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This environment provides an opportunity outside of the traditional practicum setting where PTs are required to apply content and pedagogical knowledge that has not prior been prepared through lesson and instructional planning, as is done for classroom instruction.] service learning framework for our study.Cone and Harris situate their framework in Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy and Dewey’s and Kolb’s work with experiential learning.
We propose that a course situated in service learning, an experiential experience involving “achievement of curricular goals through authentic school-based experiences” , p.
316) in an informal learning environment, will better equip aspiring teachers to handle the challenges of educating a classroom of students, including those students who are identified as struggling in mathematics.
However, limited research on service learning in mathematics education exists.
So what can be done by teacher education programs within universities to increase the level of preparedness of PTs in addition to field experience?
These nontraditional experiences can help provide PTs with an opportunity to engage and explore new ideas in other classrooms that they may not normally have in traditional field experiences.
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Nontraditional field experiences in informal learning environments are often with smaller groups of students and low stakes, providing a safer and more comfortable environment in which PTs can authentically engage .Although service learning may limit and narrow the scope of a field experience, it provides an opportunity for prospective teachers to connect academic learning to the service experience through practice .With respect to the PTs’ environment for this study, the community service entails activities as a means to gain real-world knowledge about content, presentation, and application.The motor-skills program service learning involved the prospective teachers working with students on their motor skills such as football, dance, and stepping.Prior to the service learning experience, the majority of the prospective teachers had negative preconceptions of students in underserved communities.Although service learning has been advocated in many teacher education programs (diversity, social studies, early childhood, literacy, special education, physical education), mathematics education programs have traditionally not taken advantage of this type of experiential education [Field experiences, especially those conducted early in teacher education preparation programs, are generally seen as beneficial for prospective teachers (PTs), generating outcomes of increased enthusiasm for teaching and future methods courses as well as an improved and clarified understanding of the PT’s decision to become a teacher [ It is true that logging numerous hours of observation for field experience within the actual classroom environment as a PT can be helpful in the preparation process.However, when student teachers are not cognitively prepared to learn from experiences in the field, they sometimes view the field experience as an off-campus activity as opposed to on-the-job training, and believe that the field experiences do not provide ‘real teaching experiences.’ [When looking at the field experience component as a whole, it is difficult to establish consistency regarding the quality of the field experience among all PTs, including the quality of participation by and mentoring role of the cooperating classroom teacher [ when there is a great deal of inconsistency between pre-service teacher experiences in the field and instruction provided in the methods classroom, young teachers will often opt either to enact practices they have experienced themselves and liked as students, or to use practices that mentor teachers in the schools promote because those teachers are currently in the trenches, unlike their university professors. 338) The absence of a strong field experience can be detrimental to a future educator as well as the future students in the classroom of said educator, especially since “what students learn is directly related to what and how teachers teach” .While not an explicit focus of this paper, it is important to note that service learning has mutual benefits for both the individual who is providing the service as well as the person and/or community receiving the service, which is substantially different from traditional practicum and student teaching experienced by most prospective mathematics teachers .Specifically, “service learning is a pedagogical approach in which students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet actual community needs” .In essence, the prospective teacher engages in an apprenticeship model where the main beneficiary of this experience is the prospective teacher.However, some teacher education programs have transitioned to a service learning approach for their experiential education component.