Entering initial teacher education: The student transition experience from a practice theory perspective

Year: 2016

Author: Boyle, Tess, Mahon, Kathleen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For many students entering initial teacher education, the university is a foreign landscape and the experience can be quite daunting. Whether students transition into university from school, the workplace, a full-time parenting situation, or from some other place or space, they most certainly encounter unfamiliar arrangements that they must learn to manage in order for their transition to be a positive experience. They have to negotiate (and perhaps even contest) new cultural-discursive arrangements – for example, new professional discourses, academic language, discipline-specific jargon and symbols; new material-economic arrangements – such as timetables and schedules, online learning platforms, assessment tasks, ranking systems, fee structures, classes, and information technologies; and new social-political arrangements – teacher-student relationships, and various hierarchies and solidarities within the university. These different kinds of arrangements form the practice architectures (Kemmis et al., 2014) of their practices (as students), shaping and being shaped by what the students say, what they do, and how the students relate to others and their environment. In this presentation we will argue that if we (teacher educators) are to understand and support students’ successful transitions into university, we need to take into account the ways in which students’ practices are enabled and constrained by the practice architectures of initial teacher education. Further, we need to identify and appreciate the role of the ‘transitions capital’ (Boyle & Petriwskyj, 2014) students bring with them into the university landscape, and upon which they draw in their negotiation of, and response to, key practice architectures. We will make this case by discussing a recent inquiry into students’ experiences of their transition into an initial teacher education course at a particular Australian university. Analysis of 172 student surveys and 20 student interviews through a theory of practice architectures lens (see Kemmis et al. 2014) highlighted a range of salient practice architectures and myriad ways in which these architectures impacted on students’ practices. The analysis also revealed that different practice architectures affected the students’ practices differently (what was constraining for some students, for example, was enabling for others), and that students developed multiple and contrasting strategies for managing their transitions experiences. Using empirical examples from the inquiry, we will discuss these findings and their implications for teacher education praxis, suggesting how current initial teacher education practice might be transformed so that students transition more successfully into university courses.ReferencesBoyle, T., & Petriwskyj, A. (2014). Transitions to school: Reframing professional relationships. Early Years: An International Journal of Research and Development 34(4), 392-404. doi:10.1080/09575146.2014.953042Kemmis, S., Wilkinson, J., Edwards-Groves, C., Hardy, I., Grootenboer, P., & Bristol, L. (2014). Changing practices, changing education. Singapore: Springer.