«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
Woods et al., 1997; Halpin, Moore, Edwards, George & Jones, 2000; Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009), leading to altered practices. As discussed, teachers respond to changing circumstances and contexts with multiple and fragmented identities (Stronach, Corbin, McNamara, Stark & Warne, 2002; Akkerman & Meijer, 2011; Day, 2011) and the resulting process is seen as a continual cycle of ‘becoming’, which can result in tensions and dissonances across the career cycle (Britzman, 2003; Chong, Low & Goh, 2011). The teaching self is an increasingly complex project of daily living (Holstein & Gubrium, 2000), dependent upon both the individuals involved and the contexts in which they live. This may be particularly relevant to trainee teacher identity in relation to the teaching of PE whereby tensions can be created by changes to national policy, pressures relating to the priority of other subjects, as well as the influence of school based professionals with whom trainees interact.
Personal and contextual variables are considered to be key influencing factors within the teacher socialisation process (Lacey, 1977; Jordell, 1987; Zeichner & Gore, 1990; Knoblauch & Hoy, 2008; Schepens, Aelterman & Vlerick, 2009; Guoa, Kaderavek, Piasta, Justice & McGinty, 2011). Trainee teachers bring a range of pre-conceived ideas and concepts, many of which are unexamined and unarticulated, to ITT (Desforges, 1995; Richardson, 1997;
Bullough & Gitlin, 1995; Roberts, 2009; Mansfield & Volet, 2010). These have been formed through what Lortie (1975) calls an ‘apprenticeship of observation’ constituted by experiences in schools as pupils. This ‘apprenticeship’ is said to work as a constraining influence on learning to teach (Feiman-Nemser & Buchmann, 1985; Bullough & Gitlin, 1995; CurtnerSmith, Hastie & Kinchin, 2008; Rusznyak, 2009), and/or is a rich resource for exploration during ITT (Woods & Sikes, 1987; Sikes & Troyna, 1991; Collay, 1998; Brown & McNamara, 2011). Biographies and subjectivities blend with developing practice to create what has been termed an ‘invisible apprenticeship’ (Locke, 1979). This influences a trainee teacher’s response to the ITT process and perceptions of teaching in general.
The impact of ITT The role of identity within teacher development is therefore central to the research aims and questions posed in this thesis. The relationship between teacher agency and the structures of education is said to provide space within which teachers mobilize a ‘complex of occasional identities in response to shifting contexts’ (Stronach et al., 2002, p. 117). The plurality of roles (Sachs, 2003a) expected of primary teachers within a policy and practice context which is continually shifting and which has increasingly centred on performance and standards has resulted in a number of tensions and dilemmas (Day,2000). These tensions may include dissonance where personal and professional selves are at odds with the requirements of the role (Pearce & Morrison, 2011) and some have highlighted deep, painful and profound conflicts felt during the process of becoming a teacher (Bullough, 2005).
The extent to which ITT impacts on the development of teacher identity is a core aspect of the experience of being a trainee teacher (Malderez et al., 2007) and ITT programmes should support trainees to find the ‘teacher within’, necessitating that trainees ‘be prepared for and remain open to the possibilities of personal change’ (ibid, p. 239). The extent to which trainee primary teachers are ready to become teachers of PE is unclear, although the PE literature suggests that many are predisposed against this from the outset, and that ITT does little to encourage positive change in this regard. Some trainees, such as those with positive prior experiences in PE and physical activity, may become committed or effective teachers of PE through ‘actualising an already identified potential’ whilst, others may require a greater ‘transformation of self’ for this to happen (ibid, p. 230). Given the issues regarding primary teachers and PE, the potential for transformation of trainees with low levels of confidence in PE to become enthusiastic, knowledgeable and confident teachers of the subject is a significant concern of this investigation and for the practical application of findings to improve practice.
The potential for change in teacher identity during PEITT is, however, a contested area. Some believe that personal values and beliefs in relation to PE are highly resistant to change (Rolfe,
2001) whilst others feel that trainee teachers can develop personal pedagogies through the influence of university-based courses (Nettle, 1998). Such views suggest that ITT can provide opportunities for trainee teachers to form a positive teaching identity (Reves & Medgyes, 1994; Danielewicz, 2001; Johnson, 2003; Day, Kington, Gu, Sammons & Stobart, 2005;
Marble, 1997; Rust, 1999), an outcome that seems relevant to those trainee teachers who may not have a pre-existing positive disposition towards PE. Little, however, is known regarding the subject specific potential for such change during the primary ITT process. It is conceivable too that a general ‘positive teaching identity’ does not include any reference to the teaching of PE, where the subject may be deemed to be relatively unimportant or where this coincides with a trainee’s low level of confidence or prior experience.
