n African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education - Bridging the Theory–Practice Divide : Life Sciences Student Teachers’ Perceptions of Teaching in Communities of Practice at a Teaching School - research

Volume 23 Number 3
  • ISSN : 1811-7295
  • E-ISSN: 2469-7656
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This paper examines student teachers’ perceptions of their professional development while engaging in work-integrated learning at a teaching school in South Africa. Teacher educators often assume that practical aspects of pre-service education will be dealt with when student teachers are attached to schools for several weeks. However, the literature reports that such school experience is often substandard. This research surveyed student teachers’ experiences in a teaching school providing a community of practice for student teachers. The theoretical framework underlying this study is the zone of proximal teacher development. Student teachers were placed in situations where they experienced prolepsis (expecting them to know more than they actually do). Student teachers had to plan lessons in groups and deliver the lessons to Life Sciences learners at the teaching school. Afterwards they attended a reflection session. Thirty-nine student teachers were part of the research over a two-year period. The data were obtained through individual interviews, focus group interviews, reflection sessions, a questionnaire and student reflection sheets. The data were coded inductively, arranged in categories which were collapsed into sub-themes. The sub-themes from each data source were triangulated to obtain seven main themes. Student teachers considered the teaching school approach very beneficial to their development of science subject knowledge, pedagogy, the use of scientific inquiry strategies and their application of pedagogical theory. The learners at the school, through their inquisitiveness, offered opportunities for prolepsis to take place. The community of practice that developed within groups of student teachers was seen as very supportive.

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