«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
The document introduces ideas through which the interface between university providers of ITT and schools are to be altered with a view to making it easier for schools to lead teacher training (DfE, 2011b, p.15), working in alliances with other schools and universities. It is argued that the school placement is one of the most important parts of any ITT route, and that the benefit trainees derive is directly related to the quality of the experience in this context; the importance of observing outstanding teaching, with opportunities for practice to be modelled is highlighted. This is of great significance to the discussion, conclusions and recommendations in chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8 of this thesis which centres on the range of trainee primary teacher experiences in PE during ITT.
Research themes Set against a backdrop of on-going policy change and repeated concerns over the standards of primary PE, the teacher education literature has suggested that socialisation into the teaching profession is affected by teachers’ perceptions, values and beliefs (e.g. O’Bryant, O’Sullivan & Raudensky, 2000; Bullough, 2010; Day & Lee, 2011; Thomson, Turner & Nietfield, 2011) and that becoming a teacher is a highly emotional experience (e.g. Malderez, Hobson, Tracey & Kerr, 2007; Schutz & Zembylas, 2009; Bloomfield, 2010; Tsouloupas, Carson, Matthews, Grawitch & Barber, 2010; Bullough & Hall-Kenyon, 2011). It has also been argued that effective student teachers have higher self-esteem, feel more positive about themselves and are free from self-doubt (Poulou, 2007; Hagger & Malmberg, 2010; Hong, 2010) whilst in general terms people are motivated to action in areas of their lives in which they are likely to experience feelings of competence and esteem (Biddle, 1997). In such a way, one would expect trainee primary teachers with positive prior experiences in sport and PE to be positively disposed towards the teaching of PE and for these teachers to show greater commitment to teaching the subject in schools. Although this explanation of teaching behaviour is helpful if not unsurprising, it does not suggest any potential for dispositions and likely teaching behaviours to change as a result of experiences during the ITT process. If anything, this suggests that only those with pre-existing and enduring positive dispositions towards PE will become effective teachers of PE in school, negating any potential for those with more ambivalence to the subject to develop practice.
This viewpoint suggests that there is limited potential for negatively disposed trainee primary teachers (in relation to PE) to become enthusiastic or knowledgeable teachers of PE. In order to provide recommendations for the improvement of primary PEITT, this viewpoint needs interrogating closely, with a foregrounding of the relationship between individual, withintrainee factors and structural elements of the ITT process. Day, Kington, Stobart and Sammons (2006) suggest a more complex and developing relationship between teachers’ sense of wellbeing and their effectiveness in the classroom, whilst Hodkinson and Hodkinson (2005) argue that social and workplace participation works in tandem with ‘personal construction’ during teacher learning. This research explores such views to examine the impact of events and experiences during ITT, considering the view that the development of trainee primary teachers’ attitudes, knowledge and motivation to teach PE arises from contact with schools, other trainees, children, and literature (Williams & Soares, 2002). The research takes into account the view that teachers’ beliefs are not only individual and personal, but also have a socio-historical dimension (Poulson, 2001; Wallace & Priestley, 2011). The literature pertaining to ITT provides a number of key concepts meriting further exploration in relation to the concerns raised within primary PE; several themes within the critical literature are pertinent to this thesis and form a framework for the literature review which is presented in the
subsequent two chapters. These themes are:
i. The changing political and curricula context of ITT and primary education and resultant structural influences on practice;
ii. Teacher development, teacher identity and knowledge as influences on practice.
Each theme has implications for the teaching of PE in primary schools and for primary PEITT, and these implications are reviewed in chapters 2 and 3.
Aims of the research This research aimed to investigate these themes in detail in relation to PE within an English Primary ITT context, in doing so identifying factors that influence trainee primary teachers’ PE teaching practices. The research aimed to identify the range of dispositions in relation to PE evident amongst a cohort of trainee primary teachers and investigate if and how these combine with ITT experiences to result in particular practices. The research tracked trainee primary teachers throughout a three year undergraduate ITT course and sought to identify the extent to which ITT constrains or enables trainee primary teachers’ development as teachers of PE. By developing a better understanding of trainee primary teachers’ experiences during the ITT process, it was hoped that recommendations for the development of primary PEITT pedagogy (and ultimately enhancing the quality of teaching and learning of primary PE in schools) would be possible.
As the research was based on a desire to generate a better understanding of how trainee primary school teachers relate to and interact with the process of primary PEITT, the thesis is an examination of the interplay between individuals (in this case the trainee teachers, tutors, peers and colleagues in school) and structures (in this case the primary PEITT process amongst the wider social milieu). Such enquiry has been a ‘quintessential focus of sociological endeavour’ (Willmott, 1999, p.1), coming about, according to Parker (2000. p.4), from ‘an intense demand for social theory in late 1960s Britain’. The work of Anthony Giddens (1979), Pierre Bourdieu (1977) and Margaret Archer (1988) has been particularly useful in designing the research with a focus on the interplay between agency and structure; their theories, particularly those of ‘structuration’ (Giddens, 1979), and ‘habitus’, ‘field’ and ‘doxa’ (Bourdieu, 1977), have provided a useful lens through which to investigate the structuredisposition-practice schema and are discussed in detail in chapter 4. The research therefore sought to expand on existing knowledge, develop a richer and more clearly contextualised understanding of the primary PEITT process in England and foster an improved understanding of trainee primary teachers and their socialisation into the teaching profession. By conducting a detailed analysis of the complex range of phenomena at large in an effort to improve understanding of trainee primary teachers’ development as teachers of PE it was hoped that the thesis would be of significant value to those charged with providing and developing ITT.
