Preparation and competence of intending and beginning teachers in Malta
The transition from training to practice and the early years of their career have been considered to be a major influence on teachers' professional behaviour. This transition may be particularly difficult in Malta because of the lack of professional support provided to teachers in their beginning years of teaching. The first section of the thesis traces the historical context of teacher education in Malta. A description of the Maltese system in the context of models of teacher education is followed by a review of the major issues in initial teacher education. The first years of teaching and the problems encountered by beginning teachers are discussed in the section dealing with the transition from training to practice. A case is made for the role played by perceptions of preparation and competence in teacher efficacy. The second section of the thesis investigates the relationship between the training experience and teaching competence as viewed by intending and beginning teachers. The relationship between perceived levels of preparation and competence is determined through a survey conducted amongst the whole population of final year students and recent graduates of the B.Ed. (Hons) degree course run by the Faculty of Education of the University of Malta. Teaching skills included in the survey are those which deal with the teaching of specific subject areas of the school curriculum, general teaching skills specific to the classroom situation and those which involve wider pastoral and interpersonal skills. The interplay between perceptions of preparation and competence for both student and beginning teachers is examined. The beginning teachers' competence in the teaching skills specific to the classroom situation and the teaching of the subject areas of the school curriculum is closely related to their preparation. Those skills which involve wider pastoral and interpersonal skills seem to stem more from their classroom experience than from the preparation they have received. Perceptions of preparation change with increasing experience, as does teachers' sense of competence in different aspects of the task. There was, however, little evidence for a 'Curve of Disenchantment'. A typology of the perceived competence of beginning teachers is identified. In the third section of the thesis a small observational study of the recent graduates of the teacher education course who were teaching in Primary schools, is presented. It demonstrates that the typology of perceived competence of the larger survey work is useful in distinguishing between teachers with different patterns of teaching behaviour. This study showed that a high level of perceived competence was related to certain patterns of classroom behaviour known to foster achievement gains in pupils. In the light of the findings on preparation and competence, suggestions for further research and for ways of supporting beginning teachers are put forward.