Do Differing Types of Field Experiences Make a Difference in Teacher Candidates' Perceived Level of Competence?

By Capraro, Mary Margaret; Capraro, Robert M. et al. | Teacher Education Quarterly, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Do Differing Types of Field Experiences Make a Difference in Teacher Candidates' Perceived Level of Competence?


Capraro, Mary Margaret, Capraro, Robert M., Helfeldt, Jack, Teacher Education Quarterly


A ubiquitous national call for the reform of teacher education is of principle importance to university and college-based teacher educators. For decades, individuals such as Dewey (1965) and Barth (2001), and professional groups such as the Carnegie Forum on Education (1986) and The Holmes Group (1986) have advocated for the essential role of field experiences in the preparation of teachers. Generally speaking, field experiences are defined as a variety of early and systematic P-12 classroom-based opportunities in which teacher candidates (TCs) may observe, assist, tutor, instruct, and/or conduct research. While field experiences generally occur in schools they may also take place in other settings such as community based agencies (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2002). Field experiences and "practice teaching" have been recognized traditions of teacher-training programs dating back to the times of the American Normal School, one should not assume that all field experiences will actually help bridge the theory-practice gap and that merely requiring more field experience is necessarily better (Allsopp, DeMarie, Alvarez-McHatton, & Doone, 2006; Korthagen, Loughran, & Russell, 2006; Zeichner, 1980). With this important point in mind, our study was designed to determine the effect of differentiated field experiences upon the perceived level of competence of TCs completing three different types of field-based experiences within the same teacher preparation program. These differing placements and experiences represent the continuum from basic coordination between cooperating teachers in partner schools and university professors (Control) to in-depth communication, coordination, and collaboration between and among all stakeholders in a Professional Development School (PDS) to the same in depth collaborations and experiences plus a required action research component built into the PDS setting (Inquiry) all situated within the same lower SES, rural/suburban environment.

The existing research base regarding field experience appears to be somewhat equivocal as the learning that occurs during field experiences is highly contextualized and uneven (Ritter, Powell, & Hawley, 2007; Tellez, 2008), and empirical data on the effects of differing types of field experiences has been characterized as sparse and inconclusive (Bischoff, Farris, & Henninger, 1988; Henry, 1983; Shanahan, 2008; Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2002). Bridging the gap between theory and practice does not automatically occur simply as a result of participating in field experiences (Barksdale-Ladd & Rose, 1997). Sometimes incongruence between theory and practice may become more evident as a result of field experiences reflecting the "two-worlds pitfall" (Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann, 1985) which provide an exposure to procedures and instructional practices such as transmissive teaching that may conflict with more learner-centered instruction promoted in university-based coursework causing novice teachers to gravitate toward the practices and values of the P-12 classroom while dismissing those espoused in university courses as being too theoretical. Along these lines, several studies have reported the apparent regression of novice teachers as they become more rigid, bureaucratic, and custodial; conforming to existing school practices, procedural concerns, and routine tasks (Beyer, 1984; Grisham, 2000; Grossman, 2005; McBee, 1998; Moore, 2003; Silvernail & Costello, 1983; Zeichner & Tabachnick, 1981; Zeichner & Teitelbaum, 1982). Gless and Barron (1992) argued that new teachers typically transition through five distinct phases during their first year of teaching. The transition to teaching begins with the anticipation phase where the new teacher often romanticizes the new role. Then the new teacher immediately enters the survival and disillusionment phase where they realize they have a great deal to learn about school and district procedures, their peers, and communicating with parents. …

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