«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
a complex and dynamic process which involves exploration, choice, decisions, creative thinking…the major elements in this process - evaluation, research and experimentation – are not value added features of teacher quality; they constitute the very basis of competence in teaching (Hextall, Lawn, Menter, Sidgwick & Walker, 1991, p.82)
deeply complex liminal stage of passage in which student teachers…story the complex dynamic student/university/school/government in a way that describes them neither as one thing nor the other, and yet both at the same time (McNamara, Roberts, Basit & Brown, 2002, p. 864).
Beyond an agreement regarding the complexity of the phenomena at large, teacher development has been conceptualised in a number of ways. For example, Hargreaves (1993) and Sabar (2004) focus on professional socialisation and identity building; Zeichner and Gore (1990) and Lacey (1995) concentrate on the process of learning to teach; Eraut (1994) examines the development of teachers’ professional knowledge. In addition, the ITT process itself has been conceptualised as a set of stages through which trainee teachers progress (Fuller & Brown, 1975); as a ‘rite of passage’ (White, 1989); as a context clouded with mixed messages and inconsistent goals (Eisenhart & Behm, 1991) and as a phase of personal growth (Head, 1992). Both the nature and process of acquisition of teacher knowledge is critical to the debate around ‘what works’ in ITT and in teaching and learning in primary schools in general.
The exploration of teacher development through a review of critical literature has assisted both the development of research questions and research design. The problems within primary PE are discussed in light of this review, providing further support for the formulation of research questions, particularly Question 1. This chapter begins by exploring theoretical approaches to teacher development and the implications of such for primary PEITT.
Beginning teachers Research regarding beginning teachers indicates a primary concern over classroom management issues, the prevalence of teacher-centred approaches, and a preoccupation with surviving the trainee teaching experience (Fuller & Brown, 1975; Hollingsworth, 1989;
Lidstone & Hollingsworth, 1992; Tomlinson, Tomchin, Callahan, Adams, Pizzat-Tinnin, Cunningham, Moore, Lutz, Roberson, Eiss, Landrum, Hunsaker & Imbeau, 1994). Beginning teachers are thought by some not to be able to fully respond to the pupils’ wide range of learning needs (Tomlinson et al., 1994), in part due to teachers’ concerns regarding their own role within the teaching process. Beginning teachers, it has been argued, proceed carefully, possessing only a limited understanding of the issues with which they are about to engage, having to think hard about the various features of the classroom situation and how best to act in it (Pollard & Tann, 1994). If this is true in classroom subjects, the context of teaching PE may provide an even greater array of challenges where the use of large spaces (indoors and outdoors), the need for effective management strategies and use of a range of equipment may be even more daunting than teaching classroom based subjects.
It has also been suggested that there is a tendency for beginning teachers to seek security by choosing to conform to the norms and existing culture of the school (Menter, 1989), whether or not these norms match existing predispositions, attitudes or personal beliefs. This ‘strategic compliance’ (Lacey, 1977) sees a new teacher surrendering unconditionally to the structural, procedural and cultural demands imposed upon them with an ensuing depersonalisation of teaching and removal of a sense of individualism (Sparkes, 1994). This phenomenon may lead from compliance to disaffection, as a result of circumstances denying newly qualified teachers the opportunity to incorporate personal values within professional practice (Butt, Townsend, & Raymond, 1990). Where a trainee or newly qualified teacher is enthusiastic and committed to teaching PE and is placed or works in a school context where PE has low status, compliance with the status quo may result in disaffection. However, where a trainee or Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) feels ambivalent or worried about teaching PE, working within such a school context may provide a sense of security; if the teaching of PE does not appear to be important, the teaching of PE and ensuing negative emotions may be easily avoided. As chapter 2 discussed, today’s overarching primary school curricula and policy context suggests a relatively low status afforded to PE, borne out by comparison to the heightened status afforded to English and maths teaching. Such hypothetical situations need testing in the field, however, as very few studies have investigated the relationship between individual trainee teachers and the context in which they are learning to teach primary PE in any significant depth.
Teacher development Different models of teacher development have been acknowledged for some time, influenced by government policies pertaining to ITT and schools and teacher educator beliefs and values.
Government policy has foregrounded certain views, yet Zeichner’s (1983, p. 8) desire for
future debate in teacher education to:
be concerned with the question of which educational, moral and political commitments ought to guide our work in the field rather than with the practice of merely dwelling on which procedures and organizational arrangements will most effectively help us realize tacit and often unexamined ends.
has not been entirely realised, despite high levels of government interest in teacher development in England since this statement was made. Instead, successive policies have foregrounded particular views, serving to shape the profession through what has been seen as managerial measures (see chapter 2). Policy makers in England appear to have favoured an approach to teacher development which emphasises the need for teachers to perform and be measured against pre-determined qualities (‘standards’) and to be academically able; a stated
desire for the prevailing DfE is:
to raise the bar for entry to initial training: attracting more of the highest achieving graduates and having higher expectations of the academic and interpersonal skills (DfE, 2011b).
Alternative paradigms of teacher development have been evident for some time, including, for example, Zeichner’s (1983) typology which includes both behaviourist and personalistic processes. In relation to this investigation, it is pertinent to examine models of teacher development most relevant to the trainees in the study. The three year undergraduate route to QTS appears to be modelled, at least in part, on a view that beginning teachers progress through a series of stages of development. For example, curriculum subjects are revisited in each academic year, with escalating complexity of academic standards running alongside escalating school based demands. The trainees are expected to demonstrate competence against the professional standards in each of the three years, and professional and academic demands increase year on year (see course outline provided in appendix 4).
