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Valuing practice over theory : how beginning teachers re-orient their practice in the transition from the university to the workplace
conference contributionposted on 2007-01-01, 00:00 authored by Jeanne Allen
This paper is about the experiences of beginning teachers in turning theory learned in universities into practice in the workplace. The research is situated in the context of a preservice teacher education program that explicitly and deliberately seeks to bridge the theory-practice gap in teacher education. The paper argues that, despite long-standing awareness of the theory-practice gap as a central issue faced by beginning teachers, attempts by teacher educators to address this issue remain thwarted. The argument draws on interview and focus group data collected via a study of 1st year graduate teachers of an Australian preservice teacher education program. The theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism is used to focus on the meanings that graduates have of their experiences of turning theory into practice. The data suggest that prospective teachers during preservice training value both the theory that they learn on campus and the practice that they observe in schools. However, once they become practitioners, they privilege the latter. Upon entry to the workplace, graduates come to associate good practice with that of the veteran teacher, whose practice and cache of resources they seek to emulate. The paper concludes that background knowledge and occupational socialization remain key influences on teacher development and continue to play a key role in ensuring the continued transmittal of the cultural heritage. In particular, it proposes the need for innovative disruptions to the conventional model of teacher education.