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An analysis of student teachers’ representations of real life teaching problems : a neo-Piagetian perspective Newman, Lorna Jane

Abstract

This study explored student teachers' level of problem representation over the course of the practicum experience in the face of instructional problems specific to the domains of teaching. The purposes of this study were: (1) to analyze the growth and development of student teachers' levels of problem representation during their practicum in the areas of adaptation of instruction to individual differences among learners and classroom/ behaviour management through an application of Case's (1991) neo-Piagetian theory of intellectual development, (2) to use these levels to compare student teachers' representations of hypothetical teaching dilemmas and their representations of their own teaching problems, and (3) to explore how student teachers represent and re-represent their teaching challenges during the practicum through the use of concept maps and reflective interviews. Eighteen elementary level student teachers and their six faculty advisors completed written and oral output measures during the practicum. Student teachers' responses were rated according to the levels of problem representation derived from Case's neo-Piagetian theory of intellectual development. Faculty advisors' ratings and observations provided a means of assessing whether student teachers translated their representations into action. Student teachers' concept map drawings and reflections about their teaching challenges provided insight into how they represented their challenges. The results verified previous research conclusions (Newman, 1992, 1993, 1994) that student teachers' level of problem representation and description of the problem increases in complexity over the course of the practicum experience. Student teachers' level of problem representation is more complex for their own teaching problems than for hypothetical case scenarios. Also, the findings supported that Case's neo-Piagetian conceptual framework does provide a useful theoretical tool for describing the development of student teachers' ability to represent classroom/ behaviour management and individual differences teaching problems. Concept maps and structured interviews provided very interesting insights into student teachers' representation of teaching challenges associated with classroom management, instructional planning, teaching, and assessment, and student needs. Implications for teacher education and future studies of teacher thinking are discussed.

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