Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Teacher Efficacy in an Early Childhood Professional Development School

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Teacher Efficacy in an Early Childhood Professional Development School

Article excerpt

Introduction

Teacher educator programs strive to engage pre-service teachers in highly effective learning experiences. Teachers, the learning environment, and individual learners comprise three prominent components of this endeavor. The following pilot study provides insight regarding the intersection of these components. Specifically, teacher beliefs in their ability to impact student learning (self-efficacy) is studied in the context of a particular type of learning environment (professional development schools). The study addressed efficacy among mentor teachers during the first year of implementation of an Early Childhood Professional Development School program.

Albert Bandura noted that, "...an efficacy expectation is the conviction that one can successfully execute the behavior required to produce the outcomes." (1997, p. 193). Self-efficacy is a person's belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel (1994). The purpose of this study was to clarify components of mentor teachers' self-efficacy in an early childhood professional development school (PDS) setting. We asked, "How does being a mentor teacher in an Early Childhood PDS affect teachers' self efficacy?"

Literature Review: PDS Impact on Teacher Candidate Performance and Mentor Teacher Development

Professional development schools were launched with the intention of providing both mentors and teacher candidates opportunities to develop effective teaching strategies and a deep understanding of why these strategies work (Teitel, 2003; Harris & Van Tassell, 2005; Lee & Hemer-Patnode, 2010). Building on the medical model of teaching hospitals, a group of university education deans founded professional development schools upon the premise that sound learning requires continuous reflection by both experienced teachers (mentors) and novice teachers (candidates) within a collaborative, respectful community (Holmes, 1990).

Research clearly identifies positive outcomes for PDS teacher candidates (Castle, Fox, & Souder, 2006; Darling-Hammond, 2007; Sandoval-Lucero et al., 2011). For example, a study comparing PDS and traditional campus-based field experiences revealed slightly higher performance by PDS students during their field experience (Ridley, 2005). Performance was evaluated through blind scoring of lesson planning, lesson reflections, overall teacher effectiveness and content retention. The stronger performance of PDS teacher candidates was not only maintained but grew stronger over time; during their first year of teaching the PDS teacher candidates performed significantly better across the above dimensions than their peers who completed traditional field experiences.

Fulfilling the original PDS intent, professional skills of mentor teachers are also strengthened. In a study addressing pre-service teacher preparation, in-service teachers' professionalism, and children's achievement (Cobb, 2000), 85% of mentor teachers reported learning innovative teaching strategies. Mentors also report a stronger understanding of culturally responsive teaching (McCormick, Eick, & Womack, 2013) as well as enhanced communication and collaboration skills (Beaty-O'Ferrall & Johnson, 2010).

A comprehensive analysis of "simultaneous renewal" of PDS partners (Shroyer et al., 2007) emphasized the importance of always placing student progress at the center of PDS initiatives. A joint commitment to student achievement, along with sufficient resources and time, can result in renewed energy and professional satisfaction for mentor teachers and university personnel.

Literature Review: Teacher Self-Efficacy

Teachers' beliefs in their ability to perform well have been researched in a variety of settings. One study of 1,430 teachers in traditional school settings revealed teacher confidence in their ability to implement effective instructional and classroom strategies leading to positive student engagement (Klassen & Chiu, 2010). …

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