How did the introduction of a collaborative study group programme aimed at helping student teachers with their classroom based research assist them during their PGCE year?.
Jones, Bethan Vaughan
University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.
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Today, professional learning communities (PLCs) are regarded by many educators and policymakers to be a way of raising standards in schools. Teachers in Wales are engaging in PLCs as part of the School Effectiveness Framework (WAG, 2010). However, this collaborative networking practice is rarely seen in programmes of initial teacher education. This research set out to evaluate an intervention introduced to student teachers which attempted to represent aspects of a PLC. The study group programme (programme) was designed and administered to 37 student teachers following the PGCE Secondary Science course between September 2010 and February 2011 . The action research methodology was an attempt to bring about an improvement in my educational practice. The programme specifically addressed previously identified issues and focused on helping student teachers have a better experience and understanding of classroom based research. Seven directed study tasks (DSTs) provided a suitable context for the student teachers to reflect upon literature for their professional practice and assessed coursework. The research used several ongoing formative methods. The research methods gathered qualitative and quantitative data: reflective learning journals, student questionnaire, semi structured student and colleague interviews. The data showed that students were motivated by the new supportive framework despite some apparent obstacles. The research showed that student teachers were overburdened and both time and workload were issues. Overall the students felt that the DSTs were helpful because they fostered the beneficial themes of talk, using AfL strategies, critical reflection and networking opportunities. A real value was attributed to how the programme promoted peer discussions which centred on their use of AfL. The majority trialled about two new AfL strategies as a result. lt was uncertain how sustainable the effects of the programme were. Within their collaborative network groups students varied in their commitment to sharing research papers and developing their own misconceptions of educational research. However, overall compared to the previous cohort this year's students seemed to have a more positive attitude towards their assignments and they valued AfL for their own pupils more.
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