An evaluation of the initial scientific field teacher education programme in the colleges of education, Oman
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the initial teacher education programme which is specifically offered by four Omani colleges of education to prepare "scientific field" female teachers to teach science and mathematics subjects for pupils in Basic Education schools (Grades 1-4), ages of students from (6-10). This evaluation questions the adequacy of this programme to prepare qualified teachers to teach these subjects in a changing school system implementing a reformed Basic Education curriculum and programme. This system tends to transfer the teaching and learning process from the traditional learning environment to one that is a constructivist teaching environment. This study focuses on this programme's defined teaching competencies and to what extent the participants perceived themselves properly trained with respect to these listed competencies in their professional practices. The study also spotlights student teachers' and practicing teachers' attitudes and motivation towards the teaching profession, and towards aspects of science and mathematics teaching in primary schools. The study tried to examine the extent of the constructivist approaches by student teachers and practicing teachers in their science and mathematics lessons. The evaluation framework of the study was designed to conduct the research plan and to achieve its purposes. Several evaluation models were examined and they were critically reviewed. The review concluded that there is no one specific model which can be considered (the most) outstanding in terms of excellence, the selection of the evaluation model depends on factors such as the aim of the study, the nature of the programme, its context, and the targeted population, Thus the study constructed of three stages with findings from conducted evaluation instruments of each stage leading consequently to the next stage. In the first stage both questionnaires and semi-structured interviews are implemented. while observations with a checklist followed by follow-up interviews are conducted to gather information during the second stage. In the third stage, conversational open interviews are proceeded. Although the group focused upon for the study are the first stakeholders (the student teachers and practicing teachers), the research was extended to get information from other participants, educators from different positions, such as curriculum advisors, college lecturers, inspectors, head teachers and senior teachers. The findings from this study indicated that in general, participants' considered of the importance of the some of the listed competencies. Even though there is some consensus of the importance for these competencies, there are some un-ignorable critics who view these competencies as being far away from the goals for the preparation of scientific field teachers for the reformed Basic Education schools, most of the listed competencies are supposed to be the foundations of the programme's components, and thus the colleges of education's courses are far too general. Findings from the questionnaire show that student teachers and practicing teachers amplified their self-rating of competence in the listed competencies because responses from the face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with them found divergence views. These differing views were supported by interviewed teacher educators and principals, and their opinions towards the insufficiency of the graduates of the colleges of education. The study found from the observations of some of the practicing teachers and student teachers observed while teaching science and mathematics lessons, and from the follow-up interviews, that there is very little sign of constructivist teaching approaches used in these lessons. The study proposes recommendations which can improve and strengthen the preparation of cycle one scientific field teachers at the pre-service level and to future in-service so that teachers might better meet the range of work and responsibilities they are facing in the reformed Basic Education schools. Finally, it recommends areas for further research.