Practicum as a praticipatory praxis?

Year: 2012

Author: Barbutiu, Sirkku Männikkö, Rorrison, Doreen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Our research on student teachers' practicum experiences suggests that the mentoring dialogue (Hennissen et al., 2008) between the student teacher, mentoring teacher at school and the teacher educator at the teacher education institution does not always support the development of student teachers but leaves the central experiences during the practicum unprocessed. Thus, teacher education is missing an important opportunity to enhance learning of the student teachers.
Recent developments in teacher education imply that practicum could again be considered as a central part of the teacher education (practicum turn). The latest reform (2011) in teacher education in Sweden changes the position of practicum from a fragmented part of all courses into a separate unified entity. Practicum architecture (Kemmis & Grootenboer, 2008) includes now features that are considered as supportive and developmental to the practicum experience of student teachers. The mentoring dialogue now includes student teacher, mentor teacher at school and the teacher educator. Mentoring dialogue has an assessment purpose but it should also be developmental in nature and give student teacher guidance during the practicum. Mentoring teachers are to be trained in mentoring through a specific course which should add into the participatory and empowering dimension of practicum as a tool for school development. Another feature that has been introduced is the digital portfolio which is student teacher's tool for documentation and reflection. The reflective paradigm within mentoring (Pajak, 1993) has long been prevailing but unsuccessful in bringing systematic and contextual meaning to the actual exercise of reflection.
In our research on practicum as a participatory praxis, the inquiry is focused on the mentoring dialogue and the possibilities of using it as a way to promote cooperation between teacher education institutions and schools in order to develop both teacher education and schools.
In the pilot phase of this inquiry we have been asking mentoring teachers and teacher educators how they see the mentoring dialogue and how they would like to develop it (identification, praxis and vision).
The pilot study included a number of mentoring teachers/teacher educators in Sweden and Australia. The analysis of their responses suggests that there exists a general agreement on the centrality of the mentoring dialogue and the experiences of the student teachers during the practicum. However, the practicum architecture and other structural conditions influence if not hinder the realisation of visions and the actual praxis remains a shallow compromise between various interests and requirements.