Integrating theory and practice in the pre-service teacher education practicum
This article reports on a study into student teachers’ perceptions about their professional development during practicum. Framed within a symbolic interactionist perspective, the study examined to what extent, and how effectively, one group of student teachers was able to integrate theory and practice during a three-week practicum in the first year of their degree. The context for this mixed methods study was a Master of Teaching, graduate-level entry programme in the Faculty of Education at an urban Australian university. Although there is a strong field of literature around the practicum in pre-service teacher education, there has been a limited focus on how student teachers themselves perceive their development during this learning period. Further, despite widespread and longstanding acknowledgement of the ‘gap’ between theory and practice in teacher education, there is still more to learn about how well the practicum enables an integration of these two dimensions of teacher preparation. In presenting three major findings of the study, this paper goes some way in addressing these shortcomings in the literature. First, participants in this study largely valued both the theoretical and practical components of their programme, which stands in contrast to the commonly identified tendency of the student teacher to privilege practice over theory. Second, opportunities to integrate theory and practice were varied, with many participants reporting the detrimental impact of an apparent lack of clarity around stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities. Third, participants overwhelmingly supported the notion of linking university coursework assessment to the practicum as a means of bridging the gap between, on the one hand, the university and the school and, on the other hand, theory and practice.
Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice
Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified