Young teachers want action - not theories

13th April 2001 at 01:00
Newly-qualified teachers are "doers" not "thinkers" and few see the value of studying how children learn, new research reveals.

Most start their training expecting that the theoretical parts will be of little use to them - and leave a year later with their views largely unchanged, according to Peter Tomlinson and Andrew Hobson, of Leeds University.

Student teachers valued their school-based experiences more and wanted to know about teaching methods and strategies they could use in the classroom. They also wanted time to practise these techniques and sought feedback on how they were doing.

But few were interested in knowing why teaching methods worked or not, or why one method might be more appropriate in some contexts than others.

"You can have someone rattling on at you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, about the theory of being a teacher, but you don't really find out until you're actually in school seing how it's done and doing it yourself," said one trainee.

Mr Hobson noted: "Research into learning shows that people do learn a lot through immersion and trial and error.

"But it also shows that teachers can benefit further through having an understanding of teaching methods and how people learn. Teaching is a complex skill and teaching methods often need to be adapted, on the spot, in the face of unfamiliar experiences.

"Just learning what to do is not enough since trainees can't be prepared for all eventualities that they might face in the classroom. If they have an understanding of what is going on in learning they might be better able to adapt strategies to new and changing situations."

The Leeds University work is based on detailed interviews with 16 students from four different training institutions and 501 questionnaires returned by other students at the start and end of their courses.

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