Beginning teaching : the ideal and the reality : a study of primary teachers in the first four years of teaching
The aim of the study is to examine the perceptions of a sample of graduate teachers (B. Ed. Hons. ) in primary schools of beginning teaching. It consists of a questionnaire survey of 57 teachers in he first year of teaching (1986-1987) and case studies, based on interviews, documents and questionnaires, of 10 teachers during their first four years of teaching (1986-1990). The study begins with a brief outline of its purpose and methods (Introduction) and an account of influences an teachers and teacher training from 1970-1990 to place it in context (Chapter 1. ). Part 1. (Ch. 2-6) gives details of the survey. Data analysis Shows that the training course was seen as helpful by more teachers than any in-service support, although this was still a minority. Teachers were at different developmental stages and the majority received little inservice support and found evaluation of teaching difficult. Certain 'beliefs', for example a belief in group teaching, were widely held. In Part 2. (Ch. 7-10) methods of data collection and analysis for 10 case studies are given. A synthesis of data in the form of a life history was sent to each subject for verification at the end of four years. Theoretical frameworks adopted from Fuller (1969). Lacey (1977) and Berlak and Berlak (1981) were used in analysis of life histories to form case studies, allowing themes to emerge. Comparison of the case studies in an analytic survey suggests that new teachers enter teaching with an 'ideal' but find adjustment necessary to the reality of being a class teacher. In the first year of teaching student teaching practice is seen as unrealistic, giving insufficient experience in teaching basic skills, class organisation and long-term planning. Years 2-4 mark a period of professional growth, when teachers appear to learn more effectively from their teaching experience, placing theory in a practical context. Although it appears that the theoretical base of the ideal of teaching may have been imperfectly conceptualised as a student, the ideal is retained. Once teachers begin to 'know the Job' they look for further intellectual stimulus and career challenge and this nay occur in the second or third year of teaching. In Chapter 11. the influence of personal theory disposition an the development of theory-practice relationships is considered and related to theories associated with teacher learning. Conclusions from the study and implications for initial training, teacher development and further research are discussed. The importance of extended school experience with opportunity for reflection and analysis of teaching is argued. Training for mentors is urged as a means of pronoting collaborative enquiry between mentor, student/new teacher, and college tutor, establishing continuity between training and induction and stimulating whole school development. The need for attention to student teachers' individual learning needs, and to their acquisition of the broad range of competencies required for classroom teaching and for reflective analysis and further professional development, is also stressed. A brief conclusion points to the compromise entailed in drawing generalisations whilst attempting to preserve the individual teacher's 'voice'.