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Becoming a Teacher: An Investigation of the Transition from Student Teacher to Teacher

This thesis seeks to gain greater knowledge of the process of transition and development that beginning primary teachers undergo over their first year of teaching. The research focus is on investigating and understanding this process from the standpoint of the beginning teacher. Of particular interest is an examination of how the teacher preparation programme, contextual features of the school, and participants' own beliefs and biographies influence and impact on their transition to teaching and their professional and identity development as first year teachers. This longitudinal study takes an interpretive approach to investigate the first year teaching experiences of 12 beginning teachers in 11 primary schools. The qualitative methodology used in this thesis shares characteristics with a case study approach and utilizes procedures associated with grounded theory. Data were gathered systematically over a year by way of 48 semi-structured, individual interviews, two focus group interviews, and 48 questionnaires, supplemented by field notes. The collected data were analyzed, coded, and categorized, and explanations and theory that emerged from this process were grounded in the data. The findings of this study have three broad sets of implications for the education and induction of beginning teachers. Firstly, they question the role that practicum plays in the transition from student to teacher. The findings suggest that the practicum component of teacher preparation programmes should be re-conceptualized and redesigned to provide authentic opportunities for student teachers to be exposed to the full range of work demands and complexity that they will encounter as beginning teachers. Secondly, becoming a successful teacher appears to depend on the quality of the school's professional and social relationships, particularly in terms of the frequency and type of formal and informal interactions that ii beginning teachers have with colleagues. While the major source of satisfaction and self-esteem came from seeing the children whom they taught achieving socially and academically, the beginning teachers also had a strong need for affiliation, which was enabled through positive, structured interactions and relationships with colleagues. The study also indicates that employment status influences the way that the beginning teachers view their work and themselves as teachers, with those in relieving positions displaying greater variability in terms of emotional reactions and a sense of professional confidence than those employed in permanent positions. The third set of implications relate to beginning teacher induction. The study points to variability in the quality of induction experiences and challenges policy makers and principals to ensure that all beginning teachers are provided with sound and systematic advice and guidance programmes which are necessary for their learning and development. While the study confirms the critical role played by tutor teachers in beginning teacher induction, it suggests that the focus is on emotional and practical support rather than on educative mentoring to enhance new teachers' thinking and practice. This thesis provides a comprehensive and nuanced view of how beginning to teach is experienced and interpreted. It paints a complex picture of the relationship between biography, beliefs, preparation, and context in the process of learning to teach. The study contributes to the literature on the education of beginning teachers. It highlights the need for developing a shared understanding amongst policy makers, teacher educators, and schools regarding the multiplicity and complexity of factors that influence the transition and development of beginning teachers.
Type of thesis
Grudnoff, A. B. (2007). Becoming a Teacher: An Investigation of the Transition from Student Teacher to Teacher (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2647
The University of Waikato
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