Teachers' conceptions of their actions with students on placement
Inglis, Andrina Louise
School-based teaching placements have a central place in Initial Teacher Education [ITE]. The classroom teachers to whom student teachers are assigned play a role in shaping students’ practice and may impact on these students’ learning, confidence and competence. The questions then arise of: • what expectations do classroom teachers have of students?; • how do they represent their actions with students?; • what do they see as key matters for students on placement? This thesis has engaged with these issues with a focus on mathematics teachers in secondary schools. It reports on a study which was guided by the following research question: How do mathematics teachers in Scottish schools conceptualise their actions with students on placement? The Literature Review locates this study within policy frameworks for school placement and a range of relevant literature. This review reveals longstanding concerns about the quality of student placements and the assessment of student practice, alongside evidence that professional development for supervisors in their role of inducting students into the profession remains inadequate. There is thus much work yet to be done in this area. It is argued in the thesis that future developments in ITE will gain from being informed by a clearer understanding of how classrooms teachers themselves conceptualise their actions with students on placement, an area which is currently insufficiently understood. This study set out to contribute to bridging this gap by exploring the thinking of a sample of teachers in relation to the actions they undertake with students who are assigned to their classrooms. It was largely guided by a Constructivist Guided Theory methodology (Charmaz, 2014). A pilot study laid the groundwork for the main study in which semi-structured interviews were conducted with a total of 22 teachers drawn from secondary school mathematics departments across the East of Scotland known to have recently hosted a student on placement. The data from these interviews were analysed using the Constructivist Grounded Theories procedures of initial and focused coding. In the final stage of analysis the main categories that had emerged from these process of coding were then subsumed under Wenger’s (1998) ‘Communities of Practice’ framework. Employing this framework allowed a clear, synoptic picture of the findings to be presented and brought into the foreground issues that have received little attention in preceding work. From the substantive findings, five categories were selected for discussion. This selection was based on their contribution to both addressing the research question and to the framework used. In addition, Brookfield’s (2017) critically reflective lenses were applied to these categories, exposing these teachers’ assumptions concerning student placements and teacher education.