One critical issue that has remained largely unaddressed during intern fieldwork supervision is the role of students in the different supervision models. Research studies in fieldwork supervision such as Waite (1994), Kosnik and Beck (200), Pajak (2002), Pryor and Kuhn (2004) and Gimbert and Nolan (2003) seem to have focused essentially on the contributions of supervisors and intern teachers to instructional practices. This is why Erickson and Shultz (1991) argue that students' views are hardly reflected in discussions of theories and practices of learning. Breen and Littlejohn (2003) put it bluntly: "learners' own unfolding interpretations of what is done in the classroom and how it relates to their own learning agendas are rarely the focus of overt consideration" (p. 9).
These studies in fieldwork supervision have virtually the same underlining philosophical assumption which is to equate teaching with learning. Therefore, there is emphasis on intern teachers' acquisition of knowledge about the school subjects, application of appropriate methodology and the role of university supervisors in guiding intern teachers to link knowledge with classroom implementation as the main requirements for intern teacher fieldwork supervision. Implicit in this practice is the assumption that intern teachers' training is all that accounts for students' learning. Obviously, this approach seems to disregard students' perceptions of the instructional practices as critical to what or how students learn.
However, as a result of emerging studies in classroom research such as Slimani (1992), Johnson (1995) and Block (1996) and education as Potthoff and Kline (1995), Gentilucci, (2004), Brown (2003) and McCombs and Whisler (1997) researchers and educators are taking a new look at the experience of teaching and learning in the classroom. Kanno (1999) argues for emphasis on learning rather than teaching in order to create an avenue for intern teachers to learn to listen to their students' voices. Similarly, in a study of classroom communication between teachers and students, Johnson (1995) concludes that students often misinterpret teacher's expectations and intentions. Thus it is critically important that university supervisors gauge the perceptions of students as part of the supervision process. This is consistent with the long-held position that learners' perceptions of the instructional practices are critical to their learning, ability to create opportunities for learning, classroom participation and the creation of positive learning environment--such as student-student and student-teacher rapport.
I am mindful of the fact that the call for integrating students' perceptions into intern teacher fieldwork supervisions might sound unrealistic. However, as educators, what is not unrealistic is to ask teachers, researchers and educators to challenge old assumptions and beliefs about what works well to facilitate the teaching and learning processes in the classroom. This is why in the last twenty years, researchers and language teachers have shown increasing interests in learners' involvement in different aspects of the curriculum in language teaching and learning. Such efforts have broadened our perspectives of learners, particularly in such areas as needs analysis, motivation, prior learning and life experiences, learning styles, and preferences, cultural backgrounds, and cognitive skills.
I concur with Slimani's (1992) assertion that it is inadequate to use teachers' plan as a measure of what students learn. Slimani is right to call for an adoption of evaluative criteria which use students' viewpoints as part of the integrated measurements in order to improve the evaluation of what students learn. Barkhuizen (1998) asks the pertinent questions: "Firstly, how do teachers know what their learners think or feel? Is it simply intuition or some evaluation procedure used? Secondly, how does one know whether the teachers are accurate in their assessment? ... Thirdly, what do teachers do as a result of their observation?" (p. 86).
For fieldwork supervision to be more relevant in helping intern teachers to acquire the necessary skills to listen to their students' voices, these questions must be answered positively. It appears then that the role of university supervisors must move from the traditional teacher-centered approach to include an investigation of students' perceptions of the teaching practices during fieldwork supervisions. This approach will then shift the field supervision from student exclusive to student inclusive as illustrated in Diagram 1 below.
Review of Current Fieldwork Supervision Practices
In the last three decades, clinical supervision has become dominant in the training of intern teachers. Wallace (1991) defines the six variations of clinical supervision: "(a) Direct Supervision: where the role of the supervisor is to direct and inform the teacher, model appropriate teaching behaviors and act as evaluator. (b) Alternative supervision: where the supervisor suggests a number of limited alternative actions to the teacher from which they are free to choose. (c) Collaborative supervision: where the teacher and supervisor work together to solve problems encountered in classroom. (d) Non-directive supervision: where the supervisor acts as understander and allows the teacher to come up with their solution to classroom dilemmas. (e) Creative supervision: where the supervisor uses only combination of the above ... or uses insights from other fields. (f) Self-help-explorative supervision: where the teacher, based on his practical experience in the classroom, reflects critically about himself as a teacher. The teacher here is self-observer" (p. 35).
