Elaine McCulloch is a Lecture in Physical Education at the University of the West of Scotland. In this blog, she shares some findings from her PhD about how ‘prepared to teach’ her graduates felt as they embarked on their probationary year in the profession.
Ready or Not?
As a PE Teacher I was always interested in how to be the best teacher I could be. Teaching in a different country (namely America) opened my eyes to the different ways in which PE teachers are educated internationally. This curiosity continued as I returned to Scotland in 2009 to be met with new routes into teaching and a looming new curriculum. In the evolving education climate, Health and Wellbeing has been given prominence in Scotland, with the responsibility for Health and Wellbeing across the curriculum being given to all adults who interact with our young people (Education Scotland, n.d). Despite this it has been reported that this ‘responsibility of all’ frequently falls on the shoulders of the PE department and the teachers within it. While we acknowledge that the policy ideals and the practical realities of promoting and developing young peoples wellbeing are not always aligned, it is imperative that the next generation of teachers are prepared to deliver ‘learning through health and wellbeing that promotes, confidence, independent thinking and positive attitudes and dispositions’ (Scottish Executive, 2006).
As a graduate of a 4-year B.Ed. programme in PE I once naively thought this route was the ‘only way’ and the ‘best way’ to prepare our future PE teachers. Now as a lecturer on a PGDE programme and a PhD student there has been a shift in my perspective. This has been a direct result of my current work, which is specifically focussing on examining the factors that influence the perceived levels of preparedness in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) graduates in Physical Education. Participants in the study were invited to reflect on their ITE course and in particular assessed their levels of preparedness for entering the profession as a result of their participation in the ITE Course.
Across three years, 42 participants engaged in the study and they were all Physical Education graduates from the PGDE route. A range of methods were used (Survey and Focus Groups) to elicit and discuss the participants’ feelings of perceived preparedness as they graduated and began their probationary year. The participants then returned to reflect on their feelings of preparedness at the end of their probationary year.
Interestingly the participants identified that while they felt ‘ready’ they were not fully ‘prepared’ due to the ‘fear of the unknown’: they didn’t know their classes, their timetable and most importantly their pupils. Despite successfully graduating and meeting the GTCS standards the young teachers in the study indicated that this does not necessarily equate to the students feeling fully prepared to negotiate the evolving curriculum within Scotland. The study highlighted some key positive contributors to feelings of preparedness as they moved into their probationary year; Initial Teacher Education courses are only one of multiple contributing factors to the level preparedness within graduates. Elements of good practice were highlighted within the participants’ accounts; these were placement experiences and support from their university based Physical Education tutors. Most participants felt that that they were prepared to meet their responsibility to deliver Health and Wellbeing. Although when reflecting at the end of their probationary participants did attribute this to their views that Health and Wellbeing and PE were being synonymous, therefore it was just part of what they did as PE teachers.
While it is important to consider whether our routes into teaching are successfully contributing to the preparation of our young teachers, it is also wise to recognise that we are the initial step in a career long journey of learning and developing. Emphasising this with our young teachers may lead to increased feelings of preparedness in our graduates.
Education Scotland (n.d) Health and Wellbeing Across Learning: Principles and Practice. [Online] Available: Education Scotland. [Accessed: 1st May 2014].
Scottish Executive (2006) A Curriculum for Excellence – Building the Curriculum 1: The Contribution of Curriculum Areas. [Online] Available: Education Scotland. [Accessed 2nd May 2014].