First Year Pre-service Teachers' Learning about Behaviour Management

Year: 2009

Author: Peters, Judith

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The management of student behaviour is widely recognised as one of the greatest challenges facing pre-service, beginning and experienced teachers (McCormack, 1996). Studies have found that some beginning teachers attribute their behaviour management difficulties to lack of attention to this area during their teacher education program (Australian Education Union, 2008; TTA NQT Survey, 2005, cited in Bromfield, 2006). Yet there have been few studies that focus on pre-service teachers' learning about behaviour management during their program (McNally, I'anson, Whewall and Wilson 2005; McCormack, 2006). Many studies and reports have pointed to the important role of professional experience in pre-service teachers' learning (see for example House of Representatives Standing Committee and Vocational Training, 2007; Author 2009). This study sought to address identified gaps in the field by examining first year pre-service teachers' perceptions of learning about behaviour management after their initial professional experience.

Data for the study were collected via a questionnaire administered to all first year students after their first five day program of professional experience. The professional experience program was delivered by five schools in close partnership with lecturers in the course and was intended to provide a highly structured and supportive introduction to teaching for 25 - 30 pre-service teachers in each school. The participating schools were selected for their ability to model best practice.

Analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from the questionnaire produced a number of themes and insights into students' learning about behaviour management. In the paper these are compared and contrasted with a frame-work of seven key principles of best practice developed by the MCEETYA Student Behaviour Management Project (De Jong, 2005). The analysis revealed that the pre-service teachers had learnt about many aspects that were congruent with these principles. It also revealed notable gaps in their learning which will need to be addressed in the course in future years and in the remainder of the degree if they are to become effective teachers upon graduation. These gaps were in the areas of: understanding the complex and interconnected nature of pupil behaviour and the environments in which it is constructed; applying professional judgment in responding to different students in different contexts; managing chronically disruptive students; and engaging within wider support systems. This paper presents and discusses the findings from the study and makes a number of suggestions as to how the gaps in pre-service teachers' learning might be addressed.