A student teacher arrives
Let me tell you a story. A student teacher arrives in my school. She has spent three years in college. She is now facing a career as a teacher. What are the factors that will influence her practice as a teacher? Zeichner and Tabachnick (1981) tell us that the effects of university teacher education will be ‘washed out’ by school experiences. Research at Konstanz University in Germany (cited in Korthagen and Kessels 1999) ‘showed that teachers passed through a quite distinct attitude shift during their first year of teaching, in general creating an adjustment to current practices in the schools, and not to scientific insights into learning and teaching’. The two sets of research suggest that the first year of teaching has a larger effect on the attitudes and practice of young teachers than the several years in preservice training. This places a considerable responsibility on support teachers in schools in their role of support. The types of practice that the young student teacher experiences during her first year may be the dominant influence throughout her career.
Alice is a student of the new BSc course in Science Education at a nearby university. In the third year of her course Alice will take part in a school placement for fourteen weeks. During this time it is anticipated that she will gain experience of teaching within the school and will gain the opportunity of using what she has learned in college. While the principal focus of placement is in relation to teaching science, Milo, who acts as liaison teacher with the university, suggests to Ray, the ICT teacher, that Alice might find it useful to teach some IT classes. Milo thinks this is a good idea despite the fact that Alice’s teaching practice is intended to be mainly in the science area as that is what she is being trained for. Milo articulates his reasons. ICT experience is useful for any young teacher – ‘one more string to your bow’ he jokes. In addition Alice will gain experience of working within a different type of programme by working with LCA (Leaving Certificate Applied) students. “It will all looks good on your C.V.” says Milo.