How do school administrators perceive the professional readiness of primary school beginning teachers?

Year: 2013

Author: Wong, Angela F. L., Choy, Doris

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The early years in a teacher's life can be challenging as they learn to cope with the tasks of teaching and responsibilities both inside and outside classrooms within a system they may not be familiar with or thoroughly understand (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). One source of insight into the concerns of beginning teachers is from the stakeholders. Their perceptions of beginning teachers' competence are vital to gaining a comprehensive view of the accomplishments, challenges and issues of the initial years of teaching. Stakeholders' perceptions of beginning teachers' preparedness form an important focus that can be triangulated with other data and yield valuable information and insights into feedback on classroom performance and support for school teaching (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2004; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Teacher education programmes can also draw on this feedback when making programme improvement decisions. However, although it has been found that stakeholders' perceptions may have effects on beginning teachers' teaching and learning (Ballantyre, Thompson, & Taylor, 1998), few studies in this area have emerged. This study is therefore timely. It examined stakeholder's perceptions of the professional readiness of first and third year beginning teachers teaching at the primary level. The stakeholders here are the school administrators, namely, the principals, vice principals, heads of departments and senior teachers. Sixty-eight administrators participated in both data collections by completing a 12-item questionnaire at each data point. Interviews were also conducted at both data collections with administrators who indicated willingness to be interviewed. The administrators could then elaborate on their responses to the 12 items on professional readiness.
The results showed that they perceived that first year beginning teachers are professionally ready in terms of motivation and commitment. However, their confidence to teach was still low at that time. By their third year, administrators perceived that the teachers had become more confident and continued to be as motivated and committed as before. In terms of content knowledge and skills in teaching, school administrators also perceived the first and third year teachers to be professionally ready, but to a smaller extent. The teachers' content knowledge, especially in Science, and skills in catering to diverse learners were lacking even in their third year. These results were consistent with the findings by Cheng and Cheung (2004). It would seem that beginning teachers may need more time and professional development in the first three years to hone their knowledge and skills in these areas.