Do as we do and not as we say: teacher educators supporting student teachers to learn on teaching practice

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Chambers, Fiona C.
Armour, Kathleen M.
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This paper reports data from a larger study into the ways in which Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) students engaged in professional learning during teaching practice (TP) in Ireland. The study comprised one umbrella case study of Greendale University, schools and PETE students that consisted of five individual cases: tetrads of PETE student teacher, cooperating teacher (CT), University tutor (UT) and School Principal (SP). Each tetrad was defined as a unique community of practice located within the wider structures of school, education and university policies on teacher education. Data were collected over one academic year using qualitative research methods and grounded theory as a systematic data analysis tool. Findings indicate that in each of the five cases, support for PETE student learning was, to some degree, dysfunctional. In particular, it became evident that there were two conflicting teacher-learning curricula in operation. The official curriculum, expressed in policy and by SPs, UTs and CTs (also referred to as mentors), valued a PETE student who cared for pupils, had a rich pedagogical content knowledge, knew how to plan for and assess pupils’ learning, valued reflection, and was an active member of a community of practice. The unofficial but essentially more powerful enacted curriculum, encouraged PETE students to draw upon their own resources to learn pedagogical content knowledge in an isolated and unsupported manner. The data highlight the force of the unofficial curriculum and the ways in which PETE students were guided to the core of the dysfunctional community of practice by untrained CTs (mentors) and untrained UTs. PETE students in this study learned to survive in a largely unsupportive professional learning environment and, just as theories of social reproduction intimate, indicated that they would reproduce this practice with PETE students in their care in the future. The findings suggest that in cases similar to those studied, there is a need for teacher educators in Ireland, (in both universities and schools) to critically interrogate their personal practices and implicit theories of teacher education and to engage in training for their role. There is also evidence to suggest that PETE students in Ireland could benefit from the development of school–university partnerships that act as fundamental units of high quality professional learning. In the cases studied, this may have led to a stronger focus on the intended or official curriculum of TP, led by the revised maxim: ‘Do as we say and as we do’.
School university relationship , Official and unofficial curriculum , Teaching practice , Professional learning
Chambers, F.C. & Armour, K.M. Sport, Education and Society (2011) 'Do as we do and not as we say: Teacher educators supporting student teachers to learn on teaching practice'. 16 (4):527-544.
© 2011 Taylor & Francis. This is a preprint of an article whose final and definitive form has been published in the Sport, Education and Society © 2011 Taylor & Francis; Sport, Education and Society is available online at: