Learning from Contexts: A Multicase Study of Secondary Preservice Teachers in Chile
Pena Sandoval, Cesar Hugo
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This is a qualitative case study of seven secondary preservice teachers in the areas of humanities and social sciences during their teacher preparation at a public university in Chile. The objective was to establish a comprehensive understanding of what preservice teachers learned from students’ contexts and how they used that knowledge while learning to teach. Documents, transcripts from a series of personal interviews, as well as in-classroom observations of preservice teachers were used as primary sources. The study is anchored in a sociocultural perspective that analyzes personal, institutional, and community planes of learning to teach as a social activity. It is also grounded in culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), which complete the theoretical framework. I found that what preservice teachers learned from students’ contexts was primarily based on key constituents such as the type of school placement (institutions), students’ backgrounds and diversity, situated knowledge of learners, and the complexity of contexts. Importantly, preservice teachers learned that gaining access to contextual constituents is mainly facilitated by the construction of sound teacher-student relationships through authentic openness to emotional bonding. By sharing their personal stories, and acknowledging students’ identities and adolescent nature, preservice teachers established the baseline for achieving quality teaching and learning. In terms of how knowledge of students’ contexts informed preservice teachers’ thinking, planning, and actions in the classroom, the findings show that the first major step is the adjustment of their personal frameworks. Their encounters with schools’ and students’ realities during field experiences tested and transformed their teaching preconceptions, enabling them to define their teaching methods by practicing alongside and differentiating themselves from cooperating teachers. Learning from students’ backgrounds also helped them to embrace contexts pedagogically through the use of traditional as well as new teaching strategies and resources. Towards the end of the practicum, preservice teachers were confident in their abilities to transform expert content knowledge into teachable content for the high school level. However, the findings suggest that, although it is often highlighted in discourse, one of the least frequently observed skills is using creativity to develop more pedagogically appropriate and situated teaching material that really connects to students’ needs and interests. Other findings relate to the programmatic and personal factors affecting preservice teachers' pedagogical use of knowledge of context. Some important implications for teacher education are: evaluating the role of relationships and emotions in teaching and learning; advancing towards a community-oriented preparation that ensures better knowledge of contexts; and fostering a practice-oriented teacher preparation with spaces for trial and error and innovation.
- Education - Seattle