Preservice Teachers' Explanations of Their Teaching Behavior

By Boger, Charlotte; Boger, David | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2000 | Go to article overview

Preservice Teachers' Explanations of Their Teaching Behavior


Boger, Charlotte, Boger, David, Journal of Instructional Psychology


The purpose of this study was to utilize a post-observation interview with 37 elementary and middle grades student teachers relating to items on the North Carolina Teacher Performance Appraisal Instrument(NCTAPI). The post-observation interview provided elementary and middle grades student teachers an opportunity to explain their reasons for choosing a teaching practice, especially when their choice was incongruous with what was taught in the professional education courses and inconsonant with research on teaching. Results of the eight major functions on the NCTPAI identified by student teachers as receiving frequent emphasis in their professional education courses revealed that, on all major functions, the majority of student teachers made choices inconsistent with what had been taught in professional education classes and what was congruent with research findings. Moreover, student teachers' explanations regarding their motivation for selecting a particular choice disclosed a low influence of university training on their decision.

The problem of getting preservice student teachers to mesh theory taught in professional education courses with practice during their field experiences is documented in the research (Lortie, 1975; Hodges, 1982; Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Tabachnik & Zeichner, 1984). Many student teachers do not combine practice with research during their field experiences and make decisions contrary to what was taught in professional education courses and what is known about effective teaching research.

Despite the universities and colleges revamping and improving course offerings, increasing program requirements and emphasizing effective teaching techniques often utilized in local K-12 schools, the controversy over the low utilization of what was learned at the university and what preprofessional teachers actually practiced from their university coursework during their field experiences continues (Calderhead, 1991).

The low utilization of techniques learned at the university and implemented during field experiences is important because today, more and more, universities are held accountable, during the first two years, for the performance of students completing their teacher preparation program. Moreover, Tabachnik and Zeichner (1984) challenged researchers to examine what occurred during field experiences, i.e., how professional life was interpreted and acted upon by student teachers. As we learn more about what teachers need to know and how their growth in knowledge of teaching develops, this information should be included in our preservice program (Grossman & Richert, 1988; Ryan, 1995).

The purpose of this study was to utilize a post-observation interview relating to items on the North Carolina Teacher Performance Appraisal Instrument. The post-observation interview provided student teachers an opportunity to explain their reasons for choosing a teaching practice, especially when their choice was incongruous with what was taught in the professional education courses and inconsonant with research on teaching.

Literature related to socialization of preservice teachers and knowledge growth in learning to teach form the theoretical framework of this study. Research on teacher socialization has focused on the prior experiences preservice teachers have had with schools and schooling and how this prior experience influences their views about teaching and learning, particularly during their preservice education. Student teachers model the teaching performance of their previous teachers by synthesizing teaching behaviors from various teachers they have had into their idea of the teacher they would like to be (Ross, 1987). In fact, prior experience with schools is a more powerful socializing agent than teacher preparation training at the universities (Lortie, 1975). Coursework may hold the promise of imparting knowledge about teaching, yet teachers have traditionally and consistently denied the influence of their formal coursework, stating that what they learned about teaching during professional preparation, they learned through field experiences (Lortie, 1975; Grossman and Richert, 1988; Ryan, 1995; Curtner-Smith, 1999). …

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