«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
Participants placed importance on doing well in this aspect of ITT, seeing school experience as the ‘real bread and butter’ (Ria, Stage 3b) of the course. School experience was seen as ‘real world’ where the application of knowledge and theories was placed into the professional context. Periods of school experience provided trainees with significant challenges through which priorities became survival and ‘doing what I had to, just to pass’ (Adam, Stage 2a). For such trainees at these times, PE became a lower priority, even though in some cases confidence may have been derived from being an effective practitioner in this subject.
Effective teaching of the classroom priorities of English and Maths and of the maintenance of effective paper systems and records were acknowledged as the requisite route to achieving
To be honest with you, I almost didn’t come back. I had a complete mare during school experience where I ended up not completing. I had a personality clash with my class teacher and I was pulled out. I ended up going back to the school I had last year where I got on really well. I didn’t have any problems there, but I feel as though it’s dented my confidence a bit… I just had to get on with it, but it has made me worry about whether being a teacher is what I still want to do (James, Stage 3b).
Trainee teachers’ general progress in ITT was rarely straightforward, yet trainees did not readily share problems and challenges in the interviews. It was most common for trainee teachers in year 1 and 2 to describe how they were completing modules and progressing through school experience without any problems as an initial response. Researcher field notes
during interviews of year 2 trainee teachers suggest:
Perhaps it’s because I am seen as connected to the academic tutors, but the students appear to be presenting a generally positive picture of their experiences.
I can’t believe that it is all plain sailing! Try to probe deeper in subsequent interviews! (March 2006).
Such subsequent probing attempted to get beyond the trainees’ perceptions of success as ‘staying on course’ and ‘achieving the QTS standards’ and identified particular challenges
around the evidence base required and volume of academic work load:
I’m not sure whether I am a really good teacher or not, but I am ticking the boxes and seem to be doing OK. We have so much work to do and things to learn in some subjects that I just don’t have much spare time, but it’s worth it in the end (Leanne, Stage 2b).
I am glad it’s over with…don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it and the school was great. I loved being the class teacher and will miss the kids, but there was just no time for anything during block…my tutor wasn’t happy with my plans at first so I ended up having to write lesson plans for quite a while which I found frustrating because my class teacher just worked from medium term plans and notes…all I need to do now is pass my assignments and I’ll be a teacher (Jo, Stage 3b) Disposition and identity The disposition of trainee primary teachers towards PE and sport is also related to an evolving teacher identity. Teacher identity literature focuses on changes taking place in beliefs, concerns, self images and identities during ITT (Bryan, 2003; Mullholland & Wallace, 2003;
Drake et al., 2001), yet a proportion of trainees in this study appear to retain deep rooted dispositions and beliefs which are resistant to change. For such trainees, PEITT results in either an early and full commitment to the teaching of PE within the role of primary teacher, or to the avoidance of teaching PE altogether. Trainee disposition is akin to Bourdieu’s (1977) concept of habitus, the taken for granted and unnoticed state which is drawn upon without thinking in the actions that agents engage in. One global, shared habitus for the group of trainee teachers in this study was not identified, yet a range of demonstrated dispositions was seen in relation to specific patterns and trends. The dispositions discussed in interviews, and unearthed through the initial quantitative scale, had not previously been considered by the majority of trainees themselves. This supported the notion that such dispositions are generally ‘undiscussed and undisputed’ (Bourdieu, 1977, p. 167) and that many of the trainee teachers carried with them predispositions towards PE and sport (either positive, negative or ambivalent) that had been ‘taken for granted’ for some time. For trainees such as Adam, Nicola and James, a positive disposition towards sport and PE was an unquestioned part of identity; engaging with the subject and seeking opportunities to teach it appeared an obvious, unquestioned and automatic path to take. As Stones (2005, p. 88) suggests, ‘we don’t even notice that we are basing our actions upon it, it is that close to us’. Those trainees with positive dispositions in PE and sport assumed that PE was an aspect of the curriculum that they would engage with wholeheartedly as trainees and as teachers in the future and this position appeared unlikely to change throughout the ITT process. For trainees such as Kay, Amy and Fran, however, this unnoticed state was one of being negatively predisposed. A negative disposition towards PE and sport was an accepted component of personal identity and opportunities to engage with PE were not actively sought. For those for whom PE and sport carried such negative connotations, entrenched and unquestioned viewpoints prevailed. For such trainees, PE represents a possible site of tension; here is a NC subject that gives rise to negative memories and in some cases feelings of low physical self worth. There is a potential for trainees to experience dissonance (McDonald & Kirk, 1996) during ITT and in school based contexts where the teaching of PE is afforded a level of priority which contrasts with personal disposition. In such instances, a gap between ‘self identity’ and ‘social identity’ (Shilling,
1993) could conceivably lead to tension, self doubt and anxiety. Whilst trainee teachers such as James and Amy were identifiable within the extremes described above, others (sixteen of the respondents, including Julia, Leanne and Sarah) occupied a less defined space (at that moment in time) where dispositions were less polarised. This included those who were initially ambivalent towards PE and sport (e.g. Julia) in addition to those who perceived sport and PE to have some degree of relevance (e.g. Leanne). Those occupying this middle ground appeared to be most open to external influences and changes in attitudes during the ITT experience and to the influence of wider factors such as being a parent or carer or having physically active friends or family. The disposition of such trainees appeared less rigid and was a reflection of each trainee’s position in the social trajectory of ITT.
