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To take space and to make space – basic teacher competencies?
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of pedagogy.
2015 (English)In: ECER 2015, Education and Transition: Network:10. Teacher Education Research, 2015Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

To Take Space and to Make Space – Basic Teacher Competencies?

In Sweden there have been some teaching reforms enabling teachers to improve their teaching competence and knowledge. A presumption within these reforms is that teaching is something that one always can improve and therefore never should be seen as something “completed”. Similar opinions are often articulated when teachers assess student teachers´ performances during their teaching practice.

However there are as well policy texts that emphasize the importance of controlling teaching competence, suggesting that teaching isn´t something that everyone has the talent to do. As a consequence gatekeeping function should be highlighted enabling only the right persons to enter the profession.

In total these different discourses of teaching competence could be related by suggesting an “essential base-competence” where gatekeeping should be more emphasized, and thereafter specific sub competencies focusing learning and development.

But how can one understand such an “essential base - competence” in terms of content and in terms of gatekeeping strategies? One way to answer this question might be done by examining gatekeeping within teacher education and by asking teacher educators under what circumstances they will suggest a failure grade during student teachers´ teaching practice. The research questions in the thesis are:

RQ 1: What do teachers, working as mentors during student teachers´ teaching practice, describe as an ”essential base-competence”, those aspects influencing whether to suggest a failure grade or not?

RQ 2: What kind of experiences do mentors describe after working with student teachers doing their “second chance” in a new school? What, in the essential base, is seen as possible to develop, how might this be done, and what is seen as more difficult to develop, suggesting a failure grade once more?

I have analyzed some initial pilot surveys (with a national sample) where different administrators have described what normally is seen as insufficiency in student teachers´ performances, suggesting for example that it seldom is a lack of content knowledge, but rather subtle interaction issues and relational aspects.

As a theoretical statement I have tried to see children’s self-understanding as something growing from interaction situations where teachers´ (or student teachers´) contributions are of crucial importance. When children are able to see themselves through the eyes of a teacher, self-understanding processes are involved enabling further development and learning processes. This is a theoretical presumption of human development that has some roots in Hegels, Fichtes and Meads philosophies. A dialectical perspective of communication make it possible to emphasize the importance of teachers being able to understand childrens´/pupils’ perspectives and feelings without suppressing their own subjectivity in a classroom situation.

Moreover, this intersubjective perspective of pedagogy might as well be fruitful when it comes to the second research question – that is, when it comes to the student teacher´s owns development and the mentor´s contribution in this sense.

 

Method

The research questions were primarily answered by interviewing teachers working as mentors during student teachers´ teaching practice. Thus one might emphasize that the thesis make it possible to understand what is seen as “essential base competence”. Therefore it is important to relate empirical findings to theoretical perspectives of teaching competence and findings from other research traditions addressing competence issues. The respondents (n=11) in this study are teachers working in Swedish schools or preschools, acting as mentors during student teachers´ teaching experience. In Swedish policy documents these mentors are suggested to get a more operative position when it comes to assessing future teacher generations. In that sense it might be valuable to use those mentors as respondents describing their opinions of essential teaching competence, and under what circumstances they would suggest a failure grade in a student teacher´s teaching practice. When it comes to research on teacher competence the design in this study has the potentiality to contribute in a specific way. Certain aspects of teacher competence could get a specific meaning when those aspects are seen to be absent. Studying failure practices might contribute in a way that studying good practices do not. The respondents (mentors) in this study had recently suggested a failure grade related to a teacher student´s performance in teaching practice. They were asked open ended, nonstandardized questions, and they answered by discussing what they felt was insufficient and why, what they felt was necessary in the teaching profession, but also other mentor experiences when expected learning occurred and how these different mentor experiences could be understood in relation to one another. After analysis the manifest content could be described in six different categories. A theoretical interpretation made it possible to identify some themes.

 

Expected Outcomes

The mentors described the importance of wanting and being able to initiate social contact (1), to set limits in a firm and determined way in a classroom setting (2), to understand and involve the other person´s (the pupil´s) perspective (3), to take responsibility as an adult (4), to balance social closeness and distance (5) and to show a degree of secure self-presentation (6). To summarize, essential base competence, articulated by mentors after a failure in teaching practice, contains of an ability to take space and an ability to make space. A theoretical interpretation makes it possible to see the ability to take space (yourself) as more fundamental, thereafter enabling an opportunity to make space (to others). However, in a follow up study (RQ 2), mentors describe several methods of how to help student teachers to take space (themselves), but also describing difficulties in how to work with student teachers who needs to learn to make space (to others). Tentative findings from RQ 2 also make it possible to frame the assessment situation by contextualizing it in relation to different mentors and different school-environments. The consequences, when it comes to gatekeeping strategies, are discussed during the presentation. This proposal is a part of a PhD-project.

 

References

Goodwin, A. L., & Oyler, C. (2008). Teacher educators as gatekeepers. Deciding who is ready to teach. In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Feiman-Nemser, D. J. McIntyre, & K. E. Demers. (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education: Enduring questions in changing contexts, (p. 468-489). New York, NY: Routledge. Hegender, H. (2010). The assessment of student teachers’ academic and professional knowledge in school-based teacher education, Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 54(2), 151-171. Knudsen, R. E., & Turley, S. (2000). University supervisors and at-risk student teachers. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 29(2), 35-58. Nordänger, U-K. & Lindqvist, P. (2015). ”Det såg vi från början …” ? – Underkännanden i den svenska lärarutbildningens verksamhetsförlagda delar. In Press: Nordic Studies in Education. Polanyi, M. (1962) Personal Knowledge. Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, IL. Raths, J. & Lyman. F. (2003). Summative evaluation of student teachers. An enduring problem. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(3), 206-216. Uljens, M. (2001) Om hur människan blir människa bland människor - om pedagogik och intersubjektivitet. Utbildning & Demokrati, 10(3), 85-102.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-49667OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-49667DiVA, id: diva2:901746
Conference
European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Budapest, September 7-11, 2015
Available from: 2016-02-09 Created: 2016-02-09 Last updated: 2016-02-17Bibliographically approved

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