Year: 1991

Author: Johnston, Sue

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It was four weeks since I had first talked with Roger and since I walked through the bare corridors of the Mid-West American city school with its large majority of African American students. On my most recent visit, our conversation had taken a surprising turn. Roger was African American himself - in his mid-twenties, athletic and personable, wearing a tie on all the occasions I saw him. He was a student teacher at the school, in his final practice teaching experience before graduation and I was a researcher, an outsider with whom Roger could speak openly and honestly, though who had no direct influence on his practice teaching experience. I spoke with him on three occasions over a four week period, each conversation lasting 30 to 45 minutes, asking open-ended questions aimed at probing his practical knowledge of teaching. The interviews formed part of a larger study which involved interviews with six student teachers at intervals during their practice teaching experience. Each student teacher was interviewed three or four times in interviews of 25 to 45 minutes each. I had approached the student teachers and each had agreed to be involved in the project. Several were at a school selected for its convenience to the University and another school was selected to provide a direct contrast with this inner city school. The interviews were open-ended and informal, focusing on the student teachers' views about teaching and about the processes of learning and reflection in which they engaged during the practicum. Some common questions were used to ascertain how the student teachers saw themselves as teachers and how they perceived the knowledge which guided their practice. Probing was used to follow up the particular experiences and ideas of each of the student teachers. All of the interviews were audio-taped and later transcribed. During visits to the classrooms where the interviews took place, informal observations were made and these helped to place the conversations with the student teachers within the context where their practicum was occurring. There was a constant comparison of data to help identify issues within the experiences of the student teachers and to use the issues identified with one of the student teachers to probe the experiences of others. The study within the United States was also informed by a similar study with student teachers in which I had previously participated in Australia. In this paper, direct reference is made to only two of the student teachers interviewed. In one case, the co-operating teacher was also interviewed to gather her ideas about her role.