Summary Whilst PSPP and PIP data suggest a generally negative disposition towards PE and sport amongst the group of trainee primary teachers in this study, more detailed exploration of individual cases confirms a very wide range of disposition and numerous associated antecedents. Each trainee’s disposition is linked to personal experiences, with trainees being primed ‘for’ or ‘against’ the notion of becoming a teacher of primary PE at the outset of the course. Trainee teachers’ dispositions towards PE and sport (heavily influenced by prior experiences) are clearly a key influence on practice, and physical self perception (positive, negative or ambivalent) is a key influence on emerging PE teaching behaviour. This concurs with Garret and Wrench’s (2007) view that trainee primary teachers bring a range of subjectivities to the ITT context and with Locke’s (1979) notion of an ‘invisible apprenticeship’ whereby biographies and subjectivities blend to influence trainee teacher responses to the ITT process (see chapter 3).
In all cases, those disposed towards teaching PE had positive past experiences in PE or sport themselves and recent involvement as participants. The significant gender differences seen within the group suggests that male trainees are more likely to be disposed positively towards PE than females, whose own experiences appear to confirm the problems identified in the literature of a male-based emphasis within PE and sport. Those female trainees who can be identified as being positively disposed towards PE, however, articulated positive experiences in school, encouragement from family members and on-going involvement with sport as adults. Within this cohort of trainees, however, being rigidly primed for or against the notion of teaching PE is less common than being somewhat ambivalent, to remaining open to considering the possibility of teaching PE. It is this larger group of trainees, some of whom occupied an ambivalent space at the start of the ITT course, which appears most susceptible to change during the ITT process. Whilst disposition towards PE and sport primes trainees and readies them for possible action, it is experiences during lectures, within school based practice and the formal and informal expectations of the course which shape these possibilities of action. For those trainees who demonstrate a very positive disposition towards PE and sport, there are considerable risks to their progress, particularly in school settings. The risks include lack of opportunity to teach, paucity of mentoring, perception of being a subject specialist at an early stage of development and lack of learning caused by such factors. The following chapter discusses in more detail the role of ITT in shaping the possibilities of action for these and less positively disposed trainees. For some trainees, this interplay gives rise to the potential for dissonance between social and self identity and either enables or constrains the development of trainees as teachers of primary PE.
Trainee primary teacher disposition towards PE, and the ensuing impact on experiences and practices, has therefore been seen to be wide ranging, confirming and extending understanding by providing a deeper analysis of the range of dispositions (and their causes) that characterise this particular cohort of trainee primary teachers in relation to PE. These dispositions have been seen to result in context specific behaviours. The results suggest that ITT needs to provide differing opportunities for trainees with contrasting dispositions and life experiences in order for all trainees to develop as teachers of primary PE. The extent to which the ITT structure caters for this will be explored in detail in the following chapter, which scrutinises the role of the content and structure of ITT in this regard. The chapter explores in detail the possibilities of action available to the trainee teachers during ITT, highlighting significant contextual influences on trainees’ behaviour.
Introduction This chapter presents and discusses the results of data collection and analysis in relation to the
second research question:
Given the context of primary ITT, what ‘possibilities of action’ are evident to trainee primary teachers during PEITT?
The question necessitated viewing the issues under investigation from the perspective of structural elements of the ITT process. Structural elements are those features of the ITT process which are external to the trainee; they exist whether or not the trainee has particular experiences in PE and sport or not. They include the timing and content of university-based lectures, the nature of PE provision in school settings, relative priority afforded to PE in university and school curricula, and the role (and dispositions) of others within the structure of ITT. As seen in chapter 5, trainee primary teachers demonstrate a range of dispositions towards PE and sport, brought about by a wide range of life experiences. These dispositions ‘prime’ the trainees to demonstrate particular behaviours and practices, whilst various aspects of the ITT process foreground these dispositions at various times. Some trainees embrace the notion of becoming a teacher of primary PE from an early stage; others are more prone to believing strongly that the subject is best taught by others, whilst some trainees appear more susceptible to a shift in attitude during the ITT course. Whereas chapter 5 presented and discussed the results from the perspective of individual trainees, this chapter closely examines the role of the ITT structure and the possibilities of action which are shaped by such structural influences.
University-based PE Compulsory PE lectures The university context provided all trainees with an initial exposure to PE through one compulsory taught module during Year 1 of the ITT course. All respondents reportedly enjoyed the lectures, despite some expressing initial feelings of apprehension, linked to concerns over safety and personal competence. For example, Ria (Stage 1c interview) said that ‘I didn’t enjoy it at first… I thought, oh my goodness, we’re actually going to do a PE lesson and then once I was doing it I was fine’ whilst Leanne (Stage 1c) stated that ‘I really enjoyed it. It was really fun. It was really, really nice…we were all laughing and having fun- even the
ones who said they would hate it’. Sarah reiterated this view by saying:
I only heard one person out of thirty-eight complain… everyone else said it was great fun…It was absolutely brilliant… I actually found it quite fun… the bean bags and the hoops- it was really very good (Stage 1c).
For some, the experience of PE lectures in Year 1 changed their approach to the subject.
Vicky (Stage 1c) ‘hadn’t given PE a second thought before the course’ but now expressed a desire to choose PE as an elective subject for year two of the course. She explained that this
choice has been affected by positive experiences in lectures:
The course has changed my whole way of thinking. I’m doing subjects that I would never have done before. I’ve actually picked subjects that I would have avoided…and have gained in confidence from experiences (Vicky, Stage 1c).
This positive view and ensuing possibility of action were not shared by all trainees. For example, Adam criticised the content of PE lectures, suggesting that he (as someone who had studied Advanced Level PE and who was a ‘sports performer’) was not challenged