Research questions As a consequence of my own experiences in primary PEITT and a critical review of literature and policy pertaining to primary PEITT, three research questions were formulated. The questions relate to individual, within-trainee factors and structural features of primary ITT, in addition to the combination of each to impact on trainee primary teachers’ experiences in
PEITT. The research questions are:
1. What are the dispositions of trainee primary teachers in relation to PE and sport and how are these dispositions animated by the properties and processes of ITT?
2. Given the context of primary ITT, what possibilities of action are evident to trainee primary teachers during PEITT?
3. How does primary ITT currently impact on the development of trainee primary teachers as teachers of PE and how can provision be developed to better support trainee primary teachers in this regard?
Research design The research sought to investigate trainees’ experiences over the time of an ITT course and to capture trainee teacher accounts within the context of the ITT experience. The research adopted an interpretive approach and at its core was a desire to generate an understanding of ‘human meaning in social life’ (Erickson, 1986, p.119). This approach views the social processes of the world as ‘emerging’ (Burrell and Morgan, 1979) and complex (Kuhn, 2008) and focuses on the interests and purposes of people, their behaviour and a construction of the world from the participants’ perspectives (Sparkes, 1992). My own role in the generating of meaning was also a key consideration in this approach; from the outset, research design concurred with Ball’s (1990) view that ‘data are a product of the skills and imagination of the researcher and of the interface between the researcher and the researched’ (p.169).
In much the same way that Morrison (2008) argues that schools ‘shape and adapt to macroand micro-societal change, organising themselves, responding to and shaping their communities and society’ (p.22), this research viewed the process of ITT as responsive to shifts in curriculum and policy, interacting with individuals to generate collaborative understandings. Like Cassidy and Tinning, (2004), this research considered teacher socialisation as a dynamic process, orientated around the interplay between individuals, societal influences and the institutions into which they are socialised. Within this approach, trainee primary teachers have been viewed as both recipients and creators of values within a two way, shifting and fluid process, informed by a range of contextual and individualised experiences. For example, trainee teachers are able to interpret formal requirements of their course within the unique context of each school placement, in negotiation with their tutors and school based mentor. It was anticipated from the outset that such negotiation may result in different experiences for each trainee, despite the presence of standard, nationally prescribed requirements of ITT, although little evidence in primary PEITT in England existed to illuminate such a view. At the heart of the research, therefore, has been the problem of structure and agency; are trainee primary teachers free to act as they please, or are they shaped and governed by the structures of ITT and schools? Social theory has provided a set of lenses through which the phenomena under investigation have been viewed and concepts of structure, agency, practice and disposition are at the centre of the research, providing recurring reference points throughout the thesis.
Data collection was undertaken from September 2004 to June 2007, between which times the participants followed a three-year Bachelor of Arts (BA) undergraduate programme in Primary Education leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), studying at a Higher Education Institution (HEI) in the Southeast of England. The three year structure provided an opportunity to collect data over the full cycle of the ITT course, to develop a detailed understanding of the structures and processes at large, and to study individual experiences over a sustained time period. The staged approach to the research outlined below enabled investigation of ‘ways in which culture is moulded, changed and created by individuals through time’ (Hitchcock & Hughes, 1995, p.185) and recognition of the importance of pre-existing personal dispositions and trainees’ experiences throughout the ITT experience. The research was undertaken in four stages: Stage 1 research investigated dispositions of trainee primary teachers towards PE and sport, identifying patterns and trends amongst a large group of initial respondents at the outset of the ITT course. At this stage, eighty three participants completed a written physical selfperception profile and ‘perceived importance of sport’ scale. Twenty four trainees subsequently took part in semi structured group interviews and fifteen of these were also interviewed individually. Stage 1 research also included the collection and review of contextual data in the form of course handbooks, assessment outlines and subject audits. A researcher diary was maintained from the outset of the study and field notes were collected to inform subsequent analysis and interpretation of data.
In Stage 2a, fourteen of the trainees were interviewed again at the start of their second year of studying, with a view to further exploring themes that emerged from Stage 1 data. This series of interviews centred on the construction of biographical data to develop ‘an understanding of respondents and their actions by examining their life (or part of their life) story’ (Birley & Moreland 1998, p. 37). The interviews in Stage 2 also focused upon trainee teacher experiences during ITT, both within university and school placements. Six trainees continued in the investigation at Stage 2b, with further interviews taking place towards the end of the Year 2 course. In Stage 3a, eight of the trainees were interviewed once more at the start of their final year of ITT, with a particular focus placed on testing out emerging findings and identifying key features of the ITT experience. Stage 3b interviews, which took place towards the end of that academic year (seven participants) enabled a confirmation and summary of findings, sought respondent validation and further comment and concluded the trainees’ individual contribution to the study. This sample size enabled an in depth focus on individual case studies. In Stage 4, the emerging findings were presented (in writing, by email) to all 83 of the Stage 1a respondents to request feedback and comment. Twenty six written responses were received. As a consequence of respondent feedback, the findings were refined and presented one year later to a cohort of final stage trainees at a different institution. The feedback received (120 responses) was considered when finalising the results, particularly in shaping the typology of trainee primary teachers in relation to PE. This was considered to be particularly important in order to confirm the accuracy and authenticity of the findings.