Practice makes perfect – does it? Adding value to practicum experience through field-based teacher education
This report, conducted by staff at Manukau Institute of Technology, will be of interest to providers and educators wishing to compare the value of field-based teacher education with programmes that are largely classroom-based.
Lin Howie and Bill Hagan, Manukau Institute of Technology
This report discusses the main findings from a pilot project on the value added by field based teacher education (FBTE) within the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) early childhood community of practice. The project was funded by the Ako Aotearoa Northern Region Hub in 2009.
Field-based teacher education at MIT provides student teachers with two types of practicum experience; sustained practicum, which is the field based component, and the more traditional teaching practice blocks. The sustained practicum (SP) requires student teachers to be based in an early childhood centre, the ‘home’ centre for the duration of the programme. The sustained practicum is embedded in particular courses. This enables authentic assessment which promotes the development of contextual knowledge, practice, and professional relationships over time. Student teachers are grounded in the reality of teaching while undergoing a thorough, rigorous academic programme that includes reflective practice writing and that meets the learning needs of the many diverse students that attend MIT.
The project aimed to identify good teacher education practice, critical success factors for student teachers, provide practical action oriented suggestions for enhancing the effectiveness of early childhood teacher education, and enhancing the employability of graduates. The research findings confirm the value of FBTE to student teachers and employers, particularly the depth of and opportunities for authentic practice. Student teachers gained confidence to practice in the ‘real’ world that gives legitimacy to their practice. Challenges were experienced by some student teachers who were in voluntary placements, or in centres that they identified as of lower quality, or where centres did not include them as part of the team.
There are four key recommendations overall:
- Support student teachers and centres to enhance the transformation of student teachers’ participation (Rogoff, 1997) by increasing the range of experiences and responsibilities that they can engage in over the duration of the sustained practicum.
- Work to promote inclusion of student teachers in the full life of the sustained practicum centre and foster communities of practice which include student teachers, centre staff, and lecturers.
- Enable students to recognise quality centres and make informed choices about where to carry out sustained practicum.
- Offer professional development to ‘home’ centre staff to promote student inclusion and participation.
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