Elementary student teacher perceptions of classroom management knowledge construction: linking theory to practice
Author(s)Thompson, Loraynne Elizabeth
California State University, Northridge. Department of Education Leadership And Policy Studies
Hertzog, Hillary S.
Klein, Susan L.
limited peripheral participation
elementary student teachers
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AbstractIncludes bibliographical references (pages 155-168)
Within the university setting, elementary student teachers need adequate training and preparation in the practical application of classroom management skills for success during the student teaching phase, so that they feel a sense of efficacy and are ready to take on the practical aspects of behavior management and instruction within their own classrooms. However, university teacher preparation programs may not adequately prepare preservice teachers for the reality of classroom management issues, causing them to abandon teaching within the first few years. This case study sought to determine whether the teacher preparation program at a large, public university in Southern California adequately prepared preservice teachers for the reality of classroom management issues. The purpose of the study was to investigate student teachers??? perceptions of the ways their university coursework, and their interactions with mentor teachers, were linked to promote classroom management knowledge construction. The study was conducted at Southern Crest University, a large, urban public university in Southern California, in the Fall semester of 2012. Participants included five elementary preservice teachers, who attended Southern Crest full time in the K-5 multiple subjects teaching credential program, and who were in the first semester of their student teaching practicum. Other participants were two university professors who taught the seminar section of the practicum during the Fall, 2012 semester. Qualitative data collection methods included semi-structured interviews, which were conducted at the beginning of the Fall, 2012 semester with five elementary student teachers. A bi-weekly, online journal was also provided for student teachers to record their reflections about classroom management during their practicum experience. At the end of the semester, a focus group interview was conducted with all five student teacher participants. Other data collection methods included one observation in a university student teaching seminar, and semi-structured interviews with the two university seminar professors. All data collection was conducted at the university setting. The student teachers??? prior conceptions of effective classroom management practices played a significant role in their acquisition of new knowledge as they began the teacher education program. All five student teachers initially claimed that they believed in a student-centered (or constructivist) philosophy of classroom management, but three of them actually described classroom management practices that were dramatically more teacher-centered, controlling and authoritarian. Only two of the student teachers initially expressed increased feelings of self-efficacy in their ability to practice effective classroom management strategies, as well as confidence in their capacity to engage and motivate students to learn. Once in the practicum, they felt that university coursework and their interactions with mentor teachers were somewhat linked to promote classroom management knowledge construction, but only after the first four weeks of student teaching. During the second half of the semester, the student teachers began to make stronger connections between constructivist theories of learning and behavior from coursework, and behavior and organizational management practices in the classroom setting. The mentor teacher played the most significant role in the participants??? construction of classroom management knowledge. The student teachers??? perceptions of their mentors were influenced by the mentor???s classroom management philosophy, as well as what they perceived to be the reasoning behind her actions. By the end of the practicum, all five student teachers began to apply the constructivist theories and practices they recalled from prior coursework and to compare those practices to the ones used by their mentors. After the practicum, the student teachers said they had begun to make more explicit connections to theoretical foundations as they critiqued their mentors??? specific management strategies, and they began to note disparities between the mentor???s style and the theory they had learned previously. After the practicum, the participants believed that using classroom management practices based on constructivist theories promoted a classroom community of learners. They also become somewhat aware of the connection between effective classroom management, and student engagement and motivation. However, only two of the student teachers expressed increased feelings of capability, or efficacy, in their ability to practice effective classroom management strategies, as well as confidence in their capacity to engage and motivate students to learn. Data from this study did not suggest a clear connection between the student teachers??? sense of self- efficacy and other factors, such as university coursework and their experience with the mentor teacher. Recommendations for future research include conducting additional qualitative and quantitative studies to determine what supports, both in the student teaching seminar and in the classroom setting, would further strengthen the connection between constructivist theory and effective classroom management practices during the first semester of the practicum. In addition, future studies should explore whether and to what extent a connection exists between initial classroom management philosophy and later self-efficacy, so that credential programs can be strengthened to influence those feelings of self-efficacy. Also, using various models of the practicum (PDS schools, co-mentoring, etc.), future studies might investigate the various ways that university faculty and classroom mentor teachers work together during the second semester of student teaching to strengthen the link between classroom management theory and practice. Finally, using Limited Peripheral Participation (LPP) as a framework, further qualitative research should explore what supports the university might put in place to better prepare mentor teachers to assist student teachers in the classroom setting.