Source: Action in Teacher Education, Volume 35, Issue 5-6, p. 354–371, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study aimed to address the expressed needs of recent teacher education graduates.
In an effort to assist these new educators in meeting their professional development needs, this study designed free, voluntary workshops to target some of the issues.
This study addresses to the following research question:
What are the effects of professional development workshops on student teachers’ reported self-perception of their pedagogical and content skills?
The participants were 56 undergraduate and graduate college students majoring in teacher education (childhood, special education, bilingual education, and secondary) at a small, public, suburban university in New York State.
They were divided into a treatment group and a comparison group.
The treatment group consisted of 29 participants and the comparison group consisted of 27 participants.
Data were collected through pre- and post-course surveys and four feedback forms completed by the treatment group only.
In this study, both groups began the semester with comparable knowledge in the targeted areas, with the exception of child abuse.
The treatment group was less confident in their ability to identify and report cases of child abuse than the comparison group.
However, as the conclusion of the semester, the treatment group’s perceived knowledge in this area significantly improved, more so than their peers in the comparison group.
Both groups participated in a mandated child abuse and violence prevention workshop sponsored by the regional certification agency.
Although none of the four professional development workshops directly targeted child abuse, the topic did come up during discussions of classroom management, diverse student populations, and navigation through the first year of teaching.
Furthermore, in general, student teaching experiences yield changes in its participants.
Through their fieldwork experiences, the comparison group demonstrated significant overall gains, and most specifically in lesson planning and working with diverse students.
In addition, the field placement office highly monitors the field placements to ensure that all candidates have experience working with students from diverse backgrounds.
The comparison group of participants also appeared less confident in their ability to collaborate with colleagues and assess their students in multiple ways at the end of the experience.
Although the comparison group showed improvement in some areas, the treatment group’s perceived knowledge far surpassed their peers.
The treatment group demonstrated increased confidence in the majority of target areas.
The only area in which the treatment group did not show improvement in their pre- to post-surveys was in collaborating with school faculty.
Perhaps, student teachers do not always form close relationships with the teachers in their building, as many faculty view the student teachers as students themselves, as opposed to colleagues.
In addition, treatment group participants demonstrated significantly higher score in the same topics that were covered in the professional development workshops.
These professional development experiences had noteworthy effects on these student teachers’ perceptions of their knowledge with regards to classroom management, student diversity, parental relations, collegial interactions, and first-year survival.
The first four topics were directly covered in the workshops presented.
The final two were indirectly mentioned through the workshop discussions and presentations. The most important finding from this study was the connection between the statistically significant differences in the same target areas as the professional development workshops.
This study calls for an intense need for targeted professional development opportunities for student teachers as they begin their journey through the field of academia.
The authors argue that classroom experiences and fieldwork are simply not sufficient means to address the many needs to new teachers today.
Workshops that are designed based on the expressed needs of the teachers or teacher candidates will improve the educators’ perceived knowledge and levels of confidence in these areas.
Voluntary professional development workshops allow teachers the flexibility and control over their experiences, resulting in improved confidence.