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The emerging professional: exploring student teachers’ developing conceptions of the relationship between theory and practice in learning to teach.A shift of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) towards school-based training is underway in England, calling into question the place of a theoretical basis for teaching. Re-examining the relationship between educational theory and classroom practice is therefore particularly timely and links to long-standing discussions in the literature on what constitutes teachers’ professional knowledge, the specific tensions between theory and practice in education and the implications for the structure of ITE. The study is rooted in models of teacher knowledge, of theory and practice nexus and of student teacher development. Within this context, the research offers new insight, picking up where previous studies have left off, by charting over a period of time what happens to students’ initial preconceptions about theory and practice and investigating whether, how and why these change in the course of the subsequent journey to first employment. This is a longitudinal case study: five participants, representing a diverse range of profiles from a 2011-12 cohort, form the case group and data were collected before the course, through various stages of the programme and into first teaching posts through interviews, focus groups and documentary analysis. To contextualise the central case study, survey data from the wider Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) cohort were also gathered. The research finds these students to be far from naïve as they entered training but identified important shifts in the understanding and role of theory during the PGCE experience. Openness to theoretical perspectives is evident and far from being diminished by practical experience, this comes to assume a more prominent place as the course progresses. By exploring this journey, which culminates in a profile of the thinking of a newly qualified professional in the workplace, a contribution is made to current understanding of the development of knowledge for teaching that may help to inform future programme design. More specifically, the role of the university is reconsidered and suggestions are made for ways of working with students at the various stages of the process.