Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Using a Dilemma Case in Early Childhood Teacher Education: Does It Promote Theory and Practice Connection?*

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Using a Dilemma Case in Early Childhood Teacher Education: Does It Promote Theory and Practice Connection?*

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of using case analyses on early childhood pre-service teachers' skills on connecting theory and practice, and solving ill-defined problems in teaching young children. In particular, the following research questions were explored: (1) To what degree are pre-service teachers able to make theory-practice connections in response to a written dilemma case of early childhood classroom? (2) What types of solution strategies did the participants suggest? (3) What is the potential value of using a dilemma case in solving ill-defined problems in early childhood education? 48 senior students enrolled in an early childhood education program participated in the study. The participants read, analyze and reflect on case of an early childhood teacher who is having a dilemma regarding a 4-year old child who seems to need special education. The data analysis revealed a notable influence of theoretical knowledge and specific perspective through inclusion provided in class on the students' essays. They suggested two solution strategies (a) strategies that aim to convince the parents to consult a specialist and (b) strategies that aim to support the child's development. The findings were discussed and potential implications were addressed in the paper.

Key Words

Early Childhood Teacher Education, Case-Based Pedagogy, Written Cases, Childhood Inclusion, Home-School Collaboration.

It is a widely-accepted fact that teacher education courses cover all necessary theoretical knowledge; but, do not provide enough opportunities to put the theory into practice (Korthagen, Kessels, Koster, Lagerwerf, & Wubbles, 2001). The "apparent chasm between what often happens in university-based teacher education and teaching in schools - a theory- practice gap - has caused some jurisdictions to shiftmuch of their teacher training efforts out of academia and into the field" (Bencze, Hewitt, & Pedretti, 2001, p. 192). As emphasized by Bencze et al. teacher education programs are pursuing to reducing the gap between the theory and practice of teaching. Early childhood education programs are not exception in the field (Stacey, 2009). In search of an effective strategy to help teachers connect theory and practice, researchers found that casebased pedagogy is one of the effective approaches to put theory into practice (Bencze et al.; Flynn & Klein, 2001; Koc, Peker, & Osmanoglu, 2009; Masingila & Doerr, 2002; Schrader et al., 2003).

Preparing teachers for future requires offering opportunities to pre-service teachers for gaining knowledge and experience in the field (Bransford, Darling-Hammond, & LePage, 2005). Also, teachers need to apply their knowledge and experience into different situations while making decisions in classroom. Teachers make countless decisions every day (Kohler, Henning, & Usma-Wilches, 2008). Every child and every situation are unique and require the teacher's careful consideration (Sulaiman, Baki, & Rahman, 2011).Teachers are usually alone when making decisions in class and need to take immediate action. While some of the decisions are relatively easy to make for an experienced teacher, but some of them are hard to make for most teachers. They need to analyze the situation, identify the problem, scrutinize the knowledge they accumulated, find a viable solution strategy and adopt it. Hence, finding best solutions for problematic situations involve integrating theory and practice (Korthagen et al., 2001).

The present study was designed to investigate early childhood pre-service teachers' building connection between theory and practice. Particularly, the purpose of this study was to examine to what degree the analysis of a dilemma case helped early childhood education pre-service teachers build a connection between theory and practice. The study was conducted in the context of an Inclusion class the author taught in a large public university in a metropolitan city in Turkey. …

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