Some teacher education programs are more effective than others. Those that feature a contextualised curriculum that is integrated with school fieldwork or placements have been found to be the most effective according to a range of stakeholders including pre-service teachers, supervisors, employers and researchers (Darling-Hammond, Fickel, Macdonald, Merseth, Miller, Ruscoe, 2006; Darling-Hammond, 2010). There is a widely held belief that when theoretical input is linked with practical experience in schools, learning is optimised (Brouwer & Korthagen, 2005). This means that pre-service teachers should, ideally, be exposed to classroom management principles whilst simultaneously teaching on practicum and reflecting on their experiences.
Within the Master of Teaching (Primary) offered at the University of Western Sydney, students complete "Educational Psychology for Primary Teaching" - which incorporates classroom management - whilst either in the first semester of their Master of Teaching or in the second year of their Bachelor of Arts. Neither of these cohorts have been on practicum or are currently on practicum at the time they complete the unit. Their practicum occurs after they have completed the unit. As a result, the challenge is to provide pre-service teachers with deep, experiential learning when they have minimal classroom context or experience to draw from or reflect on. One strategy which has been adopted in the hope of addressing this gap, is by having the pre-service teachers participate in role-plays centering on classroom management.
A review of the literature reveals that although role-plays are a well-established and researched teaching method across many disciplines, the use and evaluation of this strategy within pre-service teacher education is scarce. The role-play technique may serve a dual purpose by extending pre-service teachers' acquisition of knowledge and skills as well as challenging their pre-existing beliefs. However, further research within the context of pre-service teacher education is warranted.
This paper outlines the research design employed to test whether role-plays are an effective tool to contextualise pre-service teachers' learning in the area of classroom management.