The Contribution of Theory and Practice to the Professional Development of Students Learning to Become Secondary Teachers in Zimbabwe
Date: 6 June 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Education
This research investigated the perceptions of student-teachers and lecturers regarding Initial Teacher Education (ITE) for secondary teachers in Zimbabwe. The ways in which factors in and between the university and school settings for ITE shaped learning to teach were investigated. Student-teachers’ and lecturers’ perceptions of the ...
This research investigated the perceptions of student-teachers and lecturers regarding Initial Teacher Education (ITE) for secondary teachers in Zimbabwe. The ways in which factors in and between the university and school settings for ITE shaped learning to teach were investigated. Student-teachers’ and lecturers’ perceptions of the development of ideas as student-teachers moved through the different stages of training were also investigated. The study employed a qualitative case study methodology and methods - interviews, biographical questionnaires and document analysis. Data analysis began by defining a priori themes and identifying parts of the interview transcripts that were relevant to these a priori themes. The initial coding was then refined by adding additional codes which emerged from the data to create a final coding template to interpret findings. Activity Theory was used to provide a conceptual map to help describe and analyse the findings. Student-teachers had varied backgrounds and motives for joining the teacher education programme. These were often at variance with the goals of ITE. They had pre-conceived ideas about teaching from their years of schooling, prior training and work experience. Student-teachers were learning to teach in the university setting and attempting to prove their competence in school settings. In both settings students, teachers and lecturers constituted the learning communities. Relationships and availability of tools often determined the kind of support student-teachers were receiving. The factors encountered within and between the two different activity systems shaped learning to teach in various ways. ‘Taken-for-granted’ practices were not questioned and this limited the ways in which ideas presented in the university were used in the school setting. The student-teachers’ professional development, evident both to the students themselves as well as their lecturers, demonstrated not only growth in their pedagogical maturity, but also some deeper insights and the beginnings of their teacher identity. Much literature argues that learning to become an effective practitioner necessitates the use of reflective practice as a tool to resolve contradictions and for processing and internalising the complexities of boundary crossing between settings. The ‘theory-practice’ gap can be viewed as a ‘transformation space’ where teacher identity is often developed. A model to explain learning to teach made up of five elements is proposed: preconceived ideas of teaching, new ideas, contradictions, socialisation and reflective practice. The findings suggest that the university where the study was carried out should harmonise espoused practice and actual practice so that activities are consistent with the notion of concurrent learning. Concerted efforts are also needed to develop collaborative school-university partnerships, which foster reflective practice as a tool to promote professional development. Staff development programmes are needed to develop appropriate working practices. Working conditions for teachers need to be revised by the Zimbabwe government, both to encourage teaching as a desirable profession and to keep pace with changes occurring in pedagogic practice. Further research is needed to investigate how students can successfully negotiate and learn from university-school boundary crossing issues, and what sort of boundary brokers and tools are needed. Contextual factors in Zimbabwe are such that little funding is available to develop ITE. The challenge is to find innovative ways of using scarce resources to produce high quality teachers.
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