Reimagining learning to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic: Exploring teacher professional identity formation in online teacher placements

Year: 2021

Author: Dang, Kim Anh

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Teacher placement is a crucial and indispensable component in any initial teacher education (ITE) program, where pre-service teachers engage in school activities and develop a teacher professional identity. In Australia, preservice teachers must meet placement requirements in order to graduate from ITE programs. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools in Australia and across the world to turn to remote online learning, moving away from the traditional face-to-face classes and ‘normal’ school activities. The unprecedented situation has put pressures on ITE programs and final year pre-service teachers to secure a school placement. Emergent work has been done to assess the impact of online learning for students, especially disadvantaged vulnerable students (Clinton, 2020). Clinton (2020) emphasises that support and professional learning for in-service and pre-service teachers is essential. However, very little is known empirically about how pre-service teachers learn to teach during online teacher placements during this major upheaval. Adopting a case-study approach, the study reported in this paper explores the professional learning of two preservice teachers during a 4-week online placement in August-September 2020 at two schools in Victoria, Australia. This study adopts Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural theory of learning, which acknowledges the role of social interactions in professional identity development and draws on research on teacher identity. Data collected include pre-placement online focus-group discussions, online posts in a closed Facebook group during placement, and in-depth post-placement individual interviews with the preservice teachers. Preliminary findings revealed how the preservice teachers engaged in a process of reconceptualising learning and teaching during online placement whilst satisfactorily developing their identity as becoming teachers, despite initial nervousness and anxiety from the challenges of teaching online and supporting students during the pandemic. For example, the pre-service teachers reconceptualised their views and strategies to build relationships and engage with students in the online space. Findings have implications for research on professional learning and support for pre-service teachers in online placement and during major upheavals like the COVID-19 pandemic. ReferencesClinton, J. (2020). Supporting Vulnerable Children in the Face of a Pandemic: A paper prepared for the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment. Centre for Program Evaluation, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne.Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.