UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What does it mean to teach? : an arts-based existential exploration with pre-service teachers Verwoord, Roselynn


Teacher education is a “significant site of adult learning” (Butterwick, 2014). It can also be a place where neo-liberal ideas about how children 'come into presence' in the world are perpetuated. Alternatively, it can be a place where an existential view is adopted with very different outcomes for both teacher candidates and the children in their care. In particular, an existential pedagogy values self-worth and takes into account the individuality of learners as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach. Using Gert Biesta’s conceptualization of teaching as existential, this study explored pre-service teachers’ beliefs about what it means to teach and pursued the following questions: 1) What are pre-service teachers’ understandings of what it means to be a teacher and to teach? 2) How are explorations of existential questions facilitated by an arts-based approach and an art exchange? 3) What possibilities might existentialism offer to pre-service teachers and teacher education programs? The analysis suggests ways in which existentialism might be enacted to the benefit of teacher candidates, teacher education, and the children within our schools. Outcomes of the study include: the importance of exploring and interrogating one’s understandings of what it means to be a teacher and to teach; the potential of existentialism to create space within teacher education for better understanding the individuality of every person; and the possibilities presented by allowing children to bring their ‘newness into the world.’

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