Postprint: Hudson, S, Beutel, D. Bradfield, K & Hudson, P 2010, 'Changing perceptions of preservice teachers: innovations in middle schooling teacher education', paper presented to 17th International Conference on Learning, Hong Kong Institute of Educational, Hong Kong.
For the past twenty years, the disengagement of early adolescents has been the focus of much of the literature related to middle schooling. In response, some universities in Australia have introduced teacher education programs that focus upon graduating specialised middle schooling teachers. Constructing such programs is at the centre of much debate and discussion, however, it is advocated that positive futures for early adolescents can be enhanced through quality middle schooling teacher education programs (Education Queensland, 2004). At a Queensland university campus, middle schooling elective units were introduced as part of the Bachelor of Education (primary) degree. The design of the units was to support preservice teachers to gain the theoretical and pedagogical knowledge to engage and promote early adolescent learning. An innovative approach to the delivery of the units was promoted by a partnership agreement between local schools and the campus. The partnership allowed preservice teachers to combine university classes with opportunities to visit exemplary classrooms to observe, participate and reflect upon middle school teaching practices. The aim of this study was to explore and describe the 38 first-year preservice teachers’ perceptions of their first middle schooling elective unit and to ascertain whether the combination of university classes and school-based experiences assisted their development of middle schooling concepts and approaches. Data were gathered using pre-test and post-test questionnaires combined with guided written reflections to record their views before, after and during the unit delivery. Results indicated that initially 34 preservice teachers had little understanding of middle schooling concepts and pedagogical practices, however, 11 participants recognised that bullying and peer pressure were issues experienced by early adolescents. The collation of the written reflections supported the combined delivery of the middle years unit further supporting the inclusion of school experiences with university delivered units.