W. Fraser, R. Ferreira, M. Kazeni, L. Beukes, E. Eberlein

University of Pretoria (SOUTH AFRICA)
This paper reports on two phases of a school-based research intervention where fourth-year student teachers (n=1080) were engaged in a community of practice (teaching practice) to develop the necessary skills and competences as required by a teaching training programme. The Faculty of Education at a South African Higher Education institution implemented the FIRE project (Fourth-year Initiative for Research in Education) during 2014 and 2015. For the first phase of the project (2014), student teachers conducted research with various groups of respondents (school principals, parents, and mentor teachers) in order to establish which factors contribute to school and teacher effectiveness. Engeström’s activity theory, Scheerens school effectiveness model, Wenger's framework of a community of practice and Beijaard's work on teacher identity formed the theoretical framework to the investigation, covering most components that constitute the main elements of the community of practice. This phase allowed student teachers to capture the opinions of principals, parents and mentor teachers regarding factors that contribute to school and teacher effectiveness. Students interviewed principals at one hundred and thirty eight (138) public schools during their twenty-week teaching practice internship in the second and third terms of 2014. They also managed completion of a short ranking scale by mentor teachers and parents, dealing with school and teacher effectiveness in general. The second phase of the study (2015) focused on a new intake of student teachers where the experiences and findings of the 2014 study were used as background in developing a participatory reflection and action (PRA) intervention. During this phase, students identified critical factors impacting on their developing teacher identities, in collaboration with peers while busy with their teaching practice internship. In this paper we report on the results of the 2014 data collection, as well as on the teacher students’ participation in the PRA intervention in 2015. In addition to highlighting the opinions of school principals, parents and mentor teachers, we discuss trends that emerged during the PRA intervention. We highlight how PRA could be used to strengthen student teachers’ emerging teacher identities in a community of practice, against the background view of other stakeholders.