The measurement of pre-service teachers' schema for teaching students with diverse learning needs: Methodological considerations

Year: 2014

Author: Greg, Auhl, Alan, Bain

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

  The use of scenario based instruction and assessment, where scenarios typical of what practitioners would be expected to encounter in the field are used both as teaching and assessment tools in a variety of professions (Brazil, 2009; Folmer et al., 2003; Janing, 1997; Klügel et al., 2006).  Scenario based assessment allows an individual to apply the skills, knowledge and practices that they have developed throughout the duration of their professional preparation (Shepherd et al., 2007). This paper outlines the development of a methodology implementing such an approach and an application of schema theory (Marshall, 1995), to determine the degree to which pre-service teachers have developed a schema for teaching the diversity of learners in mainstream classrooms. A schema is a conceptual framework defining how an individual will interact with their environment in a given situation. In practice fields such as teaching, a schema refers to the commonly held understandings, beliefs and actions of the profession (Bain, 2007). For teachers, these understandings, beliefs and actions would refer to the processes involved in teaching and learning. Self organising systems theory (Bain, 2007; Morrison, 2002) and communities of practice (Wenger et al., 2002; Wenger & Snyder, 2000) are also used as theoretical underpinnings. Existing research from schema theory substantiates the idea of schema development, while both self organising systems and communities of practice have a common framework for practice as an intrinsic part of their structure. In recent times, global educational jurisdictions have put an extant framework for practice around teaching by the formulation of teaching standards and the influence of independent bodies on the design of teacher preparation programs (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2008; New South Wales Department of Education and Training, 1998; New South Wales Institute of Teachers, 2005; Training and Development Agency for Schools, 2008). All of these inform and are informed by the existing literature in the field. The behaviour-analytic method (Goldfried & D'Zurilla ,1969) was applied as a structure within which a synthesis of the SOLO taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982) and Marshall's (1995) knowledge levels were employed to develop a measurement approach. This Schema for Teaching Scale (STS) was then applied to written responses to a validated scenario to determine a schema development level. The paper concludes by exploring the wider applications of the methodology both within teacher education, as well as other professional fields.