«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
The view that trainees can shift across the categories of the typology where conditions allow can be tested in this regard; where ITT has failed to impact on some trainees, on-going opportunities for development may present themselves in day to day experiences in school or through structured professional development. If wholesale improvement to the practice in primary PE is to be affected, although ITT is significant in relation to beginning teachers, it is on-going professional development of all those within the primary school workforce which offers potential for widespread impact and for the majority of staff to become committed class teachers. Those charged with supporting the development of qualified teachers may therefore also wish to consider changes to structures in order to manipulate the position of the typological dial.
Personal learning and development through the study In addition to developing a deeper understanding of primary PEITT and trainee teachers’ learning needs, this research has been the catalyst in personal development from being a PE practitioner to active researcher. At the outset of the research I was a relatively inexperienced teacher educator, attempting to make sense of observed phenomenon in order to improve my own practice within ITT. The results of the investigation have enabled me to better understand the views of other people in this context and to consider why dispositions and practices pertaining to PE may contrast with my own. In planning and carrying out the research I necessarily considered a wide range of philosophical positions and developed a better understanding of the processes through which individual practice is shaped by structures.
Finally, I have learnt that the research process does not necessarily take place in a straightforward or linear fashion. I understand that the ‘search for truth, or truths’ is characterised by complexity and necessitates a range of challenging methodological decisions.
Through designing and carrying out this research I am now better able to view real world problems and to consider ways through which an improved understanding of phenomena can be developed and applied.
Summary This chapter has summarised the key findings of the research, which are centred on how trainee teacher dispositions and structures of ITT combine to produce a range of possible practices for the trainees in the study. The school based components of ITT play a particularly important role in providing an ‘action context’ within which dispositions and structures interact. The practices are also the result of the situational interactional context and the trainee teachers’ role within a wider professional network – the role of class teachers and mentors in school in modelling practice has been identified as a significant factor in shaping trainee teacher practices in this regard. Within this cohort of trainee primary teachers it has been possible to identify a range of dispositions and ensuing practices which could be classified according to such characteristics. All trainee teachers in this investigation appeared more or less likely to engage with PE teaching, to resist strategic compliance and to develop their own actions independently of constraining contextual factors. The interplay between structural influences on experiences during ITT and dispositions results in a wide range of potential practices by trainee teachers. These ranged from enthusiastic teaching to an entrenched and legitimised avoidance of teaching PE altogether. For many of the trainees within this investigation, primary ITT has been seen to have a constraining influence with regards to PE.
PE is generally characterised as having low priority and status within the framework of the primary ITT curriculum. This low status is, significantly, reflected in observed practices in school whereby PE was rarely taught with regularity or on-going commitment by class teachers. The perception that PE is best taught by specialist others was also compounded by the allocation of PPA time during curricula PE, a direct consequence of the workforce remodelling agenda which impacted on teachers’ working patters during this investigation. Of greatest priority for the trainee teachers was satisfactory completion of school experience, being able to move on to the next stage and eventually become a qualified teacher. It was clear that this accession to QTS was taking place with little or no planned or structured in-school reference to PE. This investigation has highlighted a range of factors which either constrain or enable trainee primary teachers’ practice in PE during the ITT process. The resulting development of teacher knowledge and behaviour has been seen to include a variety of possibilities which in turn suggest significant implications for those charged with developing teachers and the subject of PE. In its current form, it appears unlikely that the quality of PE in primary schools will be raised through a model of ITT that serves to perpetuate existing models of practice and which is characterised by a low status being afforded to the subject.
For this to change for the better, the status of PE in the primary school curriculum and in ITT itself should be raised. This necessitates a significant overhaul of current ITT policy and of the national curriculum itself. However, a more significant change needs to be made to the processes within whatever time allocation can be secured; most pressingly, ITT processes in relation to primary PE should include a closer relationship between university taught lectures and school based practice centred on greater opportunities for mentored practical application in a school setting.
This chapter has also recommended a number of changes to the ITT process in order to support trainee primary teacher development in PE. Such recommendations have been made with the aim of improving practice and breaking the cycle through which poor practice has seemingly been reinforced over a considerable time period. The opportunity for such a change to practice is not as simple as arguing for the specialist teaching of primary PE or for an increase in time allocations for the subject; the greatest potential for change has been seen to lie within the practices of the majority of trainee primary teachers who can, it is argued, be enabled, through a carefully restructured and differentiated ITT experience, to become committed class teachers.
The present government focus on increasing the role of schools within ITT raises significant concerns in relation to these findings, although these could also be viewed as considerable opportunities for developing practice. Whilst the content of the primary national curriculum is under review and the role of schools as leaders of ITT ‘alliances’ is being developed, now is a key moment in the history of primary PEITT. Crucially, an increased and adequately supported focus on the development of trainee teachers in PE in school settings, running in parallel to the re-shaping of the primary PE curriculum, creates a new structure within which university and school partners can construct a process through which more trainees can become committed class teachers of PE. It is crucial that the dual influence of structure and disposition is acknowledged and embraced within this newly defined ITT experience.
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