Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Views from Below: Students' Perceptions of Teaching Practice Evaluations and Stakeholder Roles

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Views from Below: Students' Perceptions of Teaching Practice Evaluations and Stakeholder Roles

Article excerpt

Introduction

Teaching practice (TP) constitutes the core of teacher education programmes (TEPs) (Maphosa, Shumba & Shumba, 2007). Leshem and Bar-Hama (2008: 258) describe TP as "the application of the practical pedagogical knowledge acquired during the didactic lessons and workshops". Subedi (2009) believes that TP provides student teachers with an opportunity to integrate theory with classroom practice and to equip them with the requisite skills for the world of teaching.

There is abundant research on TP and its evaluation, as well as on the importance of collaborations between university and school within which TP exists. However, few studies report research results on these issues, using student teachers' voices as assumed beneficiaries. This study is designed to investigate student teachers' (hereafter students') perceptions of TP evaluations administered by means of observations and criteria-based forms from a systems theory approach, to determine how effectively all aspects of stakeholder support, structure and TP evaluation interact and contribute to the development of new teachers. The study seeks to answer the following research questions:

* What are students' perceptions of observations and criteria-based evaluations as part of a TP evaluation system?

* What do students perceive as the roles of evaluators and mentors during TP evaluations?

It is hoped that the results will enlighten teacher educators about the effects TP evaluations have on students' performance and development. In addition, the results might add new insight into how teacher education policymakers, teacher educators, evaluators and mentors could better support students, while managing TP and its evaluation process. The results might further engender dialogue and debate concerning TP evaluations among teacher educators globally.

'Evaluation' instead of 'assessment' was adopted, because the TP evaluation process is broader than assessment and focuses on different teacher quality dimensions such as, for example, effectiveness, competence and performance (Dunkin, 1997) that are observed over time. Evaluation is ongoing and uses a range of instruments, criteria and standards administered by different evaluators for professional improvement.

Context of current teaching practice

This section presents a synopsis of how TP is managed and how evaluations are administered in a four-year Further Education and Training (FET) teacher education programme (TEP). FET students qualify to teach at high school. This TEP is offered on three campuses at the level of Bachelor of Education degree in the Faculty of Education, located within a South African University of Technology. This study was conducted on one of these campuses. TP is a core component of this TEP. It is facilitated by a TP coordinator who oversees TP-related processes. In this TEP, students and staffdraw a distinction between university-based 'evaluators' and school-based 'mentors', which could suggest a perception of mentor core roles as providing support and coaching, and of evaluators as evaluating teaching performance.

Placement of students in schools

First- to third-year students select schools in which they wish to be placed from three options. Fourth-year students select any school of their preference. Host schools are allocated according to relevance of students' specialisations to the schools and according to subject specialisations which have to match those of the mentors. Second- to fourth-year students are evaluated during TP, but first-year students only observe mentors teaching.

Second- and third-year students are randomly distributed according to the number of FET educators and part-time evaluators, irrespective of the subjects in which they specialise. School-based mentors are selected depending on availability and their teaching subjects. Fourth-year students are evaluated by experts who teach related content knowledge (CK) and pedagogical knowledge (PK) (in this instance, subject didactics (SD)), to ensure accurate evaluation of students' expertise in CK and PK prior to graduation. …

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