School-based experiences : developing primary science preservice teachers' practice
Reviews into teacher education emphasise the need for preservice teachers to have more school-based experiences. In this study, a school-based experience was organised within a nine-week science curriculum university unit that allowed preservice teachers’ repeated experiences in teaching primary science. This research uses a survey, questionnaire with extended written responses, and researcher observations to investigate preservice teachers’ (n=38) learning experiences in two school settings. Survey results indicated that the majority of these preservice teachers either agreed or strongly agreed that school-based experiences developed their: personal-professional skill development (100%); system requirements (range: 81-100%); teaching practices (81-100%); student behaviour management (range: 94-100%); providing student feedback (89-94%); and reflection on practice (92-100%). Qualitative data provided insights into their development particularly for science content knowledge and receiving positive reinforcement on effective teaching behaviours. According to these preservice teachers, the school-based experiences facilitated “teachable moments – having the knowledge or skills to run with students’ questions or ideas” and allowed preservice teachers to “critically reflect between groups to make the task flow better”. Embedding school-based experiences needs to be part of each and every preservice teacher education unit so preservice teachers can develop confidence, knowledge and skills within authentic school contexts.