Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Reexamining the Field Experiences of Preservice Teachers

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Reexamining the Field Experiences of Preservice Teachers

Article excerpt

This writing suggests that teacher preparation programs examine preservice teaching field experiences for more effective ways of integrating educational learning theory with teaching practice and vice versa. The emphasis is on the reciprocal relationship between educational theory and classroom practice. Although my examples are drawn from a study conducted in a combined language arts and reading methods practicum, I believe they might as easily come from other disciplines.

Through this study, I hoped to find evidence that preservice teachers utilized the constructivist learning theory emphasized in the university classrooms to guide their teaching and instructional decision making in the field practicum. To my surprise, I found that almost without exception, procedural concerns of time management, lesson planning, and classroom management were perceived as most important to teaching success by the 77 preservice teachers as well as the 62 mentor teachers of the study. It was as though, once out of the university classroom where constructivist literacy learning theory was consistently discussed as a guide to pedagogical decision making, the preservice teachers did as one mentor teacher advised: "Forget the theory stuff you learned in your methods courses--that's not the real world ... that's not real teaching."

The brief review of the literature that follows provided me with a theoretical framework for considering the connections preservice teachers might typically make between learning theory and practice. It also served as a lens for viewing the results and implications of the three-semester study of a language arts practicum in which the practices and challenges of preservice teaching, particularly in regard to implementing theory with practice, were explored.


Field experiences hold great potential for providing preservice teachers the opportunity to practice instructional decision making and reflective practice; however, the focus of preservice teaching during practicum often shifts toward procedural concerns and routine tasks (Fuller, 1969; McBee, 1998) and away from the more desirable focus on teaching as an inquiry-oriented practice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993). The shift toward procedural concerns has been observed even in programs that have adopted the professional development school model characterized by extended field experiences and greater classroom interactions (Abdal-Haqq, 1998).

The literature historically and currently confirms that although preservice teachers learn a great many strategies and methods for teaching, often they "do not learn how to discover in the specific situations occurring in everyday teaching, which methods and strategies to use" (Korthagen & Kessels, 1999, p. 7). Building on the work of Brouwer (1989), transfer of what is presumably learned in teacher education programs to actual classroom practice has been strongly linked to whether there was provision for student-teachers to develop knowledge about teaching by reflecting on realistic classroom situations (Freudenthal, 1991), thus alternating the integration of theory with practice (Korthagen & Kessels, 1999).

Traditionally, educational theory has been presented within the context of the university curriculum. In this writing, educational theory is described as "epistemic knowledge" or "general conceptions applicable to a wide variety of situations" (Korthagen & Kessels, 1999, p. 7) and, of course, the epistemic knowledge of teacher preparation programs are characterized by the preferred theories of their teacher educators and the disciplines in which they teach. Nevertheless, regardless of the choice of theory presented, transfer of epistemic knowledge to the teaching situation may present a universal challenge to teacher preparation programs. For example, within the context of constructivist learning theory, the learner is encouraged to use prior knowledge and learning as a scaffold for acquiring new knowledge. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.