There is agreement that the ITT process should seek to expose, analyse and reconstruct prior positions, discourses and beliefs in order to promote professional growth in new teachers (Kagan, 1992). Such positions, discourses and beliefs influence the development of professional practice amongst trainee teachers (Knowles, 1992) and, together with prior conceptions and expectations about ITT itself, impact on teachers’ subsequent development (Hollingsworth, 1989; Wideen, Mayer-Smith & Moon,1998). Primary ITT is currently assumed to have limited impact on primary teachers’ socialisation into the subject of PE, largely owing to a lack of time devoted to the subject, yet it would appear that certain factors within ITT have the potential to reinforce attitudes amongst those trainees who begin with a positive disposition as well as change the beliefs of those who do not. Changing beliefs in ITT is thought to necessitate the presentation of alternative concepts of the subject. Such alternative experiences should include practical, participatory experiences during universitybased lectures and the observation and supported teaching of PE lessons in schools by trainees (Clarke & Hubball, 2001; Faucette, Nugent, Sallis & McKenzie, 2002; Xiang et al., 2002).
The exploration of personal biographies and use of critical analysis of practice are also said to be features of ITT with the potential for supporting a transformation in negative dispositions (Schempp & Graber, 1992: Capel, 2005). Reflection on personal experiences and the implication of this on practice appears to be important, given that trainee teachers are thought to bring a range of subjectivities, borne out of prior and personal experiences (Garret & Wrench, 2007) to the primary PEITT context.
Curtner-Smith (1998) identifies the features of ITT most likely to influence the philosophies of pre-service primary teachers. These are a shared technical culture amongst the university lecturing faculty, innovative tendencies, practices based on teacher effectiveness research and the encouragement of reflective practice. Curtner-Smith concurs with Lacey’s much earlier (1977) contention that, in the absence of such features, workplace factors were prone to lead to a ‘strategic compliance’ within the status quo of practice. The increasing focus on school based ITT programmes would seem, however, to reduce the possibilities of applying CurtnerSmith’s conditions within the English ITT context. Bramald, Hardman, Leat and McManus (1994) confirm the importance of trainee teachers having opportunities to critically examine their own beliefs and practice, without which they are thought likely to adopt practices they remember experiencing themselves at school. This is particularly worrying if it results in some primary teachers perpetuating poor practice, or in an avoidance of teaching the subject altogether.
The extent to which primary ITT does play a transformatory role in support of trainees with negative dispositions towards PE in England today is unclear. It is assumed that such attitudes and beliefs in relation to PE are very difficult to alter and that ITT to date has had relatively little impact on trainee teachers in this regard (Evans, 1992; Placek, Dodds, Doolittle, Portman, Ratliffe & Pinkman, 1995; Evans, Penney & Davies, 1996; 1996; Green, 1998;
Curtner-Smith, 1999). Some believe that personal values and beliefs about teaching are highly resistant to any real change and may even become elaborated during ITT (Tabachnick & Zeichner, 1984; Zeichner & Liston, 1987). However, Nettle (1998) suggests that stability and change in the beliefs of trainee teachers is possible during ITT whilst Bramald, Hardman and Leat (1995) argue that the experience of university-based courses could have a major impact on shaping trainees’ attitudes and developing practice. Broader studies relating to ITT (Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Weinstein, 1990) suggest that prior beliefs of trainee teachers need to be modified in order for professional development to take place whilst key features of programmes must include direct experience with children and the presence of good teaching role models. This latter point is particularly significant in England where the school-based model of training discussed in chapter 2 is set to expand, with the role of class teacher as mentor being increasingly significant in influencing trainee teacher development (Bennett & Carre´, 1993; Dunne & Dunne, 1993; Guillaume & Rudney, 1993; Whitehead & Menter, 1996).
Such viewpoints suggest that trainee teachers should be asked to reflect on their own biographies as part of the ITT process, either through the use of life history methods, selfstudy, or narrative and biographical inquiry (Goodson, 1992; Whitehead, 2000;
Gudmunsdottir, 2001). The importance of reflective practice is widely supported by literature concerning the ‘teaching self’ (Carter & Doyle, 1996; Clandinin & Connelly, 1995; Cole &
Knowles, 2000; Gudmunsdottir, 2001; Whitehead, 1989, 1999), suggesting that:
the extent to which student teachers are reflexively oriented toward development of self as teacher depends on person-context relationships, that is, the culture of teaching within which prospective teachers learn to teach (Clark & Conway, 2003, p. 478).
It is therefore valid to explore trainee teachers’ personal meaning making in the context of biography and amidst the milieu of school practice, in an attempt to understand trainee primary teachers’ experiences of learning to teach primary PE. Teacher educators should ‘not be too hasty in attempting to shorten or abort trainee teachers’ period of inward focus’ (Kagan,1992, p.155), and ITT programmes should ‘attempt to guide novices through biographical histories’ (ibid. p.163). In such approaches, the emphasis is on reflective practice, the onus on trainee teachers considering how their own life histories influence the manner in which they engage with pupils (Delpit, 1995; Florio-Ruane & deTar, 2001). Whilst such individual reflection, consideration of personal biography and potential reconstruction of beliefs can take place through informal experiences, a significant concern is whether the limited time afforded to PE within most primary ITT courses can provide sufficient opportunities for trainee teachers to do so in relation to PE. It is possible that a failure to do this could have negative consequences on the teaching of PE in primary schools.