Writing Autobiographies: A Meaningful Way to Sensitize Trainee Teachers

By Quintero, Josefina C.; López, Margarita M. et al. | International Education Studies, July 2013 | Go to article overview

Writing Autobiographies: A Meaningful Way to Sensitize Trainee Teachers


Quintero, Josefina C., López, Margarita M., Zuluaga, Carmen T. C., International Education Studies


Abstract

This article discusses the final results from a research work which aimed to identify the pedagogical processes that emerge from the autobiographies that modern languages trainee teachers at the University of Caldas write. These autobiographies become a starting point to develop their teaching practicum, and are considered to be of great importance for a better understanding of trainee teacher's daily lives inside the classrooms. The autobiography permits trainee teachers to narrate classroom events, examine patterns and tendencies, and establish intervention points as well as plans of action to avoid replicating unwanted experiences they lived during their academic years. Trainee teachers feel stimulated to relate their previous learning experiences to the process they are just beginning as teachers. It was found that the recurrent points that appeared in the autobiographies referred to childhood memories, teacher's influence, and affective factors. The authors conclude that auto biographies become a meaningful instrument to raise trainees awareness about their own performance as future teachers.

Keywords: autobiography, narrative genre, personal accounts, trainee teachers, teaching practicum

1. Introduction

1.1 Research Problem

Globalization and cultural, scientific and technological changes in Colombia and worldwide require a new generation of educators (Delors, 1996; National Ministry of Education-MEN-, 1994/Ley General de Educación). These changes require teachers to develop reflective and analytical competencies (National Ministry of Education -MEN, 1999). Therefore, to respond to these changes, and to be consistent with the curricular reform of the University of Caldas, the researchers, who have been in charge of guiding the trainee teachers to face the challenge of integrating research processes with pedagogical processes, have been implementing the use of autobiographies as a research tool. As a matter of fact, by writing autobiographies, trainee teachers can gain awareness of their own teaching practices.

Although trainee teachers attend seminars, and take different subjects related to research, they do not realize the implications of their role as teachers until the last semester of the program when they complete their practicum (Quintero, Buitrago, Gallego, Infante, López & Zuluaga, 2007). This is why the advisers promote the practice of writing autobiographies as a starting point to help trainees understand the meaning of the experiences they underwent during their previous school years in terms of the different kinds of teachers they had and the impact such experiences may have on their teaching practicum. To carry out an effective teaching practicum, trainee teachers are required not only to prepare their lesson plans and give classes, but also to develop a research paper, which is a graduation requirement. In order to develop teaching competencies, they have to observe classes, register information in their journals, and write reports concerning life in school as well as personal experiences. In the initial stage of their teaching practicum, they are instructed to write an autobiography so that they can raise awareness about their own performance as future teachers.

In this article, the authors include four trainee teachers' extracts taken verbatim from their autobiographies to illustrate how their experiences during their school years allow them to face the initial stages of their practicum in a real context.

The curriculum of the Modern Languages Program of the University of Caldas includes subjects in pedagogy such as Teoría de la Educación, Teoría del Currículo, Teoría del Aprendizaje, Epistemología de la Pedagogía, Teoría de la Didáctica and Didáctica de las Lenguas Extranjeras, among others. However, trainee teachers do not know how to relate the theory behind these subjects to the field of practice; in other words, they perceive each subject in an isolated way, thus they cannot articulate their previous knowledge with the new knowledge. …

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