Source: Sage Open
In this study, we examined how student teachers in their first year of a teacher education program develop insights of their ideal school and desired teaching by designing a model of a school that incorporated ideological, pedagogical, physical, and interpersonal aspects. Twenty projects of ideal schools were analyzed. The findings reveal that student teachers at their initial stages of teacher education, when exposed to dissonances at the boundary between different social worlds, can develop complex understanding if they are provided with contexts that allow such spaces. We conclude that teacher educators can exploit incidents of conflict and friction as learning opportunities and thus enhance deeper learning.
Our research focuses on the pre-stage of practice teaching where students participate in a course titled “At the Threshold of the Educational Practice” and are exposed, as observers, to different educational systems but do not yet experience teaching. They explore, through experiential learning, narratives, personal biographies, critical incidents, and reflection, “the teacher within them,” and discover their own belief systems, values, and perceptions about what it means to be a teacher and the type of school they would like to teach in.
The impetus for our study emerged from random conversations we conducted with students who were at their internship phase, where they were already part-time teachers in schools. Due to our roles as head of teacher education and lectures on the program, we were interested to learn about students’ insights on the journey they had made in the 4 years of study and the courses that they felt were most influential in forming their initial professional identity. We found that the above mentioned course was noted with much appreciation in every conversation we conducted.
The research question that guided our study is as follows:
How, if at all, does experiential learning of first year student teachers develop their perceptions of school and teaching?
This research contributes to previous research on student teachers development of a professional identity during teacher education and the role of teacher education programs.
The analysis of the school models created a conceptual framework which serves as the main tool for the analysis of our empirical data. The model shows the three dominant concepts that students found to be the leading concepts of their ideal school: values, relationships, and teaching and learning. However, the synergetic concept is “Vision” and it underlies all other concepts. All students emphasized the importance of “The School Vision” as the constituent of the school’s complex system.
It can be concluded that student teachers at their initial stages of teacher education, who are exposed to dissonances at the boundary between different social worlds, can develop more complex understanding and deep learning if they are provided with contexts that allow such spaces and teacher educators who identify opportunities for conflict and friction. This approach facilitates critical thinking that can promote depth of understanding and thus personal development and growth.