The existential nature of pre-service teachers’ professional experiences

Author: Helen Stephenson

Stephenson, Helen, 2020 The existential nature of pre-service teachers’ professional experiences, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Australian Government reports into Higher Education increasingly focus on work-integrated learning as a means of supporting students’ work-readiness and employment. Yet, the specific elements of initial teacher education programs contributing to classroom and professional readiness are unknown, and a lack of evidence on the contribution of professional experiences to work readiness has been reported. Missing from all these reports is student voice on professional experience and any phenomenological research focused on ‘being’ an undergraduate initial teacher education student. In the context of higher education and initial teacher education in Australia, this research then seeks to answer the following questions: What is it like ‘being’ in a work-integrated learning (WIL) experience? What is the nature of relationships within a WIL experience?

Conversations with undergraduate pre-service teachers following their final professional experience were recorded, transcribed, described and interpreted for taken-for-granted existential meanings. Hermeneutic interpretations of participants’ stories showed the existential nature of ‘being’ a pre-service teacher within professional experiences as imbued with risk, care, and readiness.

The existential nature of risk, care, and readiness was shown to be contextual, temporal, transitional and existing between people. It was the human beings, supervising teacher(s), university liaisons, pre-service teachers, children, guardians, and the community within a professional context, who mattered to the relating. These relationships are significant for their contribution to pre-service teachers’ understandings of an educational context.

This thesis responds to the Australian Government’s focus on measuring, in part, the ‘value’ of higher education through graduates’ employment outcomes. Providing qualitative evidence, this thesis enables the contextual relationships of pre-service teachers’ professional experiences to be a central focus point. Readers, particularly those within the education vocation, are invited to gain an appreciation for the shared meanings of professional experiences from a student perspective and consider how they might contribute to further enhancing the initial teacher education professional experiences for students.

Keywords: Initial teacher education, professional experiences, hermeneutic, phenomenology, pre-service teachers, thrownness, comportment, attunement

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2020
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: David Giles and Kerry Bissaker