How Can an Early Field Experience Influence Preservice Teachers' Conceptions of Teaching?

Article excerpt

Even though early field experiences (EFEs) have been used extensively in teacher education programs, the research literature provides conflicting results as to whether or not EFEs are an asset in physical education. Supporters of EFEs see them as an opportunity for preservice teachers (PTs) to gain insights into teaching, experience the realities of their profession, and become familiar with the culture of schools. Others argue that poorly structured EFEs do more harm than good. Research has suggested that successful EFEs are generally due to both good supervision and sound organization that is congruent with university course work.

Matthew Curtner-Smith investigated the influence of an EFE on PTs in their first methods course. The researcher suggested that the 21 male and 7 female PTs taking the course were likely to view the physical education teacher's job as one of "merely throwing out the ball." This "custodial orientation" was hypothesized because it was the primary method these PTs had experienced in high school and also because their dominant professional interest was in coaching, rather than teaching. The secondary methods course began with 10 weeks of instruction and concluded with a seven-session EFE. The instructional component of the course covered both education and physical education objectives, curriculum models, unit and lesson planning, effective managerial and instructional practices, Mosston and Ashworths's (1986) spectrum of teaching styles, and legal liability. The EFE involved PTs teaching track and field to both small (4-6) and large (10-20) groups of junior high students, as well as observing, filming, and coding the behaviors of their peers. The four cooperating teachers were chosen for their experience supervising student teachers and supportive attitude towards the university's programmatic goals.

Effects were measured by having the PTs reflect upon critical incidents throughout the EFE and also by completing a reflective questionnaire at the end of the course. Inductive analysis was used to categorize and code student responses. …