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Teaching practicum is part of the teacher preparation programme. Every student teachers needs to undergo teaching practicum in order to complete their teaching courses so as University of Malaya TESL (Teaching English as second language) undergraduates. University of Malaya TESL undergraduates need to go for teaching practicum during their fourth year in order to complete their course, Bachelor in Education (TESL) in University of Malaya.
No doubt teaching practicum is an important component in teacher education programmes. It is because teaching practicum is a real challenge for the student teachers where they need to apply the theories that they have learnt in the classroom. The term practice teaching embraces all the learning experiences of student teachers in schools (Ashraf, 1999). The term practice teaching has three major connotations: the practicing of teaching skills and acquisition of the role of a teacher; the whole range of experiences that students go through in schools; and the practical aspects of the course as distinct from theoretical studies (Stones and morris, 1977). During the teaching practicum, student teachers are able to gain experience of teaching in the classroom and learn to develop teacher-like personalities. At the same time, they will be exposed to school culture and learn to function as a member of a school staff beyond classroom teaching (Laila Hairani, 1996). Besides that, teaching practicum also provides great opportunity to beginning teachers to become socialized into the profession (Furlong et.al, 1988). Student teachers' performance during their teaching practice will foreshadow and predict the future success of the teacher.
This study aims to find out University of Malaya TESL undergraduates' beliefs about teaching practicum. Beliefs considered as an important psychological construct to teacher education (Pintrich, 1990). When student teachers come to university or go for teaching practicum, they bring many beliefs about teaching. These beliefs may result from their experiences as a student in their schooling period. Furthermore, student teachers' experiences in the university through the methodology classes, simulated teaching for TESL, and other relevant activities will also influence the development of students' beliefs about teaching practicum.
The existing beliefs of student teachers should be considered in the teacher education programme as these beliefs interact with their learning process (Esen Uzuntiryaki, 2007). Namely, such beliefs would influence student teachers to interpret and analyse the pedagogical knowledge, conceptualization of teaching tasks, their teaching decisions and their classroom practice (King, Shumow & Lietz, 2001; Pajares, 1992). Therefore, throughout the teacher education programme, it is very important for the lecturers to identify student teachers' beliefs about teaching practicum before they go for real teaching and encourage them to reflect upon these beliefs (Esen Uzuntiryaki, 2007; Mellado, 1998; Southerland & Gess-Newsome, 1999). If lecturers understand and know student teachers' beliefs about teaching, lecturers would have different expectations from them. Besides, it would also be a great opportunity for lecturers to help student teachers to shape their views about teacher roles. This may definitely influence the way student teachers receive and process knowledge, recognise and accept values and develop and enhance skills needed for effective teaching (Clarita M. de Leon-Carillo, 2007).
In short, every student will bring their own perspectives and expectation on teaching when they entering a teacher education programme. This paper will be discussing University of Malaya TESL undergraduates' beliefs about teaching practicum.
Background of the study
The introduction of the teacher education system was due to the recommendation made by Wolley Committee in 1980. It is formed to prepare teachers for school. According to the studies, the schools were undergoing rapid growth in the early 19th century; therefore, it needed a large numbers of teachers that time. For that reason, different programmes or teacher training institutions existed to train teacher of government schools, government-assisted schools and even vernacular schools. There were three main teacher training institutions:
Non-graduate institutions which include the various teacher training colleges and centers
Teachers' colleges and centers administered by the Ministry of Education are not afflicted to any university. The Ministry of Education is responsible for prescribing courses for studies and certifying successful candidates in a centrally-controlled examination. The examination boards, however, are composed of representatives from different colleges. The teachers colleges offer two-year full-time course. A three-year course was provided from 1956 to 1968 for students who possessed only three years of secondary school qualifications.
Graduate teacher training institutions, namely, University of Malaya Faculty of Education, University Sains Malaysia Centre for Educational Studies and University Kebangsaan Department of Education
The graduate teacher training institutions administered by the universities enjoy a large measure of autonomy though they depend upon the Ministry of Education for financial support. One of the graduate teacher training institutions, University of Malaya has embarked on a series of experiments in teacher education and modified the teacher education courses to fulfill its role as a source of supply of graduate teachers. For example, from the 1971/72 sessions, the Diploma of Education Course has modified and consisted of the following: Foundations of Education (5 units), Methodology of teaching (2 units) and Teaching practice (3 units).
In-service teacher training programmes
According to Francis (1972), during the British administration little attention was paid to training of teachers. When Peninsular Malaysia became independent in 1957, upgrading the quality of teachers became the priority of the Ministry of Education. The types of courses currently available may be divided into four major groups:
initial teacher training courses held during vacations for temporary untrained teachers
supplementary full-time courses for trained teacher
full-time and vacation courses for trained teachers to use Malay as the medium of instruction and to teach English as second language
vacation courses for the upgrading of qualified teachers in the various disciplines.
