Learning from Interpersonal Interactions during the Practicum: A Case Study of Non-Native ESL Student Teachers

May. 10, 2014

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 2, 128–139, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study, which grounded in a sociocultural view of teacher learning, explores how non-native English as a Second Language (ESL) student teachers developed their understanding of professional learning in the light of their experiences of engaging with their significant others during an eight-week practicum.

In this study, 17 pre-service non-native ESL student teachers undertook an eight-week-long practicum in different local schools in Hong Kong.
All participants were seniors simultaneously enrolled in a bachelor of education degree (BEd) programme, majoring in English language teaching, at a Hong Kong university.

Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and reflective journals.


The study reveals rich interactions between these student teachers and their significant others in the school settings. Analysis of the data reveals that the student teachers appeared to find such interactions essential in assisting them in the transition from the role of student to the role of beginning teacher.
The findings reveal that the process of learning to teach was described as experiencing, which is connected to engagement in activities in personal social context that is counted as doing.
The student teachers observed, reflected on or critically analysed their supporting teachers’ pedagogical practices; their supporting and university supervisors observed and commented on their lessons, and communicated to them the judgments of their teaching performance; they shared resources and prepared lessons together with colleagues in their schools; and they shared frustration and success with their fellow student teachers throughout the practicum. Such engagement in activities and environment perceived as personally meaningful naturally involved the student teachers in becoming co-learners with other educators, and hence developing a sense of belonging to a ‘teaching community’ as they experienced the practicum.

This study also highlights the importance of interactions with other members in the school settings as a major part of the student teachers’ practicum experience. The study suggests that other members’ readiness to help the student teachers, and their sharing of success and uncertainties with their fellow student teachers, might mean as much to them as the guidance and support of their supporting teacher and supervisor.

Furthermore, analysis of the data also reveals negative interactions between student teachers and their significant others, which sociocultural theories have so far not taken sufficiently into account. While, findings of this study challenge past assumptions about where knowledge for teaching comes from and how it can be learned; this study also suggests an urgent need to consolidate university–school partnership to foster student teachers’ adaptation to the context of teaching practice and maximize their professional learning opportunities.

Conclusions and implications

This study is situated in the context of an eight-week-long practicum that aims to provide opportunities for the non-native ESL student teachers to explore teaching and learning-to-teach-in-action in the school environment. Data in this study suggest that the interactions and opportunities for collegial dialogue with their significant others during the practicum were perceived as essential to student teachers’ professional growth and identity development. The findings of this study thus challenge past assumptions about where knowledge for teaching comes from and how it can be learned.
The study suggests a pressing need to develop university–school partnership to facilitate the development of collegial relationships among student teachers and their significant others. This effort will most likely result in richer, more worthwhile field experiences for pre-service ESL student teachers.

Updated: Jun. 13, 2016