Learning to teach: making sense of learning to teach
Learning to teach: making sense of learning to teach

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Learning to teach: making sense of learning to teach

1.2 Differences between the paradigms

Fundamental to the distinction between the paradigms is the debate around what knowledge is and how it is created. In this case the difference is between knowledge being in the power of others and ‘given’ to student teachers, or knowledge being something that is co-created and able to be influenced by all participants (including student teachers and pupils).

Having considered Zeichner’s and Taylor’s rather abstract views of the differences in teacher education, it is possible to demonstrate how these differences might play out (in both positive and negative ways) in the expectations around a common classroom issue, behaviour management.

Behaviour management

The issue of behaviour management is far from simple. We know, through experience and research, that approaches to behaviour management may work with one class one week, but then not have the same impact the following week. We also know that how young people behave is built on a complex cocktail of individual and group dynamics and circumstances, and the nature of the curriculum they are engaged with.

This level of complexity suggests the need to develop student teachers awareness of their own impact on the situation. This is purely individual, as it will involve the student teachers characteristics, beliefs and values, relationships and identity and therefore is akin to the Personalistic paradigm and enabling students individual growth as teachers.

Transferring learning between contexts

The majority of student teachers spend time teaching in different school contexts. Schools, like any institutions, have their own atmosphere, ethos and policies which make the straight transfer of skills and knowledge a challenge. Student teachers have to be able to transfer their learning between contexts but in such a way that the learning is adaptable and flexible. At the extreme end of the spectrum (although not hugely uncommon in an issue such as behaviour management) the student teacher may effectively have to re-learn skills and knowledge that are suitable to the context and in doing so develop their in-the-moment responses for the specific context.

A criticism of adopting the behaviouristic or craft paradigms in this scenario could be the perception of there being ‘a solution’. What is the impact on student teacher learning when the solution doesn’t work with a particular class or on a particular occasion? Although it may be highly appropriate to adopt strategies that are observed to work with a particular class, having the ability to transform, adapt and actually reject these can be seen to be a core part of what Taylor describes as ‘Students as teachers and learners’ (2008) and Zeichner as the Enquiry Orientation (1983).

Time available

ITE courses are very short, and therefore unable to deal with the complexity of the research evidence and multitude of issues around behaviour management (alongside all the other issues) that need exploring.

The outcome of ITE is to reach the basic standards in order to teach. It could be argued that this could be rephrased to reaching the basic standards to teach and to develop the skills necessary to continue to learn as a professional. Student teachers aren’t going to experience every possible manifestation of classroom behaviour during their ITE course, and aren’t going to be able to read every seminal text about managing behaviour. If this is accepted, then the question is how can we ensure that student teachers continue to learn beyond the ITE course and what skills do they need to do so? Again, this points to Zeichner’s Enquiry orientation, which emphasises a student teachers ability to identify issues, research them using a range of sources, critically reflect on the findings and in the process, construct new knowledge (Zeichner, 1983). For further information, study Learning to teach: An introduction to classroom research [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

This discussion has only looked at the issue of classroom management in relation to Zeichner and Taylor’s research. There will be times during an ITE course where certain approaches are used highly effectively to help student teachers make progress. However, this discussion has raised two crucial questions:

  • What type of teachers do we want to produce from ITE courses?
  • How do we achieve this?

The next section will highlight that answering these questions requires us to consider what the role of student teachers is in their ITE course.

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