Pre-service Teachers’ Greater Power to Act in the Classroom: Analysis of the Circumstances for Professional Development

Nov. 01, 2011

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 34, No. 4, November 2011, 465–482.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study is part of a much larger research programme to reform teacher training in France.
This case study examined the professional development of a pre-service mathematics teacher.
The objective was to identify the circumstances in which professional activity developed during and as a result of mentoring interactions and classroom teaching experience.

Theoretical framework
The study was based on the concepts of historical–cultural psychology (Vygotsky 1978, 1997; Wertsch and Addison Stone 1985) and activity theory (Leontyev 1981).

Context for the study and participants

This study presents the findings regarding the professional development of a pre-service teacher, who will be called Ann.
Ann was a preservice maths teacher and was working for the first time in a high school in Lyon, France.
She was working with a second year class of 35 students who were 15–17 years old.
At the beginning of the school year, Ann had expressed the need to be accompanied in this first teaching experience.

Three other participants were called upon: Ann’s co-operating teacher, another maths teacher, and the university supervisor.

Data collection
Three types of data were collected:
Data from the semi-structured interviews, Data from the audiovisual recordings of classroom activity, Data from the self-confrontation interviews.

Discussion and conclusion

The results of this study clearly show the circumstances in which instructions given during interaction favour the development of professional development of a pre-service teacher.

First, they shed light on the process by which the pre-service teacher internalised and then transformed cultural signs (Vygotsky 1978) addressed by her interlocutors into objects for thought, and into resources for re-elaborating her teaching activity.
The internalisation of the stated instructions helped her to discover new possibilities for action beyond what she had already done and to modify her initial motives for action.

Second, the results show that inter-psychic conflicts from the confrontation of instructions stated by several interlocutors augments the intra-psychic conflicts of a pre-service teacher. The process of developing professional activity appears to be tightly linked to the set of conflicts that push the pre-service teacher to announce new actions for acting in the classroom.

Third, the results emphasise the process by which the pre-service teacher tested the set of instructions against the reality of the classroom. By tying them to the characteristics of her classroom situation, Ann perceived the instructions given by her interlocutors as being able to improve her classroom activity.

Last, the results emphasise the dynamic development of Ann’s professional activity through the linkage between sense and efficiency.
Progressing to the steps of operational efficiency (learning new operations) is how Ann was able to set new motives for action, and conversely the modification of these motives encouraged her to set other goals.

In conclusion, the results show that the instructions given by the co-operating teacher, university supervisor, and an experienced maths teacher were resources for this development when they allowed the pre-service teacher to think about her teaching activity and construct more personal actions, adapted to the characteristics of her classroom experience.

The results of this study suggest that collaboration between a co-operating teacher, other teachers, and the university supervisor in a supportive school setting (Mule 2006) provides the conditions for encouraging and guiding the professional development of pre-service teachers.

Furthermore, the results suggest the need to consider the high impact of operational instructions on professional activity development.

Leontyev, A.N. 1981. Le développement du psychisme. Paris: Editions sociales.

Vygotsky, L.S. 1978. Internalization of higher psychological functions. In L.S. Vygotsky, Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes, ed. M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, and E. Souberman, 52–7. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. 1997. Thought and language. 3rd Paris: La Dispute.

Wertsch, J.V., and C. Addison Stone. 1985. The concept of internalization in Vygotsky’s account of the genesis of higher mental functions. In Culture, communication and cognition: Vygotskian perspectives, ed. J.V. Wertsch, 64–6. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Updated: Feb. 25, 2013