An investigation of beginning teachers’ journeys through complex landscapes of practice
This study seeks to gain a greater understanding of the process of transition and development that secondary physical education beginning teachers undergo during their pre-service year and their first year of teaching. Such an investigation is timely in the light of fundamental government reforms of current government policy that promotes a model of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) that is located in schools rather than higher education and that perceives teaching as a craft that is best learnt as an apprentice (Gove, 2010). This shift towards employment-based routes of ITE allocates universities a marginal position, which will impact on the kind of support they can provide. The research aim is to investigate beginning teachers’ journeys through complex landscapes of practice.This longitudinal study takes an interpretive approach to investigate the journey through complex landscapes of practice of thirteen physical education beginning teachers. The qualitative methodology utilises procedures associated with Charmaz’s approach to grounded theory. Data were gathered over a two year period by way of 52 semi structured, individual interviews at four points in time, namely at the start of the pre-service programme (September 2008); after the completion of their first placement school (February 2009); at the end of their pre-service programme (June 2009); and at the end of their first year of teaching (May/June 2010). The data were analysed, coded, and categorised, and explanations of theory that emerged were grounded in the data.The findings of this study have four broad sets of implications for the learning journeys of beginning teachers. Beginning teachers need time and space to be able to distance themselves from the practicalities of the school setting, which can be overwhelming in the immediacy of their demands. Both schools and universities need a shared language, so that sameness and continuity can reside in the fact that both sites are concerned with pedagogy and with the learning process of the beginning teachers High quality, structured mentoring I support is paramount in order to ameliorate the inconsistencies that occur during the learning journey. The University’s role is key in the preparation of beginning teachers to help them reconcile their personal and professional identities of who they believe they are and who they are aspiring to become.This study highlights the need for policy makers, teacher educators and schools to develop a shared understanding of the complexity of factors that influence the professional learning of beginning teachers and highlights the importance of providing beginning teachers with a (neutral) third space where they can develop the critical capacity to negotiate the competing imperatives confronting them on their learning journey.Thus this study makes a timely and important contribution to the ongoing debate around beginning teachers’ professional development and particularly in the current policy context regarding preparation for teaching.
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