Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Field Experience in Distance Delivered Initial Teacher Education Programmes

Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Field Experience in Distance Delivered Initial Teacher Education Programmes

Article excerpt

Field experience is a core element in an initial or preservice teacher education programme. It allows students to enact and reflect on their developing philosophies of teaching and is the "testing ground" for theory/practice links. Educational theorists and programme planners in distance delivered teacher education programmes acknowledge the centrality of field experience. Yet for distance education students, that experience is often minimalized because of administrative costs and a range of supervision factors. For distance students it is essential that their field experience is of comparable quality and rigor to that of their oncampus counterparts so that a distance gained teaching qualification meets the same standards as one gained oncampus. This article examines the literature on field experience and explores some of the ways field experience can be implemented in distance delivered teacher education programmes. An international comparative study of distance delivered preservice teacher education is drawn on to provide examples of field experience. Finally, the use of computer mediated communication (CMC) is considered as a means of providing new responses to the challenges that have been identified.

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This article discusses the provision of field experience for student teachers who are in distance delivered teacher education programmes where the students are working towards a first level teacher education qualification. The contexts drawn on for the discussion in this article are spread throughout the world, in developed and developing countries and in a variety of organizations. The experience and enactment of field experience is thus quite varied. The developmental stage of the country often determines the categorization of the field experience as preservice or inservice. In many developing countries, particularly where universal education has been introduced, the supply of teachers is often insufficient. In such circumstances student teachers often work in schools as teachers while they undertake their teacher education programme. For these students field experience becomes an inservice provision largely reflecting the apprenticeship model. Generally, however, field experience is categorized and written of in the literature as a preservice experience and its emphasis is towards the reflective constructivist approach.

Whether inservice or preservice and whatever the theoretical approach the provision and support of field experience provides a particular challenge for distance delivered teacher education programmes. In traditional oncampus initial teacher education programmes lecturers (or faculty) work with their students to prepare them for field experience and often supervise them while in the field. Such preparation and support is more challenging to provide for distance students.

THE NATURE OF FIELD EXPERIENCE

There seems to be no disagreement in the teacher education literature that field experience is important. In fact there is a call from many researchers and writers for greater links with schools (Howey, 1996; Imig & Switzer, 1996; Ishler, Edens, & Berry, 1996; Khamis, 2000; Perraton, 2000; Walker, Preston, & Mitchell, 2000). These links already take many forms--partnerships, laboratory schools, Normal Schools, and professional development schools. However, at present, the most widely used link is individual schools that are contracted to provide field experience.

Field experience, which should provide the testing or proving context for the theoretical and curriculum courses in a programme, is currently enacted in many forms. Examples of these forms are block postings, microteaching, and observations. Usually, students move progressively, with support, from structured observations, to work with individual pupils, to group and whole class work (McIntyre, Byrd, & Foxx, 1996; Morine-Dershimer & Leighfield, 1995).

One of the outcomes sought from field experience is the development of a sense of being part of a community and a profession. …

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