Co-teaching triads: Transforming professional experience in an ever-changing/never-changing profession

Year: 2016

Author: Grimmett, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this era of increased government scrutiny around teacher preparation and readiness for the profession (TEMAG, 2014), the professional experience (or practicum) component of initial teacher education courses is widely acknowledged as being a valuable, yet often problematic factor in successful preparation (White & Forgasz, 2016). However, finding more effective ways to organise professional experience is not merely a logistical and compliance-driven imperative for teacher education institutions, but is also a moral imperative for enhancing the developmental opportunities for pre-service teachers as they prepare to enter an ever-changing (yet in some ways never-changing) profession.In this paper, I will discuss the introduction of a ‘co-teaching triad’ approach to professional experience for selected cohorts in the Faculty of Education, Monash University. In this approach, two pre-service teachers and a mentor teacher collaboratively co-plan, co-teach and co-evaluate the classroom learning program (Goodnough, Osmond, Dibbon, Glassman, & Stevens, 2009), and are also encouraged to participate in co-generative dialogue discussions about their shared experiences (Roth & Tobin, 2002). In particular, this paper will focus on the deliberate efforts made to disrupt ‘old’ ways of thinking and acting about ‘practicum’ in order to transform participants’ understandings and enactment of professional experience, and the successes and challenges encountered in these efforts.The program has currently operated for three semesters, involving 210 pre-service teachers and approximately 65 mentor teachers in eight primary schools. Data for this research has been collected through online surveys of both mentors and pre-service teachers, interviews with volunteer pre-service teachers and focus group interviews with mentor teachers at three of the schools.By considering ‘co-teaching triads’ as a cultural-historical practice aimed at producing development of all participants in the classroom, the data analysis reveals a complex interrelationship of affordances and constraints for creating a transformation of ‘professional experience’. This occurs through the interweaving of both the new and old ideas, expectations, ways of acting, and institutional structures; that are brought to the new practice by all participants. Transformation therefore involves navigating tensions between the known and the unknown, past traditions and future demands, unexamined habits and consciously reimagined possibilities; all of which contain both strengths and weaknesses.Mapping the factors at play in this complex interrelationship provides further understanding of the successes and challenges encountered in implementing a new approach to professional experience, and can potentially be used to support future transformations of this crucial aspect of teacher education.