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  CHAPTER 1 Introduction 1.1   Chapter Overview This section provides an overview and basis for this proposed study and shares an analysis of the historical background surrounding the practicum in the Initial Teacher Education  programmes in relation to the value it gives to teaching practicum in B Ed Foundation Phase teacher education globally and specifically to the South African context. It further establishes the problem statement to the study, main research question guiding the study, defines the relevant concepts as regard to the study, research questions, research objectives, significance of the study and outlines the research study. 1.2 Introduction  There is an international recognition in literature on the significance of practicum in the initial teacher education programmes worldwide. Despite the variations in the terminologies describing the component in the programme, many student teachers across the globe view it as the only most qualifying factor to the teaching profession (Cohen, E, Hozb, R and Kaplana, H (2012:1) .  There is a significance growth with time on the value of practicum in teacher education programmes as evidenced by the increased time and intensity allocated to this component and by the increased number of conference sessions focused on guided or mentored teaching experience for both student teachers and beginning teachers(Brush & Saye, 2009); Ralph, Walker, & Wimmer, (2008) Bullough, Young, Erickson, Birrell, Clark, & Egan (2002); in Cohen, E, Hozb, R and Kaplana, H (2012:1) .  Although highly valued, stakeholders in practicum deeply scrutinises the procedures and policies surrounding this component of the  programme (White & Forgasz, 2016: iv). Aspen (2017:1) notes that the Practicum is significant in initial teacher education programmes as is constructed for the professional growth of student teachers. Noted further is that the practicum assesses the student’s professional growth and their readiness to teach and enter the teaching profession. Mapolisa et al (2014:1), refers to “teaching practicum‟ as encounters which student teachers’ undergo in the school setting to qualify to teach. Marais & Meier (2004:22) adds that, teaching practicum equips student teachers with the pedagogical knowledge and skills required for their profession as teachers in the future. Sayed et al (2018:9) states that the practicum is central to the Initial Teacher Education and consequently program design, and although knowledge is crucial to professional   practice; it is the teaching component of the programme that lies at the heart of teacher  preparation(Sayed et al 2018:9). Studies conducted by Murtiana (2016:2), are clear that the higher education institutions focus on imparting theories related to how student teachers could teach the learners and on how the learners learn. This follows how they are shaped on teaching methods, the nature of the education system and the specialized areas of pedagogical content knowledge. Henning, Petker and Petersen (2015: 2-3), further establish that theories which student teachers learn through the teacher education programme curriculum are translated well during the teaching practicum in schools as it a fundamental part which enables them to practice what they learned in the real classroom setting. In learning to teach, the practical experiences and theoretical aspects of the  programme are equally important, and all the educators involved in the programme considers it as the only way to acquire practical knowledge (Coonen 1987:42). With reference to Murtiana (2013:1), teaching practicum is an inseparable part of teacher education program and it has been stated that undeniably it imparts several benefits to student teachers. Among the  benefits is the opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge in a real classroom setting (Murtiana, 2016: 1). With reference to Yayli (2018:592)Practicum experiences in teaching schools plays a greater role in translating theoretical aspects of the programme into doable actions which are valuable to the student teachers as they bring in reflections resulting from the support, guidance and assessment provided by the schools and higher learning institutions. Allen (2011:35) contends the need for the enhancement of the practicum period through involvement of stakeholders who are well capacitated and aware of their roles and responsibilities within the programme and are well conversant with the coordination of the teaching schools and higher education institutions  practicum work relationship. However, despite the centrality of the teaching practicum in Initial teacher education programmes, challenges have been encountered over time and space (Harms & De Pencier, 1996 in Henning, Petker & Petersen, 2015:2). The challenges encountered in Initial Teacher Education Programmes as regards to teaching practicum are to do with the triad relationship that exist among the teacher educators who are charged with responsibility of assessment, the school based mentors who plays a greater role in the support, guidance, and student teachers who are assigned to the teaching schools for the actual teaching experiences and are expected to perform along the set guidelines and regulations, being assessed, mentored and supported so that are rated for grading purposes based on what is expected of a competent teacher(Aspen, 2017:-133 - 140). Practicum is the actual opportunity  for university students to be successful teachers if well implemented(Masadeh,2017:1060) and that teacher educators and school based mentors are the most important sources of practical experience for student teachers because they work as supervisors, assessors, mentors, observers, model teachers, and supporters for them(Masadeh,2017 :1060). Recent research work on practicum has given much emphasis on the role of practicum in supporting th e student teacher’s development and growth through mentoring, induction and skills development (Tillema, Smith & Lesham, 2011). Cohen et al (2013:14), alludes to the school-based mentorship activities which are necessary in the coordination of the relationship  between the higher education institutions assigning the student teachers to the teaching schools and the teaching schools which entrust mentors to support and guide the novice teachers. It is clear that the school based mentors should be capable of maintaining connections with the teacher education program faculty, receiving information from the teacher education program,  participating in a course taken by their student teachers, and evaluating them in accordance to the criteria set by the teacher education program. Although their findings omit the social relational role of the mentorship component which assist student teachers in developing their  professional identities such as self- confidence, empathy and caring, and empowering their self  - efficacy. It i s evident that the capabilities of the school-based mentor within the teaching schools impacts the student teacher’s outcome of the experiences from the exercise.