Learning from experience : the role of placement in becoming a reflective primary teacher
A longitudinal study followed a cohort of students through the Bachelor of Education (Honours) degree course, the main route to primary teaching at the University of Strathclyde. The main purpose was to determine the extent to which the school experience element met the expressed aims of the course, in particular, the aim of developing reflective practitioners, which is the model of the teacher that underpins the four-year course. In the first year of the study, baseline data was gathered from students in all four years of the course, their faculty tutors, supervising teachers and those members of staff in school holding the remit for students. First year students formed the basis of the longitudinal study, with data gathered through questionnaires and interviews over the subsequent three years. This data was supplemented by an analysis of students' self-evaluation reports and 'good practice' interviews with a sub-sample of supervising teachers. The findings indicate that the major ity of students experienced a primarily apprenticeship form of preparation for the teaching profession, rather than a reflective practitioner model. While considerable opportunities were provided within the structure of the course for the acquisition and exercise of skills of reflection and critical analysis, other factors influenced the extent to which these were realised. These included resources, and the ways in which teachers and tutors interpreted their roles and responsibilities as supervisors. Consideration is given as to how these might be addressed in order to provide a professional workforce of reflective practitioners might be realised within the current framework of pre-service primary education. More fundamentally, issues of professionalism, government policy changes and the changing context of professional education generally, support the argument that the Scottish BEd, in its present form, is unlikely to support the development of the reflective primary despite the professed aims of its designers.