However, since the current fieldwork models do not systematically identify, collect and measure any data on students' perceptions of instructional practices in the classroom, it is difficult to identify, analyze and discuss how their perceptions of the teaching activities affect or contribute to learning (or unlearning). Similarly, Chamberlin (2000), Potthoff and Kline (1995) Hartsough, Perez and Swain (1998) Waite (1994), Sullivan and Glanz (2000) and Glanz (1997) call attention to the inadequacies of these models. For instance, Potthoft and Kline (1995) cite criticisms from other researchers as including the fact that fieldwork and supervision tend to "encourage imitation, subservience, and conformity, promote reflexive conservatism, perpetuate school pattern, group management orientations, emphasize product over process, foster status quo attitudes, and preclude inquiry" (p. 103-104). Furthermore, Sullivan and Glanz note the conflicts in definitions, theories, and ambiguities related to the role, functions and effectiveness of fieldwork supervision. In addition, Hartsough et al (1998), in a study of a pre-service rating instrument, note the inherent weaknesses of the Competency Based Teacher Education (CBTE) and Classroom Observation and Assessment Scale for Teaching Candidates (COAST). They criticize the two commonly used rating instruments for being too biased and highly subjective. These criticisms suggest that more needs to be done to make fieldwork supervision reflective of the differing perspectives of students in English learning classrooms.
One Language Learning Classroom, Many Differing Perspectives
Tudor (2001) defines a language classroom as "a place where a variety of participants with potentially differing perspectives on the nature and goals of language teaching meet and interact, which gives rise to a dynamic tension between their differing perceptions of the nature and goals of language teaching" (p. 43). Explicit in this definition are two broad but important considerations. The first has to do with the complex nature of language learning classrooms. Since a classroom is a controlled learning environment, it means a teacher and students have come together to implement a particular language learning program. The assumptions are that the teacher is the expert, (equipped with skills and materials to impart knowledge to learners) and that the goals of learning, the plan to realize the learning objectives (through appropriate teaching and learning activities) are clearly laid out.
The second issue is the multi-dimensional perspectives of students in a given language class. That is, each student in the classroom differs in prior experience with the target language, goal(s) of learning, construct of what language is and how it should be taught, cultural experiences, cognitive and personality traits. These dynamics naturally create tensions in the language learning classroom. The diversity of perspectives inevitably leads learners to perceive the instructional practices differently and consequently react to lesson activities and teaching methods in different ways. I agree with Tudor's (2001) observation that what students perceive or experience in a lesson may not necessarily coincide with the teacher's teaching agenda.
Review of Empirical Studies on Students' Perceptions and Instructional Practices
While there is no research data comparing the perception of classroom learning activities between university supervisors and students, information gleaned from available literature on classroom research led me to the conclusion that supervisors and students may perceive instructional practices differently. Recent studies as Block (1996), Johnson (1995), Nunan (1988), Zimmerman (1997), Barkhuizen (1998) and Chamberlin (2000) have investigated different aspects of students' perceptions of classroom instructional practices, particularly at high school and university levels. For instance, in a study of students' perceptions of teachers' instructional effectiveness Gentilucci (2004) notes with dismay that 70% of the cohort students responded that their teachers did not teach well for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they talk too much, inadequate explanation of ideas and concepts, deviation from topics and lack of or ineffective disciplinary measures to deal with disruptive students.
Similarly Block (1996) in a study of teachers' and students' perceptions of instructional activities identifies communication gap as a serious problem between the two participants. The researcher documents the case of Alex, one of his subjects, who does not seem to understand the purpose of the lesson, nor seems to understand the relationship between the different learning activities. Johnson (1995) in a related study comes to the same conclusion when she observes that students, even though struggle to understand the social and cognitive aspects of learning activities often misinterpret their teachers' expectations and intentions. She insists that students infer their academic abilities, academic success and social performance based on their perception of the learning events in their classrooms.
