Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Learning 'Rules' of Practice within the Context of the Practicum Triad: A Case Study of Learning to Teach

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Learning 'Rules' of Practice within the Context of the Practicum Triad: A Case Study of Learning to Teach

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The aim of this study is to determine in what work training circumstances the collaborative work of university supervisors (USs) and cooperating teachers (CTs) is optimal for enhancing the preparation of preservice teachers (PTs) for their work as practicing teachers. To succeed in answering this question, this study (i) generates questions from the literature based on details of the implementation of the principle of alternating between work and work training, (ii) presents an original framework for looking at the principle of alternating between work and work training, (iii) describes the results of a case study guided by this framework, and (iv) makes propositions to optimize the principle of alternating between work and work training.

1.1. The Principle of the Alternating in the Heart of the Reform of the Teacher Training Program in France

As part of a project to standardize university diplomas within the European Union, France is reforming the training programs for PTs. National policies have been optimized by placing more emphasis on greater "coordination between the various components of teacher education" (Communication to the European Parliament, 2007, "To improve the quality of the training of the teachers"). French universities have thus been invited "to organize their work collaboratively and in partnership with the public schools" to a greater degree, "which implies a back-and-forth between the field (the schools) and the training site (the university)" (OECD, 2005). Teacher training in France is comprised of two distinct steps, in contrast to the training practices in a number of other European countries. The first step for future teachers is to obtain a Bachelor's degree. Once this degree has been obtained, national competitive exams are taken. Those who succeed are accepted into a University Institute of Teacher Training for one year of specialized training, during which time they have the status of preservice teacher (PT). As this preservice training is limited to just one year, the recent reform tries to optimize this experience. It emphasizes the principle of alternating work/study based on the assumption that there is a reciprocal impact of (i) training sequences for PTs, with CTs in the public schools and/or with USs at the teacher training institute, and (ii) sequences of practical work experience in the classroom. This latest reform gave greater importance to classroom experience for PTs--which was defined as the "structuring element of training"--and proposed a reorganization. For 50% of the time, the PTs' classroom work is organized exclusively as a placement "with responsibility" for a class for a whole academic year. They work only with their pupils. The CT and US make regular visits to the classroom and engage with the student teacher (ST). The other days of the week were devoted to training at the university institute under the direction of USs.

1.2. The Principle of Alternating Work and Work Analysis: Difficulties and Questions

The principle of alternating between study at the university and work experience in the school system is thus at the heart of this reform. However, several reports have pointed to the difficulties of this type of professional development structure (for a review, see: Chalies, Cartaud, Escalie & Durand, 2009), and a detailed analysis of the contents and consequences of PT programs has revealed fragmentation in these programs, which are designed and implemented at the university while the actual organization of 'know-how' is in the schools (Cochran-Smith, 2003). PTs regularly find themselves in the situation of being unable to link the theoretical information offered at the university with the practical experiences of the classroom (Korthagen, Loughran, & Russell, 2006).

Despite the shortcomings revealed by these studies, however, the principle of alternating work and work analysis in PT professional development has rarely been questioned. …

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