No matter what institutions you were going, teaching practicum is one of the courses that you need to undergo in order to graduate from the institution to become a teacher. Teacher Training Division of the Ministry of Education Malaysia regarded the teaching practice as a series of practical and systematic school experiences to help student teachers to become professional in their teaching career (Malaysia Education Ministry, 1990). The students' teaching field experience is an essential component of learning to teach and supervision plays an important role (Zahorik, 1988).
According to the National Education Philosophy Malaysia, "education in Malaysia is an on-going effort towards further developing the potential of individuals in a holostic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intelectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonic, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God. Such an effort is designed to produce Malaysian citizens who are knowledgeable and competent, who possess high moral standards and who are responsible and capable of achieving high level of personal well-being as well as being able to contribute to the harmony and betterment of the family, the society and the nation at large".
Over a century ago the founders of normal schools introduce teaching practice as an integral part of the curriculum for the prospective elementary school teacher. During this century teaching practice in secondary schools became a standard part of the professional curriculum in all types of colleges and universities. Since 1969, the teaching practice arrangements at the Faculty of Education, University of Malaya have undergone some radical changes in order to meet student teachers' needs as well as to meet the National Education Philosophy Malaysia. Today, students are paired according to their first method option. During the teaching practice, the student teacher conducts classroom lessons and performs the duties of a teacher in school. Moreover, this period of practical experience, student teachers will be guided and supervised by supervisors and co-operative teachers in the school.
The teacher training division introduced the clinical supervision model (Goldhammer, 1966) for all the teacher training colleges or universities in Malaysia from June to October 1989. This model focuses on the integration of planning, observation, evaluation and analysis of lessons. The student teachers' classroom performance is observed, recorded, analysed and paid attention to the content and method aspects of lesson implementation. Each supervisor will make a review and evaluate student teachers' performance in term of strengths and weaknesses in teaching and to focus on areas for attention and improvement. The supervisor plays an important role in teaching practice as they need to guide and consult the particular student teachers based on their performance.
Bachelor of Education:
Teaching as second language (TESL) programme offered through University of Malaya
Teaching as second language (TESL) is a four year course. Students who undergo and specialize in TESL course will learn and master practices in teaching of English as second language. They will be trained for careers as English language teachers. The faculty of education of University Malaya will arrange the courses which heavy focus on applied and theoretical linguistic, teachers' ethnic, specialization in teaching methodology and techniques, as well as programmes that prepare student teachers for the doctoral work in the disciplines.
In order to complete the degree, undergraduates need to fulfill the course requirement. The following table is the example of course structure for the bachelor of education (commencing admission session 2007/08) that undergraduates are required to fulfill during the four years course.
Form the tables, the average credit hours for each subject in each course is about three credit hours. However, teaching practicum consists of eight hour for itself alone. It tells us that teaching practicum plays an important role in the whole teaching programme. Teaching practice is usually implemented during the final phase of the teacher education programme. It is because the objective of practicum is to ensure that student teachers acquire skills, knowledge, attitude and the values throughout the courses that are required by every professional teacher. The major emphasis of the teaching practice is on teaching and experience both in and out of the classroom and development of appropriate personality traits of a teacher. Teaching practicum is a vital component of Teacher Education Programme. If students teachers had a wrong beliefs about teaching practicum, and they will definitely fail to master teaching methodology, teaching ethnic and some other skills provided by the university. Besides that, they will also face difficulties during teaching practicum. The student teachers would suffer when they go for teaching practice when they are in the final level.
In a nutshell, each and every teaching institute is doing their best to provide the most suitable courses in order to produce a professional teacher in the future. Nevertheless, one's beliefs will easily affect one's learning attitude as well as one's teaching presentation no matter during the learning process or in the future. Therefore, besides providing the good courses, the university also needs to take students' beliefs into account so that the authorities and the lecturers could teach and impart the correct teaching beliefs about teaching practicum to the student. For instance, the university can focus more on the Philosophy of Education to help students to see better the nature of a human beings as well as the nature of learning style. If the university understands what the student teachers' concerns are and what are the beliefs that inhibit them from learning and perform better during microteaching, the university can easily adjust the courses to suit the students' needs and prepare the students to the teaching practicum.
Statement of the problem
Teaching Practicum is generally recognized both within and outside Malaysia that most students "are vehement in asserting that teaching practice is one of the most valuable and one of the worst conducted parts of training" (Francis & Paul, 1973). Why Francis & Paul described teaching practicum as the worst conducted parts of training? It is because student teachers have to play two roles at the same time which are a learner and a co-teacher. Student teachers are expected to demonstrate what they have possess the knowledge and skills through teacher education courses; namely planning, developing the lesson, communicating, managing the classroom and also evaluating the students. Besides that, they are also expected to adopt professional attitude to their work as a co-teacher.
