Development or Training: The Matter of Clinical Supervision in EFL Student Teachers' Teaching Practice

Development or Training: The Matter of Clinical Supervision in EFL Student Teachers' Teaching Practice

Esim Gursoy (Bursa Uludag University, Turkey) and Elif Eken (Bahcesehir Schools, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8583-1.ch017


As a testing ground for theory and practice transition, teaching practice is a key element of teacher training process. One way to ensure that teacher candidates are acquiring and practicing critical teaching skills is to provide feedback through reflective practice during the student teaching. However, it should be beyond the helpful prescriptions in order for student teachers to develop their own teaching philosophies. For this reason, this study focuses on the growing trend toward cooperative models of student teaching supervision: the clinical supervision model (CSM). The study reports on the student teachers' perceptions on professional development with regard to the feedback they receive (direct or indirect). Twelve ELT student teachers contributed to the study and the data was collected via an open-ended and a closed-ended questionnaire, researchers' field-notes and video-taped reflection sessions. The data analysis revealed that although having varying degrees of abstraction, most of the student teachers had positive perceptions regarding indirect feedback during CSM.
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Teaching practice (TP) is an important component of teacher training when the student teachers (STs) are on the verge of becoming a teacher (Oosterheert & Vermunt, 2003; Smith & Lev-Ari, 2005). It serves as an introduction to the art of teaching and provides STs with the opportunity to experience the teaching in the actual environment (Kauffman, 1992; Marais & Meier, 2004; Ngidi & Sibaya, 2003; Perry 2004). TP as a stepping stone between studenthood and membership of the teaching profession (Menter, 1989) creates a mixture of anticipation, anxiety, excitement and apprehension in STs (Cohen, Manion, Morrison & Wyse, 2003; Perry, 2004). The STs with minimal practical experience may sometimes have difficulty in planning their lessons, integrating the different elements of their intrinsic knowledge of teaching and representing them in the classroom (Marais & Meier, 2004). Regarding such difficulties, the aims of TP are to provide opportunities for STs to integrate theory and practice, work collaboratively with experienced teachers, and learn through a range of interactions and relationships with cooperating teachers (CTs), fellow students and university supervisors (US) (Marais & Meier, 2004; Musingafi & Mafumbate, 2014).

TP does not only serve as a bridge between theory and practice in the learning of teaching, but it is the context in which STs develop a personal teaching competence (Sheridan & Moore, 2009). Dorovolomo (2004, p. 10) puts emphasis on developing practical theories for the sake of effective teaching in this way:

It is pivotal for teachers to see the relationship between what they do in practice and the reasons for it, in order to become increasingly aware of their own theories and be able to judge alternatives in a way which makes both rejection of them as well as revision of them possible.

STs need to be guided on how to use practical teaching experiences as starting points for learning. It is because every ST and every TP vary in their own unique challenges and contexts. Considering TP as a period of intense exploration of self, others and the new scenarios, it emerges as the most important way of analyzing the lived experiences of those who are learning to teach (Caires, Almeida & Vieira, 2012). Therefore, STs must learn how to be independent thinkers and find out new ways to put teaching techniques, methods, and principles into practice in different contexts. Despite the fact that STs graduate with more or less the same theoretical background, they have varying degrees of thoughts, abilities, and success in adapting to the challenges of a real classroom (Fairbanks et al., 2010). Therefore, they may need to be supervised in different ways. For example, STs at lower developmental level (low abstraction) need more structured direction. They have difficulty in identifying instructional problems and generating solutions. STs at a moderate developmental level (moderate abstraction) can identify their problems on a single dimension and generate one or two possible solutions. Teachers at higher developmental levels need less structured direction by actively taking a role in decision making process. They can define their own problems with different solutions and anticipate their possible consequences (Glickman & Gordon 1987). Thus, the most important aim of teacher education programs should be to give STs the perspective to be responsible and willing for learning from every opportunity so that they think less of their own survival and more of the responsibilities of teaching and the environment.

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