Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Comparative Examination of Student Teacher and Intern Perceptions of Teaching Ability at the Preservice and Inservice Stages

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Comparative Examination of Student Teacher and Intern Perceptions of Teaching Ability at the Preservice and Inservice Stages

Article excerpt

Introduction

The overwhelming majority of elementary school teachers in the United States receive their training from traditional teacher preparation programs (TPPs) that are affiliated with a college or university. The remaining 20% to 30% of teachers are trained through alternative certification programs (Kee, 2012; National Research Council, 2010). In recent years, the focus of teacher education research has centered on making comparisons between teacher candidates attending traditional TPPs and teacher candidates seeking alternative routes to licensure (see Darling-Hammond, Chung, & Frelow, 2002; Kee, 2012; Zientek, 2007) to determine the differences between teacher candidate perceptions of ability. These decisions are often based on the assumption that traditional TPPs resemble each other so much that there is little to no variability among programs and that differences in teacher training are more likely to be found between alternative routes and traditional routes to licensure.

However, there is a great degree of variability within and between TPPs and the impact they have on teacher perceptions and teacher effectiveness (Gansle, Noell, & Burns, 2012). Gansle and colleagues noted that these variations include how teacher candidates are recruited and accepted into the program, how content and pedagogical knowledge is shared, how field experiences are structured, and how teacher candidates are exposed to professional knowledge and skills. TPPs play a pivotal role in improving the quality of teaching and learning in our schools (Plecki, Elfers, & Nakamura, 2012), and yet our understanding of how TPPs affect teacher effectiveness and perceptions of preparedness is limited at best (Gansle et al., 2012). Thus, to understand more fully the connection between teacher preparation and student achievement (see Armor et al., 1976), we must begin with an examination of the different features of TPPs and ask whether these program features influence the perceptions teacher candidates have about their ability to teach. In this article, we describe a study that adds to the current literature base by collecting cross-institutional data from teacher candidates across one state that were assigned to either a student teaching assignment (a student teacher is defined as a preservice teacher who attended a TPP and was assigned to teach approximately 15 weeks of one academic semester) or an internship (an intern is defined as a preservice teacher who attended a TPP and was assigned to teach full-time in an elementary classroom for a full academic school year). Then, we track these teacher candidates into full-time teaching positions to determine what happens to the perceptions of these teachers once they have taught for one school year. Do they still feel as prepared and capable to teach?

Literature Review

We framed this research study within the context of the sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978). This theory suggests that what students learn is significantly influenced by the experiences that he or she has (Gee, 2000; Grossman et al., 2000; Martin, 2004). The context, school setting, environment, teacher educators, and cooperating teachers within and associated with TPPs all play a role in the types of learning experiences teacher candidates have. A preservice teacher enters the TPP with a variety of classroom and educational experiences of his or her own that can further influence and/ or inhibit what he or she learns within the TPP. The context and setting of the TPP provides a situated learning environment with specific content, instructional, pedagogical, and methodological coursework, along with varying degrees and types of field-based clinical experiences. One way to measure the influence of TPPs, and the teacher training context, is to measure the perceptions teacher candidates have about their ability to teach based on their TPP experiences.

For this, we turned to Bandura's (1977, 1997) theory of social cognition to provide a framework for the interpretation of teacher perceptions. …

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