Bringing Professional Experience to the Rural University Classroom: Authentic Learning and Engagement with Communities

Year: 2007

Author: Lord, Alison, McFarland, Laura

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study examined the experiences of 24 teacher education students as a result of participating in a weekly community play session on a rural University campus. Students completed a questionnaire at the beginning of the semester and at the end of semester and were asked about confidence levels in various aspects of infant/toddler teaching skills, and how helpful, valuable, and challenging different aspects of play sessions were. Quantitative results indicated that students rated play session interactions with parents as being least helpful in preparation for practicum and least valuable in general, but indicated they gained most in the area of interactions with parents. Students increased in confidence levels in most areas of teaching skills at the end of the semester, except in parent-interaction. The major challenge cited was the high number of university students compared to children. Qualitative themes emerging included issues related to environments and student learning and practice. Implications for creating authentic practical experiences related to parent interactions and relationship building in teacher education programs is discussed.