Leki and Carson (1994) find out that the students in the EAP writing courses expressed frustrations because of their perceived inadequacies of some aspects of the program. They call on teachers and teacher trainers to consider the nature of mismatch when students' perceived needs and teachers' instructional practices do not match. Similarly, Barkhuizen (1998), in a discussion of his findings with his collaborating teachers, notes that the teachers are often surprised to learn about the viewpoints of their students. He concludes that the learners' perceptions do not always match their teachers'. Zimmerman (1997) studies students' perceptions of how best to learn vocabulary items, and these again differ from the teacher's.
Kumaravadivelu (1991) is right in his assertion that the more teachers understand their students' personal approach to learning, the more effective their efforts to meet their needs. I agree with Gentilucci (2004) that integrating students' perspectives into the teaching process will give teachers insights on what motivates their learning-related behavior. Equally important, such an approach will inevitably create opportunities for learners to talk about language learning-related matters that are of interest to them.
Rationale for Student-inclusive Fieldwork Evaluation
For intern teachers to be able to meet the increasingly diverse students' needs, interests and preferences in contemporary ESL classrooms, their training should prepare them to move away from prescriptive curriculum--where virtually all important teaching decisions are taken even before the actual teaching and learning experience in the real world classroom begins, and shift focus on integrating their students' perspectives into the teaching process. McCombs and Whisler (1997) advocate learner-centered approach. They define the approach as: "the perspective that couples a focus on individual learners (their heredity, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, capacities, and needs) with a focus on learning (the best available knowledge about learning and how it occurs and about teaching practices that are most effective in promoting the highest levels of motivation, learning, and achievement for all learners)" (p. 9, emphasis added).
McCombs and Whisler (1997), Dean (2003), Brown (2003), Nunan (1988), and Breen and Littlejohn (2003) summarize the principles of the learner-centered approach: (a) Teachers should get supportive feedback about their teaching practices and how they orchestrate student learning. (b) Learners' unique perspectives must be acknowledged and harnessed into the teaching/learning process. (c) Learners have distinctive differences in terms of learning styles, preferences, interests and emotions that have profound effects on the way individual student learns. (d) Learning is a process and it should encourage learners to construct their own understanding by making sense of the new learning experience in the light of the prior experiences. (e) Learners' perception of the classroom activities, including the teaching strategies, should inform the design and implementation of the curriculum. (f) Students learn better when they are empowered--when their voices are heard regarding what goes on in the classroom.
The advantages of integrating students' perceptions of instructional practices in the curriculum are outlined by Nunan (1988): (a) to assist learners identify their own preferred ways of learning, (b) to develop skills needed to negotiate the curriculum, (c) to encourage learners to set their own objectives (d) to encourage learners to adapt realistic goals and time frames, (e) to develop learners' skills in self-evaluation (p 3).
University supervisors should therefore endeavor to collect data from students regarding their perceptions of the instructional practices and compare them with their own. Such an exercise, apart from providing insights into students' perceptions of instructional activities; it is also a source of magnificent and powerful feedback on what intern teachers need to keep (because it works), improve on, modify or discard. Furthermore, such an activity has the potential benefit for students far beyond the classroom. By harnessing students' perceptions into the instructional practices, teachers can create a positive learning environment where learners feel understood, appreciated and connected to the teaching process (McCombs and Whisler 1997).
Two middle schools in the southern California were selected for this study. The schools were coded A and B respectively. In School A, 32 students--13 male and 19 female students participated in the study. All the students speak Spanish as the primary language and were enrolled in ESL Advance. All the students were in eighth grade. Similarly School B had 29 students, all speaking Spanish as primary language. There were 16 male and 13 female students. All students were in seventh grade. Two intern teachers, one from each school, were also selected for the study. They were in the second semester of the multiple credential (Senate Bill 2042) program of the CSUDH. For this study, each intern teacher presented an hour lesson in English language development.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is therefore to determine if there is a mismatch between the instructional practices that university supervisors and middle school English language learners perceive as important in English language lessons during intern teachers field-work supervision.
Based on the 17 broad teaching competency domains prescribed for multiple subject preliminary teaching credential candidates, I developed a 37-item Likert-type of 5-point rating instrument to collect data. The instrument has two versions, one for the students and the other for the university supervisor. The contents of the versions were essentially the same.