(Allen, 2011; Allen & Wright, 2014; Yayli, 2008; Risko, Roskos, & Vukelich, 2002; Wolf, Ballentine, Bean, 2000; Mallette, Kile, Smith, McKinney, & Readence, 2000 & Hill, 2000; in (Yayli, 2018:592). The expectation from the higher education institutions is that school based mentors support and guidance is paramount in the development of student teac hers’ identities as  prospective teachers while poor support might impend the expected performance and growth and development of the expected professional skills and knowledge. Lofthouse, (2018:252) notes that it is expected therefore that mentors take charge of supporting student teachers to gain the skills and knowledge they will need to develop through the experience. Assessment is also a core act of the practicum and is utilised to determine the progress of the student teacher, the need for support and guidance, and readiness to enter the teaching  profession upon graduation. Joughin (2009:1) discovered that assessment plays a multi role in supporting the process of learning; judging students’ achievement in relation to course requirements; and maintaining the standards of the profession. As enacted in the teacher  programme it assists the teacher educators and school-based mentors in the formative and summative assessment of the student teachers when assigned for the practicum in teaching  schools (Tillema, Smith & Lesham, 2011). As set by the Education Council of New Zealand, the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership and even the South African Higher Education Institutions, the assessment of practicum is vital in determining the student’s readiness to teach and achievement of expected graduate standards, consequently, the assessment of practicum must weave together elements of supportive guidance for the student, alongside judgements as to the achievement of expected competencies and ultimately, gatekeeping into the profession of teaching (Aspden,2017:128 - 129). Historically, the issue of practicum is associated with the establishment of the Dewey Lab School which was founded in 1884 and the Lincoln lab School at Teachers College at Columbia University which was founded in 1917 (Harms & De Pencier, 1996 in Henning, Petker & Petersen (2015:2) . Niemi & Jakku-Sihvonen, (2011) in Henning et al (2015:1) discovered that, such schools shaped the student teachers’ research skills and reflective pra ctice as they were regarded as protected learning spaces where students of education were mentored and coached and experiment teaching practices. These were achieved through the integration of teaching  practice periods to theoretical studies that correlated with the focus of that practice period (Kansanen, 2014). Further to this Henning et al (2015:2) noted that these student teachers were then exposed to classroom environments under the roof of the experienced mentors and the University lectures took the role of monitoring the activities through which new ideas were tried and skills tested through a systematic inquiry. Different scholars affiliated to education research, have tried to rework models of teaching practicum. Korthagen (2001) as well as Ramsay (2000) in Vick (2006) have come with two potential models to be applied; these are the “realistic teacher education” and “professional experience” models. The model allows the student teachers to engage in systematic reflections and contributes to the development of their abilities to take charge for their professional development during their practicum which expected to be developed throughout their teaching career life. According to Korthagen (2001:1-4) Since the mid-eighties, the teacher education program at Utrecht University has gradually developed more and more towards the realistic approach which has its roots in many other important theoretical frameworks. Through their integration of all other teacher education models, the realistic approach shows a strong emphasis on a holistic view of the individual development of the student teacher and the personal factors involved. With reference to Rogers, (1969:456) and Maslow (1971:14) the model revitalises the memories of humanistic psychology, its educational branch, and the confluent education. The emphasis of the humanistic focuses on Self as the centre of the programmes (Brown, 1971)  & (Combs, Blume, Newman, & Wass, (1974). Combs (1965:9), states that the realistic approach is in line with their view of the teacher as a unique human being who has learned to use himself effectively and efficiently to carry out his own and society's purposes in the education of others. The realistic model emphasises on learning-by-doing which is also common is all other models. However, the realistic teacher education model represents a synthesis of those elements from a variety of theoretical frameworks that appear to be  beneficial to practices in teacher education. It starts from concrete practical problems and the concerns experienced by the student teachers in real contexts. It aims at the promotion of systematic reflection of student teachers on their own and their students' wanting, feeling, thinking and acting, on the role of context, and on the relationships between those aspects. It  builds on the personal interaction between the teacher educator and the student teacher and on the interaction amongst the student teachers. It takes gestalts of teacher as the starting point for  professional learning, which has consequences for the kind of theory that is. It has a strongly integrated character. Two types of integration are involved: integration of theory and practice and integration of several disciplines. Professional Experience or Clinical teaching Model with reference to The University of Melbourne, (2018) focuses on meeting each student teachers learning differences  by moving away from   the traditional teacher education program through the connection of university theory, professional knowledge and classroom experience.   Darling-Hammond and Baratz-Snowden (2005: 37) have noted that, the traditional teacher preparation often has been criticised for being overly theoretical, having little connection to practice, offering fragmented and incoherent courses, and lacking in a clear, shared conception of teaching among the faculty. Unlike the unguided and supported traditional models of practicum, this  model involves a student teacher working under the supervision of the experienced school- based mentor. The Professional Experience Model is a critical aspect of initial teacher education which is designed to support the in-school experiences of the Student teachers.   This model provides a crucial opportunity for initial teacher education providers and schools to work together to share knowledge, expertise and passion for teaching in order to prepare the next generation of teachers (Alpha Crucis College,2019:6 -5). The Professional Experience Model exposes teacher education students to a range of schools and make them aware of the challenges and realities of classrooms and diversity that exists in our school student population. With reference to Egeberg, McConney, & Price (2016) in Page & Jones (2018:85) it is expected that the student teachers be skilled in classroom management, control
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