Professionally speaking qualitative research and the professions
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Professionally Speaking : Qualitative Research and the Professions. Using action research to gauge the quality of feedback given to student teachers while on professional teaching practice. Stephanie White. Introduction.

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Professionally speaking qualitative research and the professions

Professionally Speaking : Qualitative Research and the Professions.

Using action research to gauge the quality of feedback given to student teachers while on professional teaching practice.

Stephanie White


Introduction

Introduction

  • Professional teaching practices for student teachers in New Zealand primary schools are an integral part of their pre-service teacher education

  • Visiting lecturers who observe students on professional practice are expected to give students feedback on their teaching and documentation

  • One aspect of aiming to improve the quality of our teaching is to gauge the perceived quality of the feedback given to our student teachers while they are on professional practice in schools

  • The critical reflection of my own practice became the action research –

    I wanted to investigate the perceived quality of feedback I gave to students and identify ways to make it more effective.


Setting the context

Setting the context

  • Professional practice courses are taught alongside the professional studies courses as co-requisites which means they must be passed together.

  • The professional studies courses teach students content, pedagogy and theory while the professional practice courses are the opportunity for students to put into practice what they have learned and to experience being the professional teacher.

  • Students are placed with an associate teacher who mentor and supervise the student while they are in their classroom for usually 5 weeks.

  • Students are responsible for planning, implementing, assessing and evaluating a purposeful learning programme for the requisite number of days each placement.

  • Students are expected to show a development and refinement of a range of skills such as questioning, identifying needs, using quality resources, working successfully with children, planning, facilitating, relating positively to parents and staff, etc


Quality feedback practices

Quality feedback practices

  • Quality feedback is most effective when it focuses on the tasks and associated learning, confirms for learners that they are on the right track, includes suggestions for scaffolding, is frequent and gives opportunity for the learner to take action (N.Z. Ministry of Education, 2004)

  • Feedback for student teachers directed at specific teaching behaviours and practices is deemed most valuable, as is spoken feedback given through discussions (White, 2005)

  • Feedback that is regulatory and involves learners to be participants in their own teaching and learning is powerful (Hattie & Timperlay, 2007)

  • Both spoken and written feedback that covers positives and negatives with timelines given for evaluating progress, should be offered (Babkie, 1998)

  • Asking student teachers a series of questions before giving the feedback encourages them to evaluate their own teaching performance and become more reflective (Graham, 1996)


The action research process

The action research process

1.Designed a set of specific questions to generate feedback discussions for 12 students in their second year and on their 4th PP (Sept 2005)

2. Held a focus group with experienced observing lecturers to discuss what they valued about the feedback they gave to students on PP (Nov 2005)

3. Recorded comments from a group discussion of observing lecturers during a professional development day around the topic of quality feedback for student teachers (Dec 2005)

4. Designed a set of more refined, specific, open-ended questions for use when visiting 11 students in their third year and on their 5th PP (March 2006)

5. Designed a new set of specific questions for a group of 12 students in their second year and on their 3rd PP (May 2006)


Step 1 specific questions

Step 1: Specific questions

Student teachers in their second year on their 4th PP

  • Based on four years of visiting experiences, observing students at all levels of their training and in a variety of curriculum areas and an idea by Graham (1996) on having a set of questions prepared to initiate discussions.

  • Provided me with a means of evaluating my “initial wonderings” as to what might work well when giving quality feedback to student teachers

  • Students said the base questions gave them something to talk about in the first instance and encouraged them to speak!

  • If a student felt their lesson went well, they were more inclined to speak freely than when a lesson wasn’t so successful. In that case, the students needed much more prompting and encouragement to share their thoughts

  • The findings from step 1 were that the questions needed to be more specific to the particular stage of training of the student, and more prompting and probing was needed to encourage critical reflection of their own teaching


Step 2 focus group

Step2: Focus group

Discussions with observing lecturers

  • The group discussed what they valued about the feedback – both spoken and written- that they had the opportunity to give student teachers while they were on professional practice

  • Suggested that students needed more of an “own voice” to express their feelings about how a practical lesson went, instead of lecturers doing most of the talking

  • Suggested that students also be provided with a written record of the actual co-constructed feedback discussion, not just the feedback from the lesson itself, including specific goal setting to remind students of the changes they wanted to make and how they might put these in place

  • Lecturers wanted to empower students more to work out for themselves what went well and what did not…and why


Step 3 academic discussions

Step 3: Academic discussions

Professional discussions amongst academic staff around professional practice

  • Professional development day was held to discuss and share academic conversations with one session focussed on professional teaching practice for student teachers

  • Area of significance identified was the need for students to be moved on to more critical reflection after their observation visits. However, lecturers felt the skills needed for students to do this were often limited, as was the lack of time for lecturers to teach this while visiting

  • More emphasis on teaching critical reflection and introducing students to the notion of being a critical friend. This could be done during professional studies and curriculum courses with students having the opportunity to refine these skills throughout their training


Step 4 refined questions

Step 4: Refined questions

Refined questions for third year students on their 5th PP

  • From the experiences of the first round of questions in step 1, the discussions with the focus group in step 2 and the professional development session with academic staff in step 3, anew set of more refined specific questions was devised for this group for third year students on their 5th professional practice

  • Open-ended questions based on pedagogy, positive practice, management issues and changes to be made were designed

  • Students were asked to reflect on the visit and discussion and write responses to the questions and include them in their folder for visit no.2

  • An evaluation of this type of feedback process was also requested

  • Most students completed the reflection with positive comments particularly in terms of what changes they thought they could make and the usefulness of writing these down themselves

  • Demonstrated a significant shift in students thinking, goal setting and action

  • Provided significant areas to promote discussion between students and lecturers


Step 5 more question changes

Step 5: More question changes

Specific questions for second year students on their 3rd PP

  • Continued model of specific questions designed for this particular group of students on their third professional teaching practice

  • Open-ended questions and written feedback sheets were coloured so students would be reminded of the need for their own critical reflection after the observation and discussions

  • Most of the students completed the reflection and found the exercise helpful in recording their thoughts at a later date giving them more time to think critically about their teaching practice


Findings

Findings

  • Lecturer talk – minimsed by specific planned questions

  • Coaching role- assisting to plan and set achievable goals

  • Honesty- direct and clear feedback was appreciated

  • Ownership of teaching and learning- identification of areas based on written reflections

  • Lecturer availability- responding to email communications promptly and with clarity

  • Time- allowing enough time for students to critically reflect at a later date


Conclusions

Conclusions

Several key ideas lecturers can use when providing quality feedback for student teachers on their professional teaching practice are:

  • Pre-prepared questions for each specific group of students at their level is recommended for more purposeful feedback conversations

  • Written reflections by students are worthwhile for their ownership of teaching practice

  • Allow plenty of time for feedback process to be effective

  • Honest and direct feedback is productive to move students forward but should be delivered with empathy and compassion

  • Lecturer availability and response times enhance students perceptions of the feedback process and a feeling of being supported

  • Encourage students to construct their own meaning of their teaching, through the reflection and feedback process


The last word

The last word…

  • Using a qualitative research method of action research provided my colleagues and I with ideas on how we could improve the quality of feedback we gave student teachers while they were on professional teaching practice.

  • This process involved analysing what we did, testing established practices and trialling new ideas, reflecting on these experiences through written reflection, conversations with colleagues, and discussions with students

  • Qualitative research can evaluate our own practices of teaching and from the evidence found we can make necessary changes that enhances the learning of our students


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