Enhancing student teacher motivation through mentor feedback on practicum reports: a case study

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Published: 
December, 2019

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, 45:5, 605-607

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper provides the results of a single-case study on the methods employed by an experienced Chinese EFL teacher mentor to give feedback on practicum reports.
The study was situated in an elite science and technology university in western China, and candidates in the report were not originally teacher-oriented, but under the pressure of job-hunting they underwent a month of practicum in the seventh semester before they were required to hand in a practicum report of more than 2,000 English words.
Typically, these student teachers fell into the category of extrinsic maladaptive motives since teaching was a ‘fallback’ career choice for them.
This contextualised case study can enrich research on feedback in teaching practicum in a Chinese context and offer implications for teacher mentors to guiding students’ professional teacher-becoming for solving the prevalent problem of teacher shortage and teacher attrition.

Research design
This short article reported on some preliminary findings of a larger project on student teacher education and professional development.
The focal participant, Jane (female pseudonym), was an English teacher from the School of Foreign Studies at a first-class science and technology university in a poverty-stricken province in China.
She had 13 years of teaching experience. She supervised the teaching practicum for 8 years.
During a semi-structured in-depth interview, Jane recalled her experiences of commenting on practicum reports and shared her views on student teacher development and feedback to student teachers. The interview was audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed with a typical method of qualitative content analysis.
Four student teachers mentored by Jane were also interviewed to triangulate Jane’s self-reported account.

Findings and implications
The authors report that the data analysis reveals that Jane gave written feedback via email on the practicum reports.
Contrary to her face-to-face after-observation conference comments highlighting ‘teaching objective’, ‘teaching organisation ’ and ‘teaching manner’ (interview), her written comments were characterised with the focus on the empowerment of the motivation and the reflection section, as ‘reflection is the most important part of the report to see how student teachers self-evaluate the teaching practice’ (interview).
This reflected that Jane was delivering informative feedback that could help learners to self-correct and self-assess performance, strategy, and self-regulation (Lotta 2019).
The authors point out that noteworthy in the findings was that Jane underscored positive comments in the pattern of ‘praise-suggestion’, an explicit strategy also confirmed by the four student participants.
Jane reported that she mildly pointed out the underperformance by expressions like ‘can be better’ or ‘it’s all right’ (interview).
However, Jane lavishly sang high praise of the emotional commitment and ethical enhancement in the reflection section.
As a result, she facilitated and stimulated the development of self-assessment and reflection in ‘acquiring teacher’s identity’ (interview).
Though the pilot report examines only one case and was conducted in the western China context, the authors note that the findings have pedagogical implications for teacher feedback practices and education programmes in similar EFL/ESL settings.
As teaching is traditionally not deemed as a lucrative profession in China, the majority of graduates from elite nonteacher-oriented programmes would not necessarily choose to be English teachers.
However, this study provides evidence that the less engaged ‘desisters’ (Watt and Richardon 2008) would construct their teacher identity if mentors provided formative and positive feedback.
Mentors’ commentaries on practicum not only enhance professional learning but also function as a stimulus to ‘lure’ (interview) them to enter and stay in the teaching profession. Therefore, the authors suggest that this case study might suggest that EFL/ESL mentors should take the motivation enhancement of student teachers as the priority.

References
Lotta, J. 2019. “The Supportive Character of Teacher Education Triadic Conferences: Detailing the Formative Feedback Conveyed.” European Journal of Teacher Education 42 (1): 116–130. doi:10.1080/02619768.2018.1550065
Watt, H. M., and P. W. Richardon. 2008. “Motivation, Perceptions, and Aspirations Concerning Teaching as a Career for Different Types of Beginning Teachers.” Learning and Instruction 18 (5): 408–428. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2008.06.002 

Updated: May. 27, 2020
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