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setting them up for 'failure'

Posted By: Dori Biloows on January 8, 2003
I agree that the results of this project were disappointing. However, there is much to be learned about helping preservice teachers learn to teach. It is complex at the very least, and laiden with barriers out of the control of the teacher educators (and oftentimes the preservice teachers)! My experience teaching preservice teachers at 3 different universities, and conducting research with student teachers and novice elementary science teachers has helped me gain an understanding of the barriers to implementing constructivist teaching in the classroom (even though the novice teachers may BELIEVE in the philosophy). First, in order for student teachers to be successful in their student teaching, they must honor (even though they may disagree with) the belief systems of the classroom teachers in which they student teach. Secondly, the students within the classroom may not have experienced constructivist teaching and, therefore, do not know how to behave when faced with a different teaching method. Scaffolding the constructivist experience for them (and I might add, the student teachers) is essential for success and it speaks to understanding the classroom culture. And last, it is essential to understand that student teachers CANNOT move beyond the basic (and most often traditional) method of teaching when they are in a survial mode in their experience. They are bombarded with management issues, content issues,authority issues and attempting to please their supervising teacher. To them, constructivist teaching is 'desired' but not critical to learning under those circumstances. My contention is that the seeds of constructivism emerge in about years 3-5 when novice teachers have had the opportunity to overcome the classroom management difficulties, learn the school culture, develop a confidence in understanding content, and use strategies that they see help students learn well. This takes time, experience, MENTORING and reflection. It would be interesting to follow these novice teachers for 5 years to determine whether they begin to incorporate their true belief systems into their teaching over time.

Dori Billows, Ph.D.
CESA # 1
19601 W. Bluemound Rd. Suite 200
Brookfield, WI 53045
(262) 797-9568
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 setting them up for 'failure' by Dori Biloows on January 8, 2003
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