of participants to meet the demands of the field.
Chambers, S. & Hardy, J. (2005). Length of time in student teaching: Effects on classroom control orientation and self-efficacy beliefs. Educational Research Quarterly, 28(3), 3-9.
Cook, B., & Odom, S. (2013). Evidence-based practices and implementation science in special education. Exceptional Children, 79, 135-144. https://doi.org/10.1177/001440291307900201
Corbin, J. M. & Strauss, A. L. (2008). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452230153
Pfitzner-Eden, F. (2016). I feel less confident so I quit? Do true changes in teacher self-efficacy predict changes in preservice teachers’ intention to quit their teaching degree? Teaching and Teacher Education, 55, 240–254. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.01.018
Sciuchetti, M. B., McKenna, J., Flower, A. (2016). Teacher knowledge and selection of evidence-based practices: A survey study. Journal of Vincentian Social Action, 1(2), 20- 31
Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. London, England: Sage.
Yüksel, H. (2014). Becoming a teacher: Tracing changes in pre-service English as foreign language teachers’ sense of efficacy. South African Journal of Education, 34(3), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.15700/201409161104