There are several subjects provided in teacher education courses, while teaching practicum is one area in which the teacher training colleges and the universities share many common problems. One of the problems is that student teachers may hold deeply to their beliefs about teaching practicum indirectly affect their performance in teaching during teaching practicum or even in their future teaching career. As we know, whenever students were to learn a new subject or to expose to a more challenging knowledge, they will hold to their beliefs in order to make themselves comfortable to the situation. However, student may have some mistaken ideas about the particular subjects, so as the student teachers. Some of the student teachers may carry a positive and correct belief about teacher practicum while some may not. This matter is very important because incorrect learner beliefs will negatively affect their presentation as well as their performance in class. Student teachers may not portray themselves perfectly as a professional teacher when they hold incorrect beliefs about teaching.
This paper is to investigate TESL undergraduates' beliefs about teaching practicum after they have undergone several programmes provided by Faculty of Education, University of Malaya. It is to see if they have common beliefs about teaching practicum and it would foresee if the student teachers held a correct or incorrect belief about teaching practicum. Many student teachers' beliefs about school come from their experiences as students. They have formed impressions about themselves and their abilities, about the nature of knowledge, and about how 'learning' takes place. So, this paper would review and highlight on TESL undergraduates' beliefs about teaching practicum on two major components, namely the prior to teaching practicum and classroom management.
Objectives of the study
The objectives of the study are listed below:
To describe the University of Malaya TESL undergraduates' prior beliefs about teaching practicum.
To explore and identify the components of the teacher education program that help to build their beliefs about teaching practicum.
For the purpose of this study, relevant data are required to answer the following questions:
What are the University of Malaya TESL undergraduates' prior beliefs about teaching practicum?
What are the components of the teacher education program that help to build student teachers' beliefs about teaching practicum?
Definition of key terms
There are different ways to describe beliefs. H.A. Hodges said "belief is a moral act for which the believer is to be held responsible", while Frank Pajares explained it as
"â€¦ Defining beliefs is at best a game of players' choice. They travel in disguise and often under alias-attitudes, values, judgments, axioms, ideology, perceptions, personal theories, internal mental process, conceptions, action strategies, rules of practice, practical principles, perspectives, repertories of understanding, and social strategy.
The meaning of practicum in this context is a specialized field of study that is designed to give students supervised practical application of previously studied theory after undergo course in school or college.
Teaching Practicum is the last of the series of pedagogical courses. A student teacher is asked to teach under the supervision of a certified teacher in order to qualify for a degree in education. Student teachers use this opportunity to perform education theory and to widen their practical experiences.
Student teacher is synonymous with the term trainee teacher. Student teacher is a selected candidate who has been enrolled for the teacher education programme course and is under the guidance of an university supervisor and other personnel involved in the supervisory task.
1.6 Significance of the study
This study aims to gather and analyse relevant data which will provide the necessary information so that a description of the beliefs about teaching practicum of TESL undergraduates of University of Malaya can be obtained.
The focus of the problem of the study is to identify what the University of Malaya TESL undergraduates' beliefs about teaching practicum are. The result of the data analysis would then help us as well as other educators to form a better understanding towards student teachers' beliefs about teaching and also teaching practicum. We may identify if the student teachers have carried a wrong belief about teaching practicum all the time. It will not only benefit the educators, but the students will understand better about themselves and recognize which is the right or wrong belief they have.
Many argue that incorrect student teachers' beliefs would negatively affect their teaching attitude. Through the study, the findings would give each educator a great opportunity to change and modified the education system and form a basis for proposing a better programme for students to shape their view of teachers' role. Moreover, educators may create a better environment as well as teaching syllabus to prepare the student teachers to teach effectively and impart them the passion of teaching.
Last but not least, identifying variation of students' beliefs may also increase students' level of confidence. Once students have their own beliefs, they would not find teaching is a difficult task. Through the study, we can also see what student teachers have prepared for teaching practicum. Subsequently the students would consider beliefs as a main source that would affect personal development and the learning and teaching process.
1.7 Limitations of the study
The limitation to this research is that it is done only questionnaires. Although it is good and proven method of doing research through the collection of data, it is still restricted to certain types of questions. In addition, there are a few of study regarding beliefs about teaching practicum in Malaysia context.
Besides that, this research is limited to 40 undergraduates of University of Malaya only. While the findings of the study can be used for drawing conclusions about the beliefs about teaching practicum of this university, they cannot necessarily be generalise to other university undergraduates . In addition, the numbers of undergraduates who participate in this research do not represent a complete investigation of all the undergraduates in this university nor other universities.
Pintrich, P. R. (1990). Implications of psychological research on students learning and college teaching for teacher education. Handbook of research on teacher education (pp. 826-857). New York: Macmillan.