A comparison between the perceptions and lived experiences of the first year professional practice experience

Year: 2017

Author: Ambrosetti, Angelina

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It is well documented that the professional practice component of initial teacher education programs is highly valued by pre-service teachers and teacher educators alike. The professional experience provides the opportunity to make links between theory and practice through observation, reflection, hands on practice and professional dialoguing. Thus, the opportunities for authentic practice are crucial in the development of the next general of teachers. Despite this, not all pre-service teachers experience a positive or successful professional practice placement. Research literature cites a lack of opportunity for practice, unprofessionalism, hierarchical difficulties, and indifferent mentor-mentee relationships as reasons for an unsuccessful placement experience.

This paper specifically focuses on the first year placement and the experiences that pre-service teachers engage in. Although all placements within an initial teacher education program are equally important, the first year professional experience placement introduces the first year pre-service teacher to the school context and the role of the teacher. Generally, in the first year placement, pre-service teachers begin to develop their teaching capabilities through observation, interactions with learners and simple teaching experiences. Specifically, this paper examines what makes a first year professional experience placement successful or unsuccessful.

The research presented in this paper compares the perceptions and lived experiences of a cohort of first year pre-service teachers undertaking their first professional practice placement. Data was gathered from pre-service teachers using a series of surveys. Pre-service teachers were surveyed about their perceptions and expectations of their professional practice experience prior to undertaking the placement. After completion of the placement, pre-service teachers completed the second survey which asked them to recount their actual or 'lived' experiences during the placement. The pre and post survey investigated such aspects as professional relationships, mentoring relationships, opportunities for practice and opportunities to achieve identified goals.

The comparison between the first year pre-service teachers' perceptions and lived experiences highlights several key findings. A successful placement in this respect is one that is centred around a relationship that is friendly but professional, has open communication and time for professional dialoguing, and engages the pre-service teacher in practical opportunities.