The Pilot Study: there were two major concerns at the conception of this study. The first was whether students would try to please their teachers by simply checking options "excellent" or "very good." Subsequently, we decided to use other descriptive terms that are less judgmental and possibly more objective such as "strongly agree", "agree" etc. The second issue was whether the statements in the instrument were simple, clear and unambiguous for middle school students to understand and respond to. The opinionnaire was then administered to a class of seventh grade students to determine its reliability. The data was collated and analyzed, and subsequently, a few changes were made.
The Teaching Session: The lesson observed for this study was on reading comprehension. The teachers' objective was for students to be able to identify the main idea and the supporting details. The reading activity consisted of a two-page story of a boy who had just moved to a new school and was having problems relating to other students. The two intern teachers taught for an hour each. After each teaching session, the supervisor and the students responded to the opinionnaire.
Data Analysis: data was analyzed using an analysis of variance (ANOVA). For the comparison of the supervisor's and students' perception of teaching practices, the scores for the 37 statements were subjected to a one-way ANOVA. School A was treated first, followed by school B. The scores were considered significant at 0.05 level of significance. Tables 1 and 2 show the items on which the university supervisor and the students significantly differ in their perception of the intern teachers' instructional practices.
Table 1 indicates that the university supervisor and the students in School A perceived differently the intern teacher's instructional practices on items 12, 18, 24, 35, 36 and 37. For example, the supervisor scored the intern teacher 3 (Agree) on item 12 (the teacher offered a clear objective of the lesson so that I can understand), but majority of students disagreed at .006 level of significance. Similarly, the supervisor and students disagreed on item 18 (the teacher supported me to develop the skills needed to work well in groups). While the supervisor scored the intern teacher 2 (disagree), majority of students agreed with the statement. The disagreement is significant at .014 level of significance. Clearly, the supervisor and the students perceived differently 9 of the 37 (almost 25 percent) of the aspects of the instructional practices set out for evaluation in School A.
Table 2 above shows the students in School B and the supervisor differed significantly on items 3, 8, 17, 19, 20, 21, 26, 30, 31, 32, 36 and 37. In other words, the supervisor and the students disagreed on 12 of the 37 (almost 32.4 percent) of the items. For example, the supervisor scored the intern teacher 4 (strongly agree) on item 30 (the teacher established clear class routines for all students to follow) but the students disagreed with the supervisor's perception. Clearly a comparison of Tables 1 and 2 seems to suggest a common thread on the type of instructional practices that the students and the supervisors perceive differently. For example the students in the two classes differ with the supervisor on six items, which are 8, 17, 20, 32, 36 and 37.
Conclusion and Recommendations
In this study, the university supervisor and the students interpret differently some aspects of the classroom teaching practices. Because of the limited data base for the study, my findings and recommendations are tentative--awaiting future studies with broader data. However, the goal of this study is to argue for an intern teacher supervision model that integrates students' perceptions of instructional practices into the supervision process in order to shift fieldwork supervision from "emphasis on the technical to an emphasis on the reflective and democratic" (Waite 1994: 73). In this way, university supervisors, intern teachers and students can therefore have a chance to negotiate some aspects of the instructional activities. That is, the teaching practices in the class cannot and should not be judged as effective until and unless such practices take into account "the learner's subjective needs and perceptions relating to the processes of learning" (Nunan 1989, p. 177). Barkhuizen (1998) concludes that it is important for teachers to remember that students often critically evaluate what and how their teachers teach.
So I suggest that university supervisors should address students' perceptions so that they can be in a better position to help intern teachers align their instructional practices with the interests, needs and preferences of their students. To achieve this, supervisors need to guide intern teachers on how to explore learners' interpretation of learning activities, such as purpose of learning activities, how activities are related, why students are asked to do certain activities, the expected learning outcomes, teachers' expectations and so on. To ensure the success of this approach, there is a need for a theoretical and practical reconceptualization of the role of university supervisors in intern teacher fieldwork programs. The proposed component should include the concept of evaluative criteria that incorporate students' thoughts and feelings as part of the integrative measurement of the effectiveness of intern teachers' teaching practices.
