Academic journal article Education

The Impact of Behavioral Contracts on Student Teachers' Verbal Feedback

Academic journal article Education

The Impact of Behavioral Contracts on Student Teachers' Verbal Feedback

Article excerpt

A major goal of most Physical Education Teacher Education programs it to graduate majors who can demonstrate effective teaching behaviors. The systematic development of these behaviors is often done via practical fieldwork which involves a sequence of teaching experiences beginning with peer teaching and culminates in student teaching. Student teaching and related fieldwork is a widely accepted part of teacher preparation programs and is identified as the most effective preparation for both teaching and learning the professional role of a teacher (Carnegie Task Force, 1986; Holmes Group, 1986).

Appropriate supervision of the neophyte is a integral component of the student teaching experience (Metzler, 1990; van der Mars, 1989). Student teachers need to be closely supervised if lasting changes in their behaviors are to be realized. Supervision should include systematic collection of reliable data on a regular basis that is used to provide feedback to the student teacher. Research suggests that reliable feedback will enhance a preservice teacher's instructional effectiveness (Boehm, 1974; Darst, 1974; Hamilton, 1974; Joyce & Showers, 1988; van der Mars, 1989).

Student teachers judged their supervising teacher to be effective if the feedback provided was abundant, immediate, and specific (Hawkins, Wiegand, & Landin, 1985). In turn, student teachers fail to follow through successfully with tasks specified by supervisors that are implicit, deferred, incomplete, or negative (Brunelle, Tousignant, & Pieron, 1981; Hawkins, Wiegand & Landin, 1985).

Joyce and Showers (1980) found the combination of technical feedback and reinforcement to be the most effective in generalizing the teacher's acquired behaviors to the special characteristics of the local environment. Locke, Graber, and Dodds (1984) suggested the effectiveness of any method or combination of methods depends primarily on the nature of the client and the goal to be achieved. Therefore, a supervisor's technical feedback and reinforcement should be correlated to an identified goal or objective which meets the needs of the individual student teacher. One such way to achieve this task is the use of behavioral contracts.

Cooper, Heron, and Heward (1987) defined a behavioral contract as a document that identifies a relationship between the demonstration of a behavior and access to pre-established reinforcement. They pinpoint the behavior which is to be demonstrated as well as how the parties involved are going to work with each other. Behavioral contracts can be utilized to establish a goal-oriented relationship between the student teacher and the supervisor.

Although behavioral contracts can be compared to simple goal setting in the sense that both pinpoint the targeted behavior, contracts require a signature on the document by each involved party. In turn, each party must be concerned with the specifics of the signed document, a concern which probably does not exist in a simple verbal agreement (Cooper, Heron, and Heward, 1987).

A behavioral contract can: (1) strengthen the participating parties agreement to work together by listing the responsibilities of each participant; (2) make the supervisor's feedback to the student teacher more specific; and (3) state the specified behavior that is to be modified in explicit terms. It seems plausible that behavioral contracts could enhance instructional behaviors during the student teaching experience, however, the effects of such behavioral contracts have not been studied. The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of behavioral contracts on the verbal feedback of student teachers.

Methods

Subjects and Setting

Three student teachers, two males and one female, volunteered to serve as subjects for this project. Subjects were 21, 22 and 23 years old and had grade point averages of 2.5, 2.5 and 2.6 respectively. Each subject completed a minimum of two method courses which involved practical fieldwork experience prior to student teaching. …

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