Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Exploring the Process of Conceptual Change of Pre-Service Teachers in a Physical Education Teacher Preparation Program

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Exploring the Process of Conceptual Change of Pre-Service Teachers in a Physical Education Teacher Preparation Program

Article excerpt

Students enter a physical education teacher education (PETE) program with a developed conception of what they believe physical education looks and feels like (Hare, 2007; Hutchinson, 1993; Lortie, 1975).This conception is developed during the K-12 experience of the educational process and through life experience outside of the educational system (Hutchinson, 1993; Lortie, 1975). One of the primary goals of a PETE program is to introduce new, innovative ways to teach physical education in order to replace ineffective, archaic practices that may exist in today's physical education settings (Kulinna, 2008).

By educating pre-service teachers about new pedagogical strategies and techniques, the intention is to address and change ineffective practices in physical education so that children learn to love movement and engage in regular physical activity for their health and wellness. However, as Lortie (1975) suggests, experience is more powerful than theory and changing beliefs of students entering pre-service teaching programs is challenging and will require a focused effort throughout the program for misconceptions to be addressed.

Conceptual Change

The conceptual change approach to learning can be traced back to Thomas Kuhn (1962) in a book titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In his book, Kuhn suggested principles and theories of science education could be classified as a "paradigm" of practices. When new theories and principles are developed that challenge or add to the current paradigm, then a paradigm shift must occur to accommodate the new material. Learned concepts are embedded in paradigms and when a shift in paradigm occurs, the validity of certain concepts may be challenged. The challenging of these concepts is referred to as conceptual change.

Understanding the mechanics behind conceptual change is important in order to address misconceptions students bring with them when entering a PETE program. Strike and Posner (1992) suggest students entering college programs maintain conceptual ecologies, including "anomalies, analogies, metaphors, epistemological beliefs, metaphysical beliefs, knowledge from other areas of inquiry, and knowledge of competing conceptions" (p.150). In the discipline of physical education, these conceptual ecologies might lead to the naive belief the main focus of physical education is competitive sports or that physical educators only teach because it is a conducive job for coaching a competitive athletic team. Although these beliefs may be naive misconceptions, they still serve as the foundation for what students entering the PETE program may believe is the primary purpose of physical education.

Using Kuhn's (1962) initial work in conceptual change as a model, Posner, Strike, Hewson, and Gertzog (1982) designed an instructional theory that defined specific steps students must go through before misconceptions can be changed. These four steps are (1) students must be dissatisfied with the existing conception, (2) students must be presented with a new concept that is understandable, (3) the presented concept must be believable, and (4) the new concept will lead to success. This framework is known as the 'classical approach' to conceptual change.

Conceptual Change and PETE Programs

PETE programs attempt to address naive misconceptions of entering PETE students by first offering information that competes with the misconceptions developed during the recruitment phase of the socialization process. These new concepts are then supported during the professional phase of socialization with discussions of the "new paradigm" in physical education, which offers pre-service teachers appropriate techniques, practices and theories that are supportive of a more appropriate physical education experience. Pre-service teachers then enter the occupational phase of the socialization process when entering the student teaching practicum. The student teaching experience is where new skills, techniques and theories learned during the undergraduate process can be implemented into a "real" educational setting. …

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