Supporting practicum matters: Understanding pre-service teachers’ non-productive coping with professional practice

Year: 2018

Author: Wilson, Anat, Lemon, Narelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Professional experience and school-based practicum offered to Pre-Service Teachers (PSTs) can cause high levels of stress and anxiety, known to be a key hindering factor (Danyluk, 2013; Grant, 1992; Gutierrez et al., 2016; Hart, 1987; MacDonald, 1993; Mahmoudia, 2016; Miller & Fraser, 2000; Morton et al., 1997; Murray-Harvey et al., 2000; Sumsion, 1998; Vickery & Gray, 2014). Rigorous certification requirements unique to Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programs contribute to multiple stressors on PSTs (Brown, 2017). Issues concerning workload, authority, time management, financial concerns and managing classroom behaviour are some of the known stress factors PSTs experience (Gutierrez et al., 2016; Knight, Balati, Haase & Henderson, 2010). Developing positive and productive coping strategies is essential for managing the constantly changing cognitive and behavioural demands, which often exceed the resources available to individuals (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). PSTs are known to use an array of personal, professional, social and institutional coping strategies (MacDonald, 1993; Murray-Harvey et al., 2000). However, an examination of PSTs non-productive dysfunctional coping strategies (Frydenberd, Eacott & Clarck, 2008) in relation to issues of self-efficacy and self-concept, have not yet been conducted. The research reported in this presentation contributes to addressing this gap.
This presentation reports on a mixed method study that examined PSTs’ common underlying beliefs associated with negative non-productive coping strategies. Participants were students enrolled in ITE programs at Swinburne University of Technology in the Early Years, Primary and Secondary educational settings and who self-identified to have experienced difficulties in coping on professional placement. Following university ethics approval, those who opted-in to the research were invited to complete an online anonymous questionnaire. The first section of the questionnaire included the Coping Scale for Adults – second edition (CSA-II), a valid instrument that measures the usage and helpfulness of coping strategies developed by Erica Frydenberg and Ramon Lewis (ACER Press, 2014). Despite a growing body of literature that supports its validity (Frydenberg & Lewis, 2002), the CSA-II has not been previously used to research PSTs coping with practicum. The second part of the questionnaire included five open-ended questions, inviting participants to comment on their beliefs, thoughts, emotions and experiences in relation to difficulties they have had coping with practicum. In the presentation, findings from the mixed method analysis will be shared and the basis for creating a purposeful educational intervention that could potentially alleviate some stress associated with practicum will be explained.