Creating Laboratories of Practice for Developing Preservice Elementary Teachers' TPACK: A Programmatic Approach

Creating Laboratories of Practice for Developing Preservice Elementary Teachers' TPACK: A Programmatic Approach

Amanda Thomas (University of Nebraska – Lincoln, USA) and Guy Trainin (University of Nebraska – Lincoln, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7001-1.ch008

Abstract

This case study outlines the components and outcomes of a program-wide approach to transforming elementary pre-service teachers' technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK). The approach emphasized the creation of laboratories of practice in which pre-service teachers learned about and enacted technology for teaching and learning. Pre-service teachers developed TPACK through carefully designed and scaffolded learning experiences in technology and content methods coursework, internship experiences, and student teaching. The case offers descriptions and outcomes within a mathematics methods course and across eleven cohorts of student teachers. TPACK survey results at the beginning and end of one course of the program, and measures of TPACK-efficacy and frequency of technology integration at the end of the program indicate that the programmatic approach led to TPACK growth among pre-service teachers.
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Introduction

This case study outlines the components and outcomes of a program-wide approach to transforming pre-service teachers’ Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), which emphasizes the creation of laboratories of practice in which pre-service teachers learn about and enact technology for teaching and learning. Pre-service teachers in an undergraduate Elementary Education program developed TPACK through carefully designed and scaffolded learning experiences in coursework, practicum experiences, and student teaching. The growing emphasis on technology integration started with modest goals in 2011. With the conduct of pilot studies and professional development for faculty, TPACK became increasingly central to the mission of the program. The focus on TPACK and the layers of iterative development finally led to a recognition by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) as a recipient of the Innovation in Teacher Education award in 2016.

Program transformation started as faculty recognized the need to create a nimble program able to adjust to the challenges of education in the twenty-first century. Faculty recognized that the leading characteristic of twenty-first century education is change. The faculty desired to create a process of evolution that treated the program itself as a laboratory of practice in which faculty tinker and change the content and sequence to adapt to educational change. Technology integration was only part of the change process and while the faculty focus was mainly on the technology, the program did also respond to the need to educate all teachers to work with English learners, an emphasis on literacy struggling readers and writers, critical thinking, problem solving, and citizenship. The faculty highlighted the idea that technology integration was not the only focus to make sure that readers do not assume the whole program had a single-minded focus on technology integration.

The discussion about technology integration as a necessary component in program transformation was initiated by program faculty who realized that the teacher education program needed to respond to the needs of schools that seemed to be moving ahead of teacher education in that area. The goal was to respond to changes already happening in schools and help lead change that shaped what future best practice can look like. For that purpose, the faculty created a partnership with local school districts, realizing that all parties to the teacher education process (university programs, school districts, and the pre-service teachers) have something to contribute and by moving together, they could reshape education and create a generation of teachers who are able and motivated to teach with and about technology.

The Midwestern public university’s elementary teacher education program serves over 600 pre-service elementary teachers every year, graduating an average of 150 students annually. The majority of pre-service teachers are white middle-class women, which corresponds to national trends. Since 2014, there has been a concentrated effort to diversify the pre-service teacher body that led to increases in the number of male and minority teachers. In the first phases of their program, pre-service teachers are placed in the local school district. For their student teaching, two-thirds of the students stay in the local district and a third of the pre-service teachers seek out placement outside the district to improve their chances of getting hired elsewhere at the end of the process.

The program started the transformation process in 2011, adjusting curriculum, teaching methods, and evaluation to better fit twenty-first century challenges including diverse student populations, the increase in the number of English learners, evolving state standards in the era of Common Core (NGA & CCSSO, 2010) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013), Democratic practices, and technological innovation making its way into classrooms. The focus on TPACK integrated well into a vision of what twenty-first century teachers needed to know and be able to do.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Practicum: Credit-bearing learning opportunity for pre-service teachers within an elementary classroom. Practica usually occur one or two days per week and are connected with one or more university courses and provide opportunities to observe and/or practice what is being learning in the university classroom with students in an elementary classroom.

Technology Integration Course: Course taken during pre-service teachers’ first semester after admission to the elementary education program (with the Math Block). The course focuses on a survey of various educational technologies and their potential use.

Literacy Block: Triad of courses taken during pre-service teachers’ second semester after admission to the elementary education program in this case study (typically the junior year or undergraduate degree program). The block included a course on methods for teaching reading, methods for teaching language arts, and a literacy-focused practicum experience in the partner school district.

Laboratories of Practice: Teacher education programs embedded in research universities that are a unique opportunity to study the impact of programmatic and curricular innovation on teacher outcomes.

Math Block: Triad of courses taken during pre-service teachers’ first semester after admission to the elementary education program in this case study (typically the junior year of undergraduate degree program). The block included a mathematics content course, a mathematics teaching methods course, and a mathematics-focused practicum experience in the partner school district.

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