University of Tasmania

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The complexities of learning to teach:' Just what is it that I am doing'

posted on 2023-05-22, 11:43 authored by Christine GardnerChristine Gardner, John WilliamsonJohn Williamson

This chapter explores the findings from a study designed to pursue opportunities to strengthen pre-service teacher education. At the heart of the study was the identification and exploration of several tensions that emerge from the praeticum experience with a view to examining and reducing the reported gap between teacher education course-work at university and the experiences of student-teachers during their in-school placements.

A particular focus of the study was the use of an integrated technological WebCT, used to promote discourse and collaboration in the pursuit of providing additional support for student-teachers (Gardner and Williamson, 2002, 2003). WebCT incorporates a range of learning tools: information can be made available through the lecture tool; interaction is facilitated through real-time chat, asynchronous discussion during which contributors may choose anonymity, and e-mail; and student-teachers can be engaged in reflection and the provision of feedback completing surveys (WebCT, 2005). The WebCT survey tool was used to sets of data from 43 third year and 68 fourth year Tasmanian student-teachers in 2002. Each data set was allocated a number for identification purposes. Roman numerals denote which item in the survey elicited each response. In cases of data from discussion threads each contribution is identified with the message number.

The third year practicum (School Experience 3 - SE3) in the four-year Bachelor of Education (undergraduate) Program at the University of Tasmania comprises 35 days of in-school experience divided into two phases. The initial phase of 10 days is generally undertaken at the commencement of the school year for teachers (February); student-teachers return to the same placement to complete the second phase of 25 days towards the end of the first school term (April-May). The fourth year practicum (SE4/Internship) generally occurs in one seven-week block in Term 2 and comprises a supervised practicum phase of 10 to 15 days followed immediately by the Internship phase, without direct supervision, of 20 to 25 days. SE4/Internship is undertaken either as an individual placement or as a paired placement in which student-teachers are expected during the Internship phase, to undertake a minimum of 80 or 100 percent of the teacher's normal load respectively. Table 47.1 provides a summary of the structure of the final two practica.

Student-teachers used several tools that enabled them to communicate with each other at times convenient for each of them and at regular times when a university staff member was available as advertised through the calendar. For example, the discussion tool enabled student-teachers to log in at any time to read others' messages and to respond to these, or to initiate discussion about a new topic. Student-teachers could log in to one chat room and converse with their peers and the university staff member at specified times, or enter one off our other chat rooms and conduct conversations with peers only. At the conclusion of each of the two phases of their school placements student teachers were invited to respond to surveys. Questions were asked to encourage student-teachers to: consider their professional learning and to set goals; make links between their learning at university and in schools; provide feedback on their perspectives of helpful and unhelpful mentoring and supervision practices and the role of WebCT in providing support for placements; provide feedback about their experiences of either the individual placements model or the paired placement model (SE4/Internship only); and offer advice to university staff: and for dissemination to future student-teachers, about improvements to the School Experience Program.


Publication title

Handbook of Teacher Education


T Townsend and R Bates






Faculty of Education



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Copyright 2007 Springer

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  • Restricted

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Other education and training not elsewhere classified

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