THE ROLE OF PRACTICE AND FEEDBACK FOR DEVELOPING TEACHER CANDIDATE’S EXPERTISE
There is a need for pre-service teachers to learn how to implement evidence-based practices (CAEP, 2015; Cook, Tankersley, Cook, & Landrum, 2008). Many teacher preparation programs (TPPs) report introducing evidence-based practices within coursework, yet research has shown that pre-service teachers do not receive the type of practice and feedback required for skill acquisition (Grossman, Compton, Igra, Ronfeldt, Shahan, & Williamson, 2009; Janssen, Grossman, & Westbroek, 2015). In addition, recent research has demonstrated the limitations of teacher preparation on pre-service teachers' capacity to plan and implement evidence-based practices with fidelity upon completion of their programs (Maheady, Smith, & Jabot, 2013; Scheeler, Budin, & Markelz, 2016). To bridge the gap between university-based classroom learning and applied teaching, many scholars advocate for increased time in practicum settings or practice-based teaching opportunities (Ball & Forzani, 2009; Leko, Brownell, Sindelar, & Kiely, 2015; NCATE, 2010). Although application of skilled teaching in real-world settings is the ultimate goal, Grossman et al.’s (2009) notion of “approximations of practice” underscores the importance of first building high-leverage skills within university settings through role-play or other simulated experiences. In other words, there is potential value in the acquisition of specific teaching skills in non-clinical courses within TPPs. Specifically, approximations of practice “provide novice teachers with opportunities for deliberate practice of elements of…core practices in a safe environment” (Janssen et al., 2015, p. 138). In addition, creating structured practice opportunities within non-clinical courses can increase the amount of practice pre-service teachers engage in, and in turn, better prepare them for field-based applications and refinement of skills.The purpose of this study was to examine the role of practice and feedback on pre-service teachers' knowledge and skill acquisition of a specific evidence-based practice, the provision of opportunities to respond (OTRs). Using an experimental, pretest-posttest design, forty-eight pre-service teachers in an introductory special education course (i.e., non-practicum course) were randomly assigned to a distributed practice with feedback (experimental) condition or a massed practice with no feedback (business-as-usual) condition. To collect data on the dependent variables, two assessments were used. The first assessment captured data on participants’ knowledge and perceptions of OTRs. The second was performance-based assessment designed to capture data related to accuracy, rate, and variety of OTRs delivered. Pre-service teachers' perceptions of their confidence to plan and delivery the evidence based practice was queried through a short survey. Candidates in the experimental condition outperformed candidates in business-as-usual condition on a measure of knowledge and a performance measure on the accuracy of specific OTR technique delivery. Pre-service teachers reported that the practice and feedback experience within their course was an engaging way to learn the material. These findings reflect the importance of not only repeated exposure to content (e.g., across a semester) but also the importance of active retrieval of content (e.g., through quizzing, performance, student generation and elaboration; Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014).