Hudson, S 2011, 'Preservice teachers’ perceptions of their middle schooling preparation: a sample of the Australian context', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.
Copyright S Hudson 2011
Reviews into teacher education and reform measures, such as implementing professional standards for teachers, are designed to raise the quality of education. Such reviews and reforms also target preservice teachers; hence universities examine their teacher education programs to address these issues, including developing programs that are current with the literature. Over the past fifteen years, concerns have arisen about Australian early adolescents and their disengagement from the schooling system, their "at risk" behaviour and their need for social, emotional and academic support. These concerns have prompted a middle schooling movement in Australia with the literature recognising a need for specialised middle school teachers. As a result, various universities have responded by developing courses specifically designed to graduate teachers who possess the theoretical and pedagogical knowledge for engaging early adolescent learners. This mixed-method study analysed the responses of preservice teachers from three universities across two states in Australia near the completion of their middle years teacher preparation program. The three aims of the study were to: (1) investigate final-year preservice teachers’ perceptions of their confidence to teach in the middle years of schooling; (2) analyse the experiences included in their teacher preparation course that made them feel confident; and (3) describe strategies for enhancing middle schooling teacher education preparation. Data were gathered from final-year preservice teachers (n=142) using a survey that was developed in response to middle schooling literature and the Professional Standards for Queensland Teachers (Queensland College of Teachers, 2006). A questionnaire collected extended information about the participants’ (n=142) experiences that made them feel confident. It also gathered information about strategies for enhancing middle years teacher preparation. One-to-one, 45-minute interviews (n=10) were conducted to elicit in-depth responses aligned with the research aims. Quantitative results indicated that the majority of preservice teachers (n=142) claimed confidence associated with survey items relating to creating a positive classroom environment (range: 70-97%), developing positive relationships for teaching (71-98%), pedagogical knowledge for teaching (72-95%), and implementation of teaching (70-91%). Qualitative findings suggested that the experiences that assisted them to be confident for teaching were practicum and associated field studies coursework, a positive mentor teacher, specifically designed middle years subjects, the pedagogical approaches of university staff, and other real-world experiences such as volunteering in schools and participating in professional development alongside their mentors. This study demonstrated that universities presenting middle years teacher preparation need to consider: the quality of the practicum experience; the suitability of mentor teachers; the significance and practicalities of middle years subjects; university lecturers’ modelling of pedagogical practices; and the inclusion of real-world learning experiences. Although the findings of this study provided evidence as to how preservice teacher confidence for teaching has been influenced by their middle schooling teacher preparation, further research is required to investigate how confidence translates into practice within their first years of teaching.