This means that university supervisors have to devise effective techniques of listening to the voices of students as part of their overall plan to help intern teachers learn the trick of the trade, such as the ability to listen to learners' perceptions and use such the feedback gain-ed from the process to improve their teaching practices. Supervisors can employ one or a combination of some of the multi-faceted techniques outlined below. These activities will form the basis of discussions between university supervisors and intern teachers on how to integrate their students' voices into the teaching process:
(a) They can develop an instrument such as the one used for this study and ask students to respond to it at any point during the super-vision period.
(b) They can ask learners to respond to open-ended questions that allow them to express themselves freely as in the following example: (i) What do you think your teacher wanted you to learn in class today? (ii) What did you learn from the lesson? (iii)What part(s) of the lesson helped you to learn more? (iv) What part(s) of the lesson least helped you to learn? (v) What part(s) of the lesson do you like most? (vi) Why do you like the part(s) most? (vii) What part(s) of the lesson do you not understand? (viii) What did the teacher do to help you? (ix) If your teacher teaches this topic again, what will you like him or her to do in order to help you better understand the lesson?
(c) Supervisors may encourage students to write a few paragraphs about their experiences during specific lessons.
(d) They can also conduct brief oral interviews with learners in order to listen to their concerns and problems about the teaching process in the class-room. Such interviews, however, could be done in private so that learners can feel free and candid in the description of their perceptions.
(e) They may also encourage intern teachers to ask for suggestions and comments openly from the class at the end of the teaching session.
(f) Supervisors and intern teachers may jointly arrange a 'debriefing' session (of 10 or less minutes) for students as a class to share their experiences: what they like most and what they want done differently.
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LASISI AJAYI, PH. D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education
Imperial Valley Campus, San Diego State University
Table 1: Items on which Supervisor and Students Differ (School A) Questions Sum of Mean Square Df squares F Sig. 8. Teacher encouraged me to 9.391 1 4.696 3.775 .038 learn in my own unique way 12. Teacher offered clear 2.279 1 2.279 8.818 .006 objective of the lesson 17. Teacher assisted me 8.702 1 4.351 3.650 .037 in fully utilizing instructional time 18. Teacher supported me to 5.654 1 6.654 6.947 .0149 develop skills needed to work well in groups 24. Teacher made phone calls 8.228 1 8.228 4.691 .040 and/or met with my parents to encourage them to become involved in my language learning 32. Teacher acknowledged my 5.936 1 5.468 6.847 .017 contribution and made the lesson fun and interesting 35. Teacher used support 4.467 1 4.467 6.424 .018 personnel (i.e. parents, volunteers, teaching assistant) to help me complete my assignment 36. Teacher used computer technology to teach us 5.654 1 5.654 13.662 .001 and encouraged us to use the technology to complete our work 37. Teacher used non-text materials (i.e. cartoon 5.301 1 5.301 13.406 .001 strips, newspapers, magazine articles) to enrich the lesson Table 2: Items on which the Supervisor and the Students Differ (School B) Questions Sum of Mean Square Df Square F Sig. 3. Teacher encouraged me 4.656 1 4.656 4.775 .034 to interpret the story in the light of my own personal experience. 8. Teacher allowed me to 5.147 1 5.147 5.245 .027 learn in my own unique way 17. Teacher assisted me 2.042 1 2.042 4.808 .033 in fully utilizing instructional time 19. Teacher provided 79.831 1 79.831 74.485 .000 additional explanations and support on individual basis. 20. Teacher assisted me with reading materials 79.831 1 79.640 71.640 .000 to learn and use English language 21. Teacher modeled 74.907 1 74.90 763.903 .000 appropriate English grammar usage to help me learn the language 26. Teacher used the level 7.482 1 7.482 6.222 .016 of English I could understand 30. Teacher utilized the 5.334 1 5.334 8.539 .005 instructional time well 31. Teacher established 3.637 1 3.637 6.713 .013 clear class routine for us to follow 32. Teacher acknowledged my 4.783 1 4.783 10.396 .002 contribution and made the lesson fun and interesting 36. Teacher used computer 5.280 1 5.280 6.819 .012 technology to teach us and encouraged us to use the technology to complete our work 37. Teacher used non-text 4.025 1 4.025 6.328 .015 materials (i.e. cartoon strips, newspapers, magazine articles) to enrich the lesson…