Becoming a teacher educator through being a student teacher: an autoethnography in the practicum

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Published: 
April, 2020

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, 46:2, 248-250

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

As a novice teacher educator, the author enrolled on a two-year part-time initial teacher education (ITE) programme to professionally develop himself as a credible teacher educator.
With the growing emphasis on practitioner research in teacher education (Bullock 2009; Hayler 2011), he conducted an autoethnography to examine his journey in the teaching practicum (TP).
In this paper, he reports on his field experience of teaching English as a second language to senior secondary students in two schools.
The central question guiding this study is: how did a novice teacher educator engage in professional development through participating in the teaching practicum as a student teacher?
In his 12-week TP, he immersed himself in two local secondary schools on a day-to-day basis.
School A is an elite English-medium school and School B is a Chinese-medium school admitting dropouts from other schools.
He kept a journal with extensive field notes and personal reflections, and collected data through participation (e.g., teaching and meetings), observation, and interviews with principals, teachers and students. He analysed his own video-recorded lessons and feedback from his TP supervisors.
These data became basis for developing the self-narrative.

Reflections and implications
For novice teacher educators without school teaching background, the field experience in school is crucial in their professional development because, as Bullock (2009) suggested, identifying and interpreting their own experiences as student teachers are the requirement of learning to be teacher educators.
For instance, the author gained a more vivid understanding about the tension between theory and practice.
In line with the curriculum reform initiative to promote learning English for authentic communication, he tried to implement a variety of task-based learning activities in his TP.
In School A, while most students enjoyed the tasks, some expected more examination drilling.
However, students in School B, who had extremely low English proficiency, merely wanted to have fun in the communicative tasks without caring about examinations. Such an experience encouraged him to emphasise flexibility in balancing theory (e.g., initiatives promoted in the intended curriculum) and practice (e.g., assessment needs and learner diversity) in his own teacher education classroom.
Another example is learning to give feedback as a TP supervisor.
After each class visit, the author’s TP supervisors gave feedback on his teaching.
In the process, he did not only reflect on his teaching as a student teacher, but also imagined how he would give feedback if he were the TP supervisors.
As a teacher candidate,he perceived a need to demonstrate the theories covered in the programme to fulfil the assessment requirement, but this would limit his creativity in delivering the lessons.
A TP supervisor therefore would need to go beyond checking the boxes in the assessment form and offer flexible and tailor-made guidance on how to improve the candidate’s teaching.
Interestingly, being upfront about his academic background, the author was occasionally regarded as an ‘education expert’ and was asked by the principals and teachers to offer advice on how their schools could be improved.
Having immersed in the schools for weeks with ongoing dialogues with different stakeholders, he could give contextualized advice (e.g., school-based curriculum development) based on his findings in the autoethnography and academic knowledge.
The TP created a platform for him to understand in greater depth the school management and professional lives of schoolteachers and strengthen his identity as a teacher educator.
Conducting an autoethnography in the TP encouraged ongoing dialogues not only with the stakeholders in schools but more importantly with the novice teacher educator’s own self.
While teacher education institutes worldwide may have different attitudes and practices regarding novice teacher educators’ enrolment in ITE programmes (e.g., required, optional, prohibited); engaging in self-study in school, if not the whole ITE programme, offers a worthwhile opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge about the complex educational reality (Bullock 2009; Loughran 2014).
In teaching, novice teacher educators can enrich their teaching content with hands-on experience in schools.
In research, they can develop research ideas about school development and collect data in the field for publications (e.g., teacher narratives and students’ learning practices as directions for this study).
Offering contextualised advice to schools is also a contribution to the community.
Universities could consider supporting novice teacher educators by allowing them to take leave to engage in school-based self-study for their professional development.

References
Bullock, S. M. 2009. “Learning to Think like a Teacher Educator: Making the Substantive and Syntactic Structures of Teaching Explicit through Self-study.” Teachers and Teaching 15 (2): 291–304.
Hayler, M. 2011. Autoethnography, Self-narrative and Teacher Education. Rotterdam: Sense publishers.
Loughran, J. 2014. “Professionally Developing as a Teacher Educator.” Journal of Teacher Education 65 (4): 271–283.

Updated: Jan. 25, 2021
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