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Exploring the complexities of the practicum : case studies of two school advisors Chin, Peter M.K.

Abstract

This study investigates how school advisors, in a secondary-school science context, conceive of and enact their roles in working with student teachers. It describes the interactions between school advisors and student teachers in relation to their personal conceptions of teaching, learning, and the process of learning to teach. The study provides a better understanding of the practicum setting with particular attention to the school advisor's perspective. Detail-rich cases highlight a range of issues for school advisors as they enact their responsibilities in attending to the student teachers' learning. These cases poignantly depict the complexities of the school advisor/student teacher dynamic and the various tensions that arise when conflicts emerge as the practicum unfolds. There are three questions that guide this study: (1) How do teachers perceive their roles as school advisors?; (2) How do teachers enact their roles as school advisors, and what are the foci of the school advisors' work with student teachers?; and (3) How do student teachers perceive the role of the school advisors? The practicum is a context in which one person assists the other in learning (to teach) and for this reason the conceptual framework used for data analysis is a curriculum perspective. Two levels of curriculum are discussed; level one of the curriculum framework is meeting the needs of the students while level two is meeting the needs of the student teacher. Both levels must be attended to throughout the teaching practicum. Five thematic areas were identified: (a) the student teachers' learning, (b) the working relationship, (c) experiences outside of the classroom, (d) lesson planning, and (e) classroom management. This study makes a significant contribution to the research literature on teacher education. First, it focuses upon the school advisor's role within the practicum. Second, one of the two case studies that deteriorated to the point where a change of venues was in order, serves as a rare example of a less-than-ideal practicum experience. Third, the conceptual framework of regarding the practicum as curriculum provides a new perspective for gaining insights into the complexities of learning to teach.

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