Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 2, 155–172, 2014.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to examine the value of providing pre-service teachers with opportunities to examine, justify and challenge their beliefs about classroom motivation in interaction with peers.
This study grounded in a social constructivist perspective.
The participants were 53 volunteers enrolled in a year-long Graduate Diploma of Education programme at a university in Western Australia
They participated in three semi-structured small group seminars, involving guided reflection and collaborative activities. Data were collected through matched pre- and post-questionnaires, and a final individual interview.
Results showed participation in this study influenced pre-service teacher beliefs.
Specifically, participants’ beliefs about classroom motivation shifted from a sole emphasis on individual cognitions to acknowledging also the importance of educational practices.
These beliefs were consistent with the motivational ideas and concepts presented in the educational psychology course.
The major change over time, however, was the consolidation of pre-service teachers’ motivational beliefs. This was demonstrated by the greater spread of ratings and evidence of systematically smaller standard deviations in the second survey at the end of the seminars, which demonstrated greater consistency in beliefs. The findings from this study contribute to the literature showing that pre-service teacher beliefs can be developed through carefully constructed collaborative learning activities enabling examination of beliefs, consideration of alternative and multiple points of view, in an environment that allows sharing of thinking and interaction between peers. The majority of these participants reported some degree of change in their beliefs that depended on prior knowledge.
The unique feature of this study, however, is that the process of examining and unpacking beliefs was conceptually grounded in a social constructivist perspective. These pre-service teachers not only examined their own beliefs in the light of their teacher education experiences, but had opportunities to explain, justify and develop beliefs in a small group context prompted by activities encouraging sharing, problem solving and collaboration. Throughout the group seminars, they were encouraged to appreciate each other’s perspectives, consider new ideas and connect university learning to teacher classroom practice.
The qualitative data suggest that from the participants’ perspectives the opportunity provided for reflecting on, and applying understandings about, classroom motivation with peers was valuable. The fact that some participants were prepared to share their view that their beliefs had not changed dramatically is indicative of their genuine responses.
On a broader level, this study enables further consideration of how teacher educators may endeavour to foster pre-service teachers’ examination of their existing beliefs about cognitions relevant to a particular domain of study, and the value of intentionally designed activities requiring in-depth reflection in interaction with peers. Participants’ comments from the final interview indicate that such an experience was unique and that it provided a learning experience beyond the bounds of typical learning at university.
The results from this study suggest that a useful direction for future research on pre-service teacher beliefs about classroom motivation may lie in considering the potential of shared belief development in authentic learning situations.
This study has a number of implications.
For teacher educators, the findings demonstrate that learning activities requiring pre-service teachers to share and justify their beliefs to peers, and appreciate others’ perspectives, are greatly beneficial for their professional development.
For educational researchers, the findings of this study support the notion that pre-service teacher beliefs about classroom motivation can be developed through structured activities grounded in a social constructivist approach to teaching and learning.