Integrating Coursework and Field Placements: The Impact on Preservice Elementary Mathematics Teachers' Connections to Teaching
Moyer, Patricia S., Husman, Jenefer, Teacher Education Quarterly
Teacher education programs provide many environments and experiences in an effort to support elementary preservice teacher development. Ultimately the goal is to transform the student into the teacher. Students enter teacher education programs focused on their present education, grades, and getting that long-sought-after degree; by selecting a degree in education, students also make a commitment to becoming a teacher. But what do these students really know and understand about what it means to be a classroom teacher? Does their understanding (or lack of understanding) affect their motivation towards learning, particularly in their education methods courses where they must integrate theory and effective instructional practices to design lessons?
Research indicates that, in general, people who have clearer understandings of their future professional goals are more motivated in college courses (Peetsma, 2000). Schutz, Crowder, and White (2001) examined the goal histories of preservice teachers and discovered that there were many socio-historical and emotional factors that influence not only their participants' goals to become a teacher but also their abilities to reach that goal. They found four sources of influence on the preservice teachers' goal to become a teacher: (1) family; (2) past teachers; (3) peers; and (4) teaching experiences.
Although much research in initial teacher preparation has focused on the importance and efficacy of preservice teachers' extended placements and immersions at elementary school sites (i.e., Professional Development Schools), less is known about the impact of these configurations on preservice teachers' motivation in their college coursework and their understandings of future professional goals (Burden, 1990). The present study considers the influence of the integration of methods coursework and field placements on the preservice teaching experience, especially its impact on preservice teachers' motivation in college coursework and understanding of what it means to be an elementary mathematics teacher. Based on the findings of Schutz, Crowder, and White (2001), we expected that alternative contexts for college coursework concurrent with teaching experiences could lead to "crystallizing experiences" (Schutz, et al., 2001, p. 305) that would help refine the goal of being a teacher. In particular, we were interested in whether integrating methods coursework with the instructional environment of the student teaching placement would help preservice teachers develop a clearer picture of their future goal of becoming an elementary teacher and consequently assist them in perceiving the usefulness of their mathematics methods coursework.
Teacher Education Research
Teacher education researchers have examined a variety of influences on the preservice teacher, including the student teaching experience (Griffin, 1989; Tabachnick & Zeichner, 1984), teacher education courses (Civil, 1993), methods in those courses (Civil, 1993), and teacher education programs and institutions (Griffin, 1999; Koehler, 1985). As a result, teacher education programs have undergone numerous changes (Griffin, 1989, 1999), and the preservice teaching experience, once viewed as a place to "practice" teaching lessons, has become much more. Studies have led to a shared belief that teaching requires not only the ability to teach lessons, but also an understanding of the rules and routines of the school culture, the ability to collaborate with other education professionals, and an awareness of the communities in which one teaches (Sikula, Buttery, & Guyton, 1996).
Studies on the transition from "practicing" teaching to beginning teaching have identified problems for the beginner associated with gaps in preparedness that are often not addressed during teacher education coursework (Cruickshank & Callahan, 1983; Veenman, 1984). As a result, teacher education programs have examined and articulated what beginning teachers should know and be able to do and what types of experiences might help them to develop these skills and dispositions (Reynolds, 1992). …