Extended professional experience; Does the ‘Edge’ and the ‘Value Added’ outweigh the burden on Teacher Education programs?

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 34: Higher Education on the Edge

July, 2011, 394 pages
Published by
K. Krause, M. Buckridge, C. Grimmer, & S. Purbrick-Illek
0 908557 85 X

For a group of graduating pre-service teachers there were many positive aspects of their course that they believed contributed to their development, however, by far the most important was their belief in the ‘value added’ nature of the extended professional experience. Students defined ‘value added’ as the extra bonus on top of the existing benefits offered by professional experiences and targeted this degree for its generous professional experience opportunities. Pre-service teachers completed professional experience of 155 days over four years compared to the typical degree offering 60 - 120 days of professional experience. This overwhelming belief in the importance of the professional practice was subject to placement variables, highlighted through the themes drawn from the students’ data and supported by the literature.

This paper will reflect upon the themes that emerged from the pre-service teachers’ data, focusing specifically on the participants’ view of the ‘value added’ nature of the professional experience. The four key areas that participants believed contributed most to their development included, authentic/real life experience, the linking of theory to practice, the role of the schools and university mentors and the variables of the placement. The ‘edge’ or challenge addressed in this paper is the capacity of Teacher Education programs to provide extended professional experience and address the issues raised in the four themes. These themes include aspect such as, equity of experiences, sufficient and target support by mentors, timing and flexibility of the practicum, access to a diverse range of learning opportunities, expertise of the mentor teacher and clear achievable expectations. The findings will be considered within the bounds of the pre- service teachers’ ability to gauge their own conceptual frameworks in a Teacher Education degree. This work starts to explore the issues resulting from the ‘perceptions’ of students and what they value in professional experience and the delivery challenges for teacher education programs.

Keyword: professional experiences, teacher mentoring, Teacher Education