Examining Chinese and Spanish preservice teachers’ practicum teaching experiences: a transformative learning perspective

February 2020

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, 46:1, 124-128

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Considering the turbulence of learning to teach during the practicum period, this paper endeavours to unpack how the preservice teachers enact their transformative learning (Mezirow, 1994; Mezirow & Associates, 2000) in the teaching practicum context.
Moreover, there is no explicit international comparative study that explores Chinese and Spanish preservice teachers’ professional practicum experiences, which represent the Confucius-culture inherited society and the western society, respectively.
This study utilises the five-stage transformation construct (Senyshyn & Chamberlin-Quinlisk 2009) that accounts for the participants’ transformative learning:
(1) Disorienting dilemma,
(2) reflection and exploration of assumptions,
(3) gaining confidence in a new role,
(4) behaviour changes, and
(5) integration of new perspectives.


Contexts and participants
This study was situated in two four-year university-based teacher education programmes in China and Spain respectively.
The first author distributed the metaphorical professional identity instructions to the EFL preservice teachers.
Overall, 22 Chinese (n = 11) and Spanish (n = 11) preservice teachers who finished their teaching practicums agreed to participate in this research.

Data collection and analysis
Journaling provides a vehicle for critical self-reflection (Craig, Zou, and Poimbeauf 2015) and allows preservice teachers to examine their frames of reference from different points of view. Accordingly, 22 journal entries at the end of the teaching practicums from Autumn 2017 to Summer 2018 were collected and all the journal entries were translated into English. Subsequently, the reflective journals were analysed iteratively.
The complete data analysis process involved four steps: 1) naming/labelling, 2) sorting (clarification and elimination), 3) categorisation, and 4) analysing data (Saban, Kocbeker, & Saban, 2007, p. 126).


Disorienting dilemma
The disorienting dilemma is widespread among both the Chinese and Spanish participants. Since the teaching practicum encompasses multifaceted tasks, including designing lesson plans, classroom management, and communicating with parents, it is understandable that the participants encounter discomfort and disequilibrium. These disorienting dilemmas demonstrate the conflict with one’s pre-existing frame of reference (Meziorw 2000).

Reflection and exploration of assumptions
The reflection mainly centres on the participants’ underlying assumptions about the relationship between theory and practice, with a particularly explicit focus on how effectively to teach the pupils in the placement schools (Allen and Wright 2014).

Gaining confidence in a new role
Towards the end of the teaching practicum, the participants accumulated more practical experiences, which contributed to their heightened confidence in assuming new roles.
For instance, the Chinese participant C7 shifted her professional identity from a traditional teacher to a more progressive teacher (a ‘road guide’).
Similarly, the Spanish participant S7 changed his professional identity from ‘lost in the jungle’ to ‘a professional athlete’.

Behaviour changes
As the teaching practice progressed, the participants changed their daily instructional practices more readily to accommodate the students’ various learning needs. For instance, the Chinese participant C9 became more pedagogically pupil-centred. Additionally, C11 developed more sophisticated understandings about grading and lecturing by participating in a series of professional development sessions.
Meanwhile, the Spanish participant S8 gained more teaching autonomy as evidenced by his opportunities for more favoured instructional approaches.

Integration of new perspectives
After reflecting on the assumptions and adjusting the behaviours, the participants renewed their perspectives on teachers’ roles and teaching. Furthermore, the integration of new perspectives demonstrates that the participants expanded their perceptions on ‘what they should do’ and ‘what they could achieve’.

Discussions and implications
This international study reveals that the participants’ self-descriptive metaphors and written reflections show that they integrated new perspectives that embody the shift from idealistic expectations to realistic perceptions of the multifaceted teaching practice.
This paper contributes to the literature through the fine-grained account of the Chinese and Spanish preservice teachers’ transformative learning journeys in different contexts.
As can been seen from this empirical inquiry, preservice teachers’ transformative learning is always intertwined with resolving the disorienting dilemma, critical reflection and exploration of assumptions, gaining confidence in a new role, behaviour changes and integration of new perspectives (DeCapua, Marshall & Frydland, 2018).
In addition, this study confirms that the transformative learning process involves continuous professional identity formation (Illeris 2014).

Allen, J. M., and S. E. Wright. 2014. “Integrating Theory and Practice in the Pre-service Teacher Education Practicum.” Teachers and Teaching 20 (2): 136–151.
Craig, C. J., Y. Zou, and R. Poimbeauf. 2015. “Journal Writing as a Way to Know Culture: Insights from a Travel Study Abroad Program.” Teachers and Teaching 21 (4): 472–489.
DeCapua, A., H. W. Marshall, and N. Frydland. 2018. “The Transformational Learning Journey of a Novice ESL Teacher of Low-literate Adults.” Journal of Transformative Education 16 (1): 17–38.
Illeris, K. 2014. “Transformative Learning and Identity.” Journal of Transformative Education 12 (2): 148–163.
Meziorw, J. Associates. 2000. Learning as Transformation: Critical Perspectives on a Theory in Progress. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mezirow, J. 1994. “Understanding Transformative Theory.” Adult Education Quarterly 44: 222–232.
Mezirow, J. 2000. Learning as Transformation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Saban, A., B. N. Kocbeker, and A. Saban. 2007. “Prospective Teachers' Conceptions of Teaching and Learning Revealed Through Metaphor Analysis.” Learning and Instruction 17 (2): 123–139.
Senyshyn, R., and C. Chamberlin-Quinlisk. 2009. “Assessing Effective Partnerships in Intercultural Education: Transformative Learning as a Tool for Evaluation.” Communication Teacher 23 (4): 167– 178.

Updated: Dec. 28, 2020