The Progression of Prospective Primary Teachers’ Conceptions of the Methodology of Teaching

Abstract

This article describes the evolution of prospective primary teachers’ conceptions of the methodology of teaching. Three categories were analyzed: the concept of activity, the organization of activities, and the concept of teaching resources. The study was conducted with five teams of prospective teachers, who were participating in teacher education courses of a constructivist orientation. The results showed very different itineraries in the processes of change, and the presence of two major obstacles—the belief that teaching is the direct cause of learning, and epistemological absolutism. The study allows us to deduce some implications for initial teacher education.

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Correspondence to Pilar Azcárate.

Appendices

Appendix A. Sequence of Activities of the CAIC Course

PPP-I: What ideas do the pupils have about some of the school-level science content?

  1. Activity 1.

    Draft the first version of the questionnaire.

  2. After individual reflection, the teams draft a questionnaire to determine the pupils’ ideas on the content selected, indicating their reasons.

  3. Common session, pooling ideas and information based on the presentations of two teams. The teams start to improve their questionnaire.

  4. Activity 2.

    Read and discuss the contributions of educational research.

  5. Analysis of their proposals. Presentation of examples of questionnaires and of pupils’ ideas on a variety of content (changes of state, human reproduction,…). Analysis in common sessions. The teams continue to improve their questionnaires.

  6. Individual reading of texts on pupils’ ideas and learning. Team discussion about this reading and what changes it suggests ought to be introduced into the questionnaire. General debate on the literature read.

  7. Team response to the script: How to construct a questionnaire to determine the pupils’ ideas?

  8. Activity 3.

    Prepare and administer the definitive questionnaire.

  9. Team development of the definitive version, indicating the reasoning used and explaining the changes.

  10. Common session based on the presentations of two teams. Conclusions on the instruments to use to identify the pupils’ ideas.

  11. Administer the questionnaire to the group of Primary pupils.

  12. Activity 4.

    Carry out a pilot study.

  13. The teams decide on a preliminary version of the method of analysis, and apply it to 10 questionnaires.

  14. Common session based on the presentations of two teams. The teams start to revise their methods of analysis.

  15. Activity 5.

    Read and discuss the contributions of educational research.

  16. Individual response to a questionnaire on a specific item of content (e.g., digestion).

  17. The teams categorize by level of complexity examples of primary education pupils’ ideas on that content. They describe the obstacles between levels.

  18. They do the same with the responses they gave to the questionnaire. Compare the pupils’ responses with theirs. Debate on: school-level and spontaneous ideas, level of formulation, and obstacles.

  19. Presentation of examples of analysis of pupils’ ideas. Debate in a common session. The teams continue to improve their method.

  20. Team response to the script: How to analyze the pupils’ ideas?

  21. Activity 6.

    Carry out the complete study.

  22. The teams decide on the definitive version of the method, and apply it to the entire sample.

  23. Common session based on the presentations of two teams, dealing with the analysis and the results they were getting. The method of analysis is revised.

  24. Conclusions on the method of analysis. Results and educational consequences.

PPP-II: What specific content should be programmed with the pupils’ ideas taken into account?

  1. Activity 7.

    Draft the first content proposal.

  2. After individual reflection, and taking the previous results into account, the teams draft a content proposal for the chosen topic of the content.

  3. Common session based on the presentations of two teams. The teams begin to improve their content proposals.

  4. Activity 8.

    Read and discuss the contributions of educational research.

  5. Analysis of their proposals. Presentation of examples of content with a diversity of types, sources, organization, levels, and presentation to the pupils. Debate. The teams continue to improve their content proposals.

  6. Individual reading of texts on school-level content. Team discussion about this reading and what changes it suggests ought to be introduced into the content. General debate on the literature read.

  7. Team response to the script: Which content to teach? (Appendix B)

  8. Activity 9.

    Prepare the definitive content proposal.

  9. Team development of the definitive content proposal.

  10. Conclusions about the content (sources, types, organization, formulation, and presentation to the pupils).

PPP-III: What sequence of activities might be conducive to the evolution of the pupils’ ideas?

  1. Activity 10.

    Draft the first version of the plan of activities.

  2. After individual reflection, and taking the previous results into account, the teams draft the first version of the plan of activities.

