From "Too little too late" to "This is the best part": Students’ perceptions of changes to the practicum placement in teaching

Year: 2001

Author: Brandenberg, Robyn, Ryan, Janette

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Many educators have commented upon the lack of research into the successful operation of work-based learning programs within courses of tertiary study. There has been a long tradition of including school-based practical placements ('the practicum') into preservice teacher education courses. The length of these practicum placements is generally prescribed by teacher education accreditation bodies, but the organisation and timing of these experiences is determined by individual universities. This paper reports on a pilot study into the practicum that arose from a review of a preservice teacher education course at a regional university that, among other issues, investigated students’ views on the organisation of the practicum. Students reported strong views about this aspect of the program and these views were responded to in the re-design of the course, through the introduction of a practicum placement early in the course. The new intake of students was invited to evaluate the course, to measure whether and how well the university had met the needs that the previous students had identified. The students’ responses outlined a range of benefits that relate to relationships between the various stakeholders involved in the practicum, as well as issues such as commitment to the course and potential impacts on retention patterns. The students’ views have encouraged us to shift our thinking away from a focus on issues such as the structure, organisation and timing of the practicum, to a more fundamental questioning of the tenets underpinning current practicum programmes. They have also prompted us to re-frame our own views of what constitutes effective learning for student teachers during the practicum experience.