Pre-Service Teachers – how well are we training our students?

So recently I had the opportunity to work with our Faculty of Education post graduate students. To be honest I had heard a lot of things about some members’ perceptions of PGCE students, and I have to say that these students made me change my mind as to all the stuff I had ever heard. Stuff which included things such as these students complain all the time, and they don’t really want to work. So in my limited experience, and with a little bit of belief in the things I have been reading and experimenting with in the past years, set about trying to bring about a change. I offered the students the possibility to talk, to find out things and to reflect about them. I also offered the students the small possibility of participating actively in their own learning.

This is the product of what we have produced together. The Designing Learning Resource site has over 1,000 precious comments from my 100 or so students, all snippets of knowledge and experience which these pre-service teachers carry with them, and which would have been left untapped and unexplored.

I was really very pleasantly surprised by the response. The first time I met those students I was met with a touch of hostility, regarding me as a person who was trying to do the impossible, given that this modality was also offered during their exam period. One might very sarcastically ask, how does one manage to learn during exam period? Exams are exams right? We don’t really learn during exams… they’re just one way of assessment… well, the blog, offered them all the right reasons and possibilities to learn because learning became a need – there is a justification, in that although it first started out as something obligatory, it turned into something which made them get insights that were beyond the simple issue of learning because someone is telling you to learn.

The model which I followed for this course, was one of flexibility. I wanted to experiment with letting them learn what they wanted to learn when they wanted to learn it. Education happens… when there is a need for it, and I wanted to see what results would emerge from these pre-service teachers when I offered them the possibilities of flexibility in their own learning designs. The results are in the process of being collated and hopefully published, but in the meantime you can have a look at some of these precious comments, and maybe you can understand, how change has indeed happened, and from a resistant group of learners, we got to an active group of participants and hopefully they got much more out of it themselves than they would have had they spent 6 hours listening to my rants…

which brings out the question… are we, as Faculty, really teaching the way we think teaching should be best carried out in schools? Should we keep our traditional way of doing Education with these pre-service teachers or should we move to a more dynamic, active environment – making use of all that technology has to offer?