  3. Common session based on two cases, and analysis of the underlying methodological model. The teams start to modify their plans of activities.

  4. Activity 11.

    Read and discuss the contributions of educational research.

  5. Analysis of their proposals. Presentation of examples of activities, sequences, methodological models, etc. The teams continue to improve their plans of activities.

  6. Individual reading of texts on methods. Team discussion about this reading and what changes it suggests ought to be introduced into the plan of activities. General debate on the literature read.

  7. Team response to the script: What plan of activities to prepare?

  8. Activity 12.

    Prepare the definitive plan of activities.

  9. Prepare the definitive version.

  10. Common session based on two cases. General conclusions on teaching methods (activities, activity sequence, methodological models,…).

Appendix B. Educational Activity Documents

  1. Document 10.

    Prepare a first draft of the content.

    1. a)

      Taking into account the results of the study on the ideas of your pupils and the programmed content, draft, first individually and then as a team, an initial organized teaching plan to improve the pupils’ ideas.

    2. b)

      Justify the proposal and the order in which its different parts are presented.

  2. Document 11.

    Reflection Script IV: What teaching plan to prepare?

  3. 1.

    As has been noted, some authors define activities as the programming units of the teaching-learning process. Accordingly, a teaching plan would consist of a sequenced series of activities regardless of whether in each activity the prominent part is played by the pupil, the teacher, or both. In other words, an activity can refer to one of the teacher’s explanations, a small-group working session, a debate with the teacher, an experiment, a field trip, etc., or to two or more of these combined. What is your opinion about this? Reason your answer in detail.

  4. 2.

    Now look carefully at your initial version of the teaching plan. What determines the order in which you intend to sequence things in the classroom? Explain and justify your answer in detail:

    1. a)

      The conceptual content, in the sense that the first thing that is done is related to the first concept, the following with the second, etc.

    2. b)

      There is nothing to explain the order because the sequence that emerged was random, with no criterion.

    3. c)

      The pupils’ previous ideas, in the sense that we roughly follow a sequence of the form: determining the previous ideas, providing information to correct the errors and gaps identified, and checking whether the ideas have changed.

    4. d)

      If none of the above options satisfies you, describe your case?

  5. 3.

    Various authors argue that behind any teaching plan there is a specific type of “teaching methodology”. These methodological types or models are characterized by an ordered sequence of phases. For example, the following expressions reflect different methodological models with changes in these phases or their order:

  6. a)

    “One must first explain the theory, and then do practical classes to apply it.”

  7. b)

    “The ideal is to start out with observation activities, then give the theory, and finally see what they have learned by means of an examination.”

  8. c)

    “One must first ascertain the pupils’ ideas, then explain the errors identified, and finally give them a follow-up test.”

  9. d)

    “One must start with a problem, then the pupils have to reflect on their ideas. It is best later to include activities designed to help these ideas evolve, and finally one has to synthesize what they have learnt.”

  10. e)

    “One must begin with motivational activities, then experimental activities, followed by activities involving the teacher’s explanation, and finally activities to apply what has been learnt.”

As you can see, there are many possibilities. According to these same authors, a given methodological model reflects a certain idea about how pupils learn.

In connection with the foregoing, make a diagram outlining the methodological model that you would defend at the present time. Explain and justify it in writing. Is the first version of your teaching plan consistent with this model? Explain the differences.

  1. 4.

    From your point of view, what are teaching resources? List different types of teaching resources and explain the function they fulfil.

  2. 5.

    In light of the above, what changes do you want to make to your first version of the teaching plan? Give the reasons.

  3. Document 12.

    Prepare the second version of the teaching plan.

  4. a)

    Taking the conclusions of the previous activity into account, and consulting all the sources of information you deem necessary, prepare a second proposal of the teaching plan designed to improve the pupils’ ideas.

  5. b)

    Draft a set of educational principles that reflect the group’s views about the programming and implementation of teaching-learning activities.

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Rivero, A., Azcárate, P., Porlán, R. et al. The Progression of Prospective Primary Teachers’ Conceptions of the Methodology of Teaching. Res Sci Educ 41, 739–769 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-010-9188-z

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Keywords

  • Teachers’ conceptions
  • Pre-service teacher education
  • Professional development
  • Methodological strategies
  • Activities
  • Professional knowledge