Student teachers' perceptions of the importance of theory and practice

Year: 2001

Author: Lim, Kam-Ming, Tan, Ai-Girl

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Theories are constructed to give an explanation of phenomena (Stam, 2000). According to Denzin (1970), there are three functions of a theory: Permitting organization of descriptions, leading to explanation, and furnishing the basis for prediction of future events. In a preliminary study, 350 student teachers were requested to fill-out a questionnaire. They rated the importance of acquiring knowledge and skills using a 7-point scale (1: extremely not important, and 7: extremely important). The findings show that the participants regarded knowing "how to do" as more important than knowing "what they are doing" and "why they are doing it". In other words, they regarded learning skills to do something as more important than knowing the theory behind the practice. For instance, "Knowing theories on why students enjoy or not enjoy learning" (theory, M: 5.51, SD: 1.35) was scored significantly lower (t= 13.96, p < 0.0001) than "Making learning an enjoyable process for their students" (practice, M: 6.47, SD: 0.90). Implications of the study for teacher education are discussed in light of three functions of a theory. Teacher education should promote a balanced curriculum that narrows the gap between teachers’ perceptions of theory and practice.