Open Distance E-Learning Student Teaching Practice Mentorship Experience in Selected Secondary Schools in South Africa: Student Teachers' Teaching Practice Experience

Open Distance E-Learning Student Teaching Practice Mentorship Experience in Selected Secondary Schools in South Africa: Student Teachers' Teaching Practice Experience

Ailwei Solomon Mawela (University of South Africa, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9316-4.ch012
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Open distance learning (ODeL) approach is used worldwide to offer different qualifications. In studying towards obtaining a teaching qualification at UNISA, students are required to participate in teaching practice sessions before they can obtain their teaching qualification. This study aims at exploring ODeL institution student teachers' teaching practice experience in selected secondary schools in Vhembe District of South Africa. This qualitative single case study employed an interpretivism paradigm and personal theory of teaching practice. Convenient purposive sampling technique was used to sample six (n=6) student teachers from the University of South Africa who were currently conducting teaching practice in secondary schools during this study. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data that was later analyzed through the use of themes and categories. The findings indicate a lack of knowledge, which requires ODeL student teachers to be trained prior teaching practice. Mentor teachers require professional development.
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Teaching is a profession that requires rigorous training on acquiring the pedagogical content knowledge by student teachers and learning how to impart that knowledge to learners in a classroom environment. This view was supported by Davidson (2005) who alluded that student teachers should be exposed to the real classroom environment for them to obtain the actual experience of teaching in a classroom. In South Africa, student teachers are exposed to real teaching and learning environment “teaching practice” before obtaining their qualifications as professional teachers (Department of Basic Education and Training, 2011). This implies that student teachers should be able to demonstrate their acquired knowledge and skills before the examiners who eventually give them feedback after assessing them so that they can improve (Urevbu, 2004).

The purpose of teaching practice is to produce teachers with relevant knowledge and skills to can perform and meet the current and future expectations in this profession. In supporting this view, Ogonor and Badmus (2006) echoed that teaching practice provides the necessary training, opportunity to put teaching methods into practice, and the use of resources during teaching and learning. Nwanekezi, Okoli, and Mezieobi (2011) alluded that teaching practice focuses mainly on teaching skills, teachers role, and putting theory into practice. This implies that in an ODeL environment, student teachers stand an opportunity to put into practice the acquired theoretical subject content knowledge. Unlike students from the interactive Universities wherein, a student can interact with a lecturer on a face-to-face to seek guidance and or practical demonstration prior teaching practice, ODeL student teachers experience a teaching and learning environment as they conduct teaching the practice. This view was supported by Komba and Kira (2013) who echoed that during teaching practice, student teachers have the opportunity to observe experienced subject teachers at work in order to learn various teaching skills, classroom management, teaching approaches, and strategies.

Although the Department of Basic Education in South Africa and the institutions of teachers training require experienced teachers to mentor the student's teachers in schools, it seems as if the process of mentoring is not well understood by teachers. Maphalala (2013) stated that mentoring is a student teachers strategy in initiating them towards the teaching profession. The Office of Personnel Services in Hawai(1993) stated that the mentor must possess ideas and expertise of the teaching profession. This implies that the mentor has the responsibilities of explaining school policies, regulations, and procedures to the student teacher on how to use policies in order to teach and manage the classroom. This view was supported by Ligadu (2012) who indicated that mentoring had some influence on mentees’ performance. In other words, failure to mentor a student teacher by mentor teacher can result in poor student-teacher performance or wrong practices in teaching learners. Feiman-Nemser and Parker (1992) highlighted that a mentor teacher should share resources, help to solve problems, provide personal and professional support to new teachers. It can be deduced from the preceding statement that, the commitment, willingness, and attitude of mentor teachers towards mentoring student teachers go beyond offering professional guidance and aim at preparing the future community of teachers. Head, Reinman, and Thies-Sprinthall (1992) indicated that the complexity behind mentoring includes the lack of mentoring skill, the teacher’s classroom demands, and even the culture of the school in mentoring students teachers. From this utterances, one can conclude that the mentor teacher should be ready to anchor and provide support to new teachers. However, the process is often challenging, demanding, and sometimes chaotic, hence the need for effective and formal mentoring which will significantly benefit and improve the quality of teaching and learning offered by new teachers. The study conducted by (Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2014), alluded that effective mentoring should take heed of time allocated for professional learning activities, careful consideration of teaching load, regular mentoring support meetings, teaching the same subject, and also active support from the school principal for both mentor and a new teacher.

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