Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Core of Professional Growth in Work-Related Teacher Education

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Core of Professional Growth in Work-Related Teacher Education

Article excerpt


Recent research on workplace learning has indicated that work can serve as a significant source of and context for learning (e.g., Billett & Pavlova, 2005; Malloch, Cairns, Evans, & O'Connor, 2011; Tynjala, 2008, 2013). In the field of teacher education, work-related or work-based learning in the form of a practicum or in-service teaching has been an integral part of prospective teachers' preparation (Vick, 2006). Studies on teacher education have shown that pre-service teachers consider the practicum to be one of the most important elements of their studies, yet at the same time find it difficult to make connections between theory and practice (e.g., F0rland Standal, Mordal Moen, & Fusche Moe, 2014; Mordal Moen, 2011; Mordal Moen & Green, 2012;).

The importance of integrating theory and practice has been highlighted in many recent studies on teaching practicum. In Finland, Heikkinen, Tynjala, and Kiviniemi (2011) applied a model of Integrative Pedagogy (e.g., Tynjala, 2008; Tynjala, Virtanen, Klemola, Kostiainen, & Rasku-Puttonen, 2016) in a study on teaching practicum. The main idea of the model is to integrate the basic elements of expertise - theoretical, practical, self-regulative and sociocultural knowledge--into learning environments and learning situations. The model has proven promising in both pre-service and in-service teacher education (Heikkinen, Jokinen, & Tynjala, 2012; Tynjala et al., 2016). However, several studies have shown that student teachers' opportunities to integrate theory and practice are fragmented and that they are seldom supported in this process (e.g., Allen & Wright, 2014; F0rland Standal et al., 2014).

In addition to the importance of the theory-practice connection, the role of reflection in learning during practicum has been emphasized (e.g., Mordal Moen & Green, 2012). Cohen, Hoz, and Kaplan (2013) categorized the activities of preservice teachers during practicum and identified reflection as a main category of activity. This category included five different forms of reflection, from reflection on the preservice teachers' own classes to reflection on professional self-development and team reflection. Typically, the identified forms of reflection focused on practical knowledge, whereas reflection that would integrate theoretical and practical knowledge was not reported.

While most teacher training takes place in universities with practicum periods in schools, there are also teacher education programs which take place in-service, that is, with teacher students in paid employment as educators. Orr and Simmons (2011) have examined this type of work-based learning in two English continuing education colleges where 90% of teaching staff are trained in-service. The study found that the in-service trainee teachers had a heavy workload and few opportunities to develop. On the basis of these findings, the researchers suggested that the institutes should allow trainee teachers time for observation of colleagues and reflection.

As far as we know, the above-mentioned research by Orr and Simons (2011) is the only study focusing on work-based teacher education. Thus, there is a lack of understanding of the learning and professional development processes of in-service teacher students participating in teacher education programs. To address this gap in the research, the present study focuses on teacher students' professional growth in the context of a work-related teacher qualification program. The program in question was tailored for employed, second-career physical education (PE) teachers without formal teaching qualifications. It was organized as a blended course design combining face-to-face instruction (three days per month) with distance learning, e-learning and workplace learning.

Theoretically, the course design is based on andragogy (Knowles, 1980; Savicevic, 2008) and integrative pedagogy (Tynjala et al. …

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