What Elementary Physical Education Student Teachers Observe and Reflect upon to Assist Their Instruction

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study was to examine how student teachers (STs) linked their observation and reflection skills to assist them in bridging the theory to practice gap during their elementary student teaching experience. Eight STs were videotaped on two different occasions during their elementary assignment. Immediately following the lesson, the student teacher (ST) and university supervisor viewed the videotape. An audio-recording was made as the student teacher reflected on their personal observations of the events occurring during the lesson. Data were categorized into three themes: (a) teacher behaviors, (b) student response to instruction, and (c) lesson goals and objectives.

Although the STs focused more on teacher behaviors, a close look at the reflections of the STs indicate that they evaluated whether what they did was effective in meeting the needs of students. Such responses would seem to indicate a concern for students and the opportunities that students had to learn under the student teacher's guidance.


Critical components to effective instruction include imparting information, observing how students respond to tasks and challenges, and deciding how to respond to the actions of students in the classroom. These components are essential to effective teaching whether the teacher is a pre-service teacher (PT), a first year teacher, or a twenty-year veteran. Unfortunately, while these components have been identified as crucial, teacher educators frequently focus attention during teacher preparation classes on how PTs impart information to students. It is often assumed that PTs have the prerequisite skills to observe the actions of students in the classroom environment and determine what to do next. In reality, frequently PTs are unable to attend to the many situations that arise during the span of a class period without being overwhelmed (Fuller & Brown, 1975). Consequently, the novice may not pay close attention to how students respond to movement challenges or whether student learning occurs.

Early field experiences have been established in teacher preparation programs so that future professionals have the opportunity to observe teachers engaged with their students, practice their newly acquired teaching skills in a real world school setting, and begin to understand how schools function (Dodds, 1989). It is during these experiences that guided practice in the critical components of instruction should be facilitated. Guided practice enables PTs to increase their knowledge and demonstration of effective teaching behaviors, in addition to developing reflective practices that assist them in interpreting relationships between their instruction and the movement responses of their students (Graham, French, & Woods, 1993). However, unless teacher educators encourage PTs to communicate about their observations of student movement, it can not be assumed that effective behaviors are being internalized.

In an attempt to describe what PTs found to be critical incidents during lessons, previous researchers considered the amount of attention PTs gave to student movement responses during early field experiences. PTs were found to attend more frequently to student movement responses with advancement through teacher training courses (Bell, Barrett, & Allison, 1985; Allison, 1987; Barrett, Allison, & Bell, 1987). Belka (1988) found PTs in years 3 and 4 focused on the process behaviors of the instructors they were assigned to observe, with less emphasis on lesson content or student responses. In an attempt to see whether secondary student teachers (STs) could transform theory into practice during the culminating teaching experience, McCallister and Napper-Owen (1999) investigated STs responses to what happened in their classes during the instructional time. STs commented most frequently about the students' responses to their instruction followed by comments on their own process behaviors, instructional techniques, and the established learning climate. …