Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Technology's Role in Field Experiences for Preservice Teacher Training

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Technology's Role in Field Experiences for Preservice Teacher Training

Article excerpt

Introduction

Field experiences are a foundation in preservice teacher education programs today. In fact, early teacher educators have found value in the "learning by doing" approach since as early as the mid-nineteenth century (Cruickshank & Armaline, 1986). Consistent with John Dewey's emphasis on experiential education, field experiences today are focused on providing examples of best practices and pairing students with teachers who are not only excellent teachers, but also excellent role models willing to engage in reflective practice with preservice teachers (Frieberg, 1995; Posner, 2005).

Numerous benefits of field experiences in teacher preparation programs have been documented in the literature. They include helping students decide if teaching is the right career choice, providing an opportunity for students to practice skills prior to student teaching, helping preservice teachers start viewing themselves as teachers, and improving preservice teachers' attitudes toward teaching (McIntyre, 1983). Field experiences are also typically offered in conjunction with a course as a way of helping students better understand the conceptual and theoretical knowledge being presented (Hopkins, 1995). Recently, much attention has also been paid to the role that field experiences may play in helping preservice teachers learn how to effectively integrate technology into their teaching (e.g., Bahr, Shaha, Farnsworth, Lewis, & Benson, 2004; Dawson & Dana, 2007; Evans, 2004; Wentworth, Graham, & Tripp, 2008).

These outcomes of field experiences are clearly desirable and emphasize the importance of field experiences in teacher education. While field experiences are certainly a valuable component of teacher education programs, factors surrounding their implementation may influence the quality and impact of field-based experiences. Of major concern to teacher educators is the fact that prospective teachers may not be cognitively prepared to benefit from experiences in the field, especially when they occur early in their education program (Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann, 1985; Goodman, 1986; Hannah, 1995). When student teachers are not cognitively prepared to learn from experiences in the field, they sometimes view the field experience as an off-campus activity as opposed to on-the-job training, and believe that the field experiences do not provide "real teaching experiences" (Aiken & Day, 1999).

A similar concern is that students are not taking an active role in developing, processing, and reflecting on their field experiences (Cruickshank & Armaline, 1986; Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann, 1985; Goodman, 1986; Johnston, 1994). Although reflective thinking has been emphasized in teacher education programs (e.g., Brookfield, 1995), it has been documented that students often participate in field experiences with a very mechanical, "learn the skill" approach and are not thoughtful about the experience as it relates to their education. In addition to promoting reflective inquiry, education faculty may find it difficult to facilitate appropriate reflection and debriefing related to field experiences because students do not share a common experience to serve as a jumping-off point for discussions (Hannah & Abate, 1992-1993). The varied experiences of students in the field also make it difficult to ensure consistent quality of student field experiences.

On a more practical note, with the impending teacher shortage and growing preservice education programs in some countries, especially the United States, schools of education are being forced to place students at sites increasingly distant from campus. This puts financial and time burdens on both the school (who must appropriately supervise) and the students (e.g., Garrett & Dudt, 1998; Knight, Pedersen, & Peters, 2004). A related concern, especially for colleges and universities located in rural and less diverse areas, is how to ensure students gain experience with diverse populations (e. …

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