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Helping student teachers to see into practice: The view from a teacher-education classroom

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • James Burch
Publication date16/05/2020
Number of pages163
Awarding Institution
Award date12/05/2020
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The aim of this study was to unlock, over the course of one academic year, the pedagogical knowledge in action of an experienced teacher educator engaged in teaching a cohort of fourteen postgraduate student teachers on a one-year, university-led, modern foreign languages course. From the context of a teacher-education classroom, the study focused on how, and with what underpinning rationale, a teacher educator helped her student teachers to see into practice with theoretical understanding.

The study was based on a constructivist philosophy. To this end, there was a strong collaborative dimension to the research, which was particularly pronounced in the interactions between my ‘self’ as researcher and the teacher educator. The principal data-generation methods involved observing sixteen three-hour sessions taught by the teacher educator. Each session was followed by a debriefing interview to unpick the pedagogical processes just observed. Additionally, four semi-structured interviews were conducted with the teacher educator at different points in the year, and four focus groups were run with student teachers. The resulting empirical material was analysed using a framework for reflexive thematic analysis.

The study shows how an integrative, symbiotic, and non-dichotomous relationship between theory and practice can be achieved in ways that result in theory being regarded by the student teachers as a guide, confidante, and friend – especially in adverse circumstances. The study also suggests ways in which modelling can be rendered more effective. Recommendations for practice include how careful attention needs to be given as to how experiences can be orchestrated and lived in a teacher-education classroom so as to possess the high levels of personal meaning and felt significance that can increase the reflective traction for seeing into practice. The study advocates that the desire to cover material should not come at the cost of deep understanding. Continuity with one’s students, and sufficient time away from the school classroom, are prerequisites for realising such an approach.