UTILISING PARTICIPATORY REFLECTION AND ACTION TO ESTABLISH A COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE AND SUPPORT TEACHER IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT AMONGST FINAL-YEAR TEACHER TRAINING STUDENTS
University of Pretoria (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:One of the challenges often associated with teaching practice, which forms part of pre-service teacher training programs, is the limited opportunity it allows for students to engage and interact with one another in a community of practice. Furthermore, mentor lecturers generally experience the supervision of large numbers of students and frequent school visits as time consuming and detrimental to their own research productivity and consecutive outputs. In addition, the selection and use of an appropriate methodology to address the objectives of teaching practice modules within the context of a community of practice may be laborious and even elusive.
In this paper we describe the way in which methodology lecturers at a higher education institution facilitated a process during which student teachers actively interacted with fellow students and generated data on the way in which students themselves may enhance the development of their teacher identities, following a community of practice approach. We namely explain how we utilised Participatory Reflection and Action (PRA) as intervention and data generation strategy to capture the experiences, strengths and areas for further development of a sample of approximately 800 final-year student teachers during a six-month teaching practice period in 2015. As indicated, the study was based on a premise that ad hoc student-student interaction alone is not sufficient and effective enough to allow students to benefit optimally from their teaching practice experiences.
For the purpose of the study each final year student teacher participated in a 3-hour on-campus PRA-based workshop approximately one month after the teaching practice period had commenced. Participants were firstly requested to – in small groups of around ten – discuss their understanding of teacher excellence (expertize) in terms of a number of categories, namely teachers as caring experts, teachers as teaching and learning experts, teachers as professionals, teachers as ICT users, teachers as assessors and evaluators, and teachers as curriculum and subject specialists. Following the first activity, participants discussed the people and role-players who had contributed to the development of their identities as teachers. Next, participants identified areas for further development and then formulated action plans that they could implement as a group, in support of the further development of their identities in the areas they had identified. Following the PRA-based workshop, participants implemented their action plans over a period of six weeks, and recorded the outcomes of their actions. Towards the end of the six-months teaching practice cycle they attended a second three-hour PRA-based workshop to report on the implementation and outcomes of their action plans, and to brainstorm additional self-initiated activities for future applications within their established community of practice, in support of teacher identity development.
Keywords: Teaching Practice, Community of Practice, Teacher Identity, Participatory Reflection and Action.