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Newly qualified teachers perceptions of teaching practicum as a component of initial teacher education at a Western Cape institution
Iwu, Charmaine Helena
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Simply put, Teaching Practicum refers to learning through experience. The learning opportunity is provided to trainees who have successfully completed teacher education. It is considered an important moment for newly qualified teachers because he or she is exposed to real classroom dynamics. Owing to the value placed in Teaching Practicum, specifically its necessity as a transformative step to building teaching and learning capacity for newly qualified teachers, it is important to continuously evaluate the extent to which the programme facilitates the important objective of sustaining the interest of newly qualified teachers’ interest in the profession of teaching. More so, foundation phase has been highlighted by researchers as challenging for newly qualified teachers. In this respect, researchers have noted a dearth of research about whether the initial teacher education programme, particularly Teaching Practicum at foundation phase transfers to actual classroom practice. This study therefore seeks to understand how newly qualified teachers perceive Teaching Practicum. Essentially, the main objective is to establish whether newly qualified teachers found Teaching Practicum beneficial in their first year of teaching. Teaching Practicum plays an integral role in the preparation of prospective teachers, to ensure that the practical aspect of teaching is sufficiently conveyed in relation to the content learnt at university. With the aim of obtaining in-depth information about the knowledge and skills gained during Teaching Practicum, this research employed a qualitative method within an interpretivist paradigm with the participation of newly qualified teachers in 2017. Data were collected through the use of focus group interviews to obtain in-depth data about the knowledge and skills acquired during Teaching Practicum. With this goal in mind, the researcher posed the following question: (1) How do NQTs perceive Teaching Practicum? To meaningfully obtain the perceptions of Teaching Practicum required the researcher to ask the newly qualified teachers whether Teaching Practicum was beneficial or not. This meant that the participants’ experiences during Teaching Practicum had to be explored. As indicated, data collected in 2017 served as the primary database for this study. The use of themes through content analysis enabled better analytical approach so as to clearly present meaning to the data. The findings indicate an overall positive perception of Teaching Practicum among the participants despite the views of some of the participants who were discontented with what they were exposed to during Teaching Practicum. Basically, while majority of the participants viewed Teaching Practicum positively there were few who felt they did not gain as much as they hoped. With the notion that South Africa education system is in a crisis requiring concrete solutions of which Teaching Practicum is seen as one of the possible solutions, this study breaks new ground in identifying such areas of concern and the value of the research resides chiefly in this location of weak spots, which deserve urgent attention. A major implication therefore of this finding is that even though Teaching Practicum has a value-add potential, the weak areas of Teaching Practicum training implies that universities need to examine the quality, value and efficacy as well as duration of their Teaching Practicum programmes. To provide quality teachers, the necessity of quality Teaching Practicum is vital.