Beginning teachers: Survival at the expense of intelligent action

Year: 1994

Author: Kane, Ruth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In recent years there has been controversy concerning the contribution of the formal, on-campus component of preservice teacher education (propositional knowledge) to learning to teach effectively (intelligent practice). It is commonly said that "beginning teachers learn from experience", yet how this learning occurs has proven difficult to isolate and articulate. It is unclear to what degree the propositional knowledge informs (or is informed by) the developing practical or procedural knowledge of the beginning teacher, if at all.

This paper reports on an investigation into the genesis and development of the knowledge base of beginning teachers, through investigation of the view that propositional knowledge becomes procedural knowledge through authentic practice.

Two teachers participate in a longitudinal study tracing the development of their practical knowledge through preservice teacher education and their first year of teaching. The study suggests that the practical experiences of preservice are artificial and inadequate, resulting in neophytes cloning the overt behaviours of "more knowledgeable others". Confused by the difficulties of relating theory to practice, the first year teachers remain locked into apprenticeships of observation and by-pass their pedagogical knowledge for less valid and less effective alternatives which they perceive will ensure survival.

The writer proposes that if the goal of teacher education is to prepare intelligent practitioners who actively engage in "knowledge transforming" in their classrooms, then they must be provided with the opportunities to interpret, model, reflect upon, and engage in critical discourse on, the thinking and intentions which drive intelligent practice.