Professional development of pre-service history teachers in the first semester of a two semester student teaching experience: Case study
Jenkins, Joan Annabel
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In today’s current teaching environment, challenges for teachers are multiplying and driving many teachers out of the classroom. Teacher preparation programs face new constraints as a new wave of criticisms has resulted in programs that must find ways of preparing teachers to meet the needs of a diverse student population. History teachers face additional challenges because of the ways in which the history teachers are prepared. Often the decision to complete a bachelor’s degree in history is made independently of the decision to become a teacher. The purpose of this study was to explore the motivations and perceptions of teacher candidates about their content area knowledge and about their on-going development as a teacher of history in the first semester of student teaching. The objective of this study was to chronicle the professional development of these same candidates. This study explored how four pre-service history teacher candidates and one pre-service social studies candidate perceived their experiences in the first semester of a two-semester student teaching experience. Data collection included interviews, observations and documents. Results showed that the history teacher candidates chose the field of history for love of the topic. Teacher candidates became teachers because of this content affinity along with affinity for high school. They were positively impacted by their family support. Teacher candidates expected to impact the lives of their students by providing them skills in critical thinking as well as other life skills as they taught them history. Teacher candidates faced the realities of student teaching as they engaged in classroom activities. Some were able to play an active role in molding classroom activities, while other teacher candidates played more of a supportive role. Teacher candidates all worked to create meaningful relationships with their mentor teachers, but at time were challenged by their placements. Teacher candidates all participated in education coursework, but not all participants found the coursework equally useful within their student teaching experience. History content coursework was perceived similarly. Participants expressed that history coursework – which emphasized the content they taught while student teaching – was valued the most. Despite the perceptions of teacher candidates that they had not internalized substantial information while in teacher preparation program, all the teacher candidates in the study felt confident as teachers at the end of the first semester of the student teaching experience. Two teacher candidates looked forward to trying out a career in teaching, while the remainder expressed commitment for a long-term teaching career.
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