This approach shares characteristics with Fuller and Brown’s (1975) staged model of studentteacher development where student-teachers’ concerns shift from a pre-occupation with the self to a consideration of the impact of teaching on pupils’ learning. Three stages of development are suggested, namely survival concerns, teaching situation concerns, and pupil concerns; it is in this last stage that novice teachers focus on ‘concerns about recognizing the social and emotional needs of pupils’ (Fuller & Brown, 1975, p. 37) as well as meeting individual instructional needs and demonstrating fairness to pupils. This model of teacher development suggests that novice teachers do not typically attend to pupil differences until the final stage, with their personal concerns moving outwards from ‘self’ to ‘situation’ and ‘task’ and then to ‘concerns about the pupils’ (Conway & Clark, 2003). This model has influenced subsequent studies in this area and was expanded by Furlong and Maynard (1995) who used it as a basis for making recommendations concerning the effective mentoring of trainee teachers at the time of the national policy shift towards an increase in school-based experiences in ITT.
Such approaches to mapping expectations of trainees’ experiences in school within ITT specify an escalating experience across successive placements in which the trainee gradually begins to assume greater responsibility in the role of the teacher. In PE specific terms, this may include observing practice (watching and taking notes whilst a class teacher teaches), sharing practice (working in partnership with the class teacher, taking responsibility for certain elements of the lesson) and ultimately taking full charge of the lesson. Such an approach, and the original stages conceived by Fuller and Brown, however, represent teacher development in an over simplistic manner. Trainee teachers may in fact consider all issues (such as self, teaching tasks, survival, pupils’ learning) simultaneously (Sitter & Lainer, 1982; Guillame & Rudney, 1993; Pendry, 1997) and trainee teachers at each stage of ITT may engage in more (or less) sophisticated thinking. In a study examining the development of beginning teachers,
Burn, Hagger and Mutton (2003) suggested that there is a:
prominence of the student-teachers’ concerns for pupils progress or achievement…although there was clearly some development in the studentteacher priorities…this does not mean that they were unconcerned about pupils’ learning from the start (p. 316)
the attempt to reduce the process of learning to teach to a discrete set of stages obscures not only the complexity of that process, but also the enormous variations between individuals in terms of their starting points and the ways in which their thinking develops (ibid., p. 329).
Fuller and Brown’s stages of teacher development therefore appear to take little account of within-trainee differences and neglect the importance of identity within the process of becoming a teacher. Whilst some trainee teachers may be seen to progress through a set of recognisable stages of development, the interplay between personal dispositions, pace of professional learning and degree of teacher development is therefore thought to be a highly individualised phenomenon. This is relevant in relation to primary PEITT where it would seem highly unlikely that each primary trainee will progress through a standard and linear set of stages in a uniform fashion, or enter ITT or induction year with homogenous characteristics.
It is thought that trainees embarking on the ITT process will be influenced by a range of individual life experiences and will present a range of learning needs (Morgan & Bourke, 2005; Garret & Wrench, 2007). Consequently, some primary trainees may be more enthusiastic towards PE from the outset, whilst others may have heightened concerns about teaching the subject.
It is surprising, therefore, that concerns raised relating to primary PEITT have centred on a general need to improve practice without wholesale reference to variation in individual learning needs of primary trainees. The claim by the UK’s PE professional subject associations that primary ITT should guarantee a minimum of 30 hours of PE specific training (BAALPE, CCPR, PEAUK, PEITT Network, 2005) masks individual training needs and ignores the importance of school based components of ITT. Whilst 30 hours of dedicated contact time may well enable coverage of subject content, this view takes little account of prior learning, differences in existing trainee levels of confidence or understanding and the potential for learning to take place away from the university lecture context. The following section of this chapter reviews the importance of teacher identity within teacher development and discusses how consideration of teacher identity can support the perceived need for more sophisticated approaches to primary PEITT.
Teacher identity An understanding of teacher identity is important to those wishing to develop an improved understanding of practice, particularly where structural and personal factors may be perceived to be in dynamic tension (Archer, 1996, 2000). Any social activity (in this case teaching) is thought to be dependent on the successful amalgamation of ‘self-identity’ and ‘social identity’ (Shilling, 1993) and there is potential for dissonance when an identity is working within a particular social position that is significantly at odds with the individual’s feelings, perceptions and beliefs (McDonald & Kirk, 1996). Day et al. (2006) suggest that there are unavoidable interrelationships between professional and personal identities, because overwhelming evidence shows that teaching demands significant personal investment. Day (2004) also argues that commitment to and a passion for teaching is affected by the development of a positive identity with subject, relationships and roles in order to maintain teacher self-esteem.
The concepts of ‘identity’ and ‘self’ have been previously related to teacher socialisation (Lacey, 1977; Nias, 1989; Zeichner & Gore, 1990), thought to be crucial in the formation of positive relationships and the generation of a collaborative culture within a school. Whilst a teacher’s behaviour may on one hand serve to maintain a consistency of self (Rogers, 1951), it also helps to define the cultural norm of a school. In this way, it is argued that teachers may act in ways which underline and preserve their own identity and sense of self but also in ways which are deemed acceptable within the culture of the school. Teachers are said to invest ‘self’ in their work, resulting in a merging of personal and professional identity, and in teaching behaviours which are a reinforcement of self-esteem, fulfilment or vulnerability (Nias, 1996).