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A neo-piagetian perspective on student teachers’ representations of the real life teaching problem: adapting instruction to individual differences among learners Newman, Lorna J.


This study was an exploratory study of how student teachers represent the real life teaching problem of adapting their instruction to individual differences among learners and how their representation changes over the course of the practicum experience. The extent to which Cases' (1985, 1991) neo-Piagetian conceptual framework may describe the development of these student teachers' ability to represent this real life teaching problem was also examined. The non-random sample consisted of 39 intermediate level student teachers who completed three sets of questionnaires prior to and during the fourth and ninth weeks of the practicum experience. Twelve faculty supervisors also completed rating forms and observations on the student teachers they supervised during the same weeks. Student teachers' responses to two questions regarding aspects of individual differences problematic for teaching prior to and during the practicum experience were rated according to the levels of problem representation derived from Case's neo-Piagetian theory of intellectual development. Faculty supervisors' rating forms and observations provided a means of assessing whether student teachers translated their representations into action. An additional variable of interest to the study included the nature of the individual differences noted by student teachers. The results suggested that student teachers' level of problem representation and description of the problem increased in complexity over the course of the practicum experience. Also, that Case's neo-Piagetian conceptual framework may provide a useful theoretical tool for describing the development of student teachers' ability to represent the individual differences teaching problem. Implications for teacher education and studies of teacher thinking were discussed. The need for clinical interviews augmented by classroom observations made by supervisors trained in a neo-Piagetian developmental perspective was emphasized for future studies. Several research questions, related to the use and further development of Case's neo-Piagetian conceptual framework in the domain of teaching, were generated.

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