From a student teacher to a beginning teacher : a study on the process of learning to teach
The first year of formal teaching is generally found to be particularly traumatic for some beginning teachers. The situation in Hong Kong is felt by most professionals to be even more acute. Though some research has been done on the needs of beginning teachers, hardly any research in Hong Kong or elsewhere has addressed the process of learning to teach. This thesis aims at investigating (i) the alleged 'reality shock' during the early stages of teaching, (ii) sequential developments in the process of learning to teach, and (iii) the formulation and testing of a model to predict and explain progressive changes in the beginning teachers' perceptions of their competence in teaching. A special interest of this study is the opportunity to gather a useful data bank on Hong Kong teachers and to relate the findings towards improving the services in Hong Kong. Building on previous studies both in Hong Kong and in the international setting, a psychological model is proposed to cover the first year of teaching. Five states, Perplexity, Control Anxiety, Experimentation, Reflection and Integration, serve as useful indices of change in beginning teachers' perception of competence in teaching. The model is evaluated by data from three sources, questionnaires, interviews and follow-up interviews with non-respondents to questionnaire study. The questionnaires are constructed to reflect changes in perceived competence in teaching predicted by the model and pretested on 124 teachers in pilot study. 365 teachers responded in the main study. The occurrence of 'reality shock' is detected and analysed as a general lowering in beginning teachers' perceived competence in teaching early in their first year. A factor analysis on questionnaire data shows that the five states are collapsible into two higher order dimensions, namely Survival and Growth states. Their interplay vividly demonstrates the pattern of changes as the process of learning to teach develops and the pattern revealed supports the prediction from the model. By using these higher order states, the 'reality shock' can be more clearly portrayed by the rise or fall of the mean Growth state rather than changes in the Survival state. The relationship between psychological states and reported experience is also investigated. Revisions to the model are proposed in the light of the findings; and suggestions for further research and for ways of supporting teachers in their induction year are put forward.