This work discusses teaching practice experiences of biology teachers: challenges and possible panacea. Fifty questionnaires were distributed amongst final year biology Education student teachers in the Faculty of Education, University of Benin, Benin-city, Edo state. Surveys were also conducted. Tables and percentages were also used as the instrument of analysis. It was observed therefore that teaching practice experiences have a significant effect on biology teachers. Also, there is a relationship between teaching practice experiences and biology teachers. Lack of laboratory and library are some of the challenges faced by biology teachers. Based on this, the researcher recommends the provision of efficient laboratory as a panacea to this.
1.1 Background to the study
Teaching is an exciting and rewarding activity but like other professions it is demanding. It requires that its practitioners clearly understand what should be done to bring about the most desirable learning in the pupil and be highly proficient in the skills necessary to carry out these tasks.
The central thrust of reforms in the teacher education programme is to produce teachers who can perform adequately in the world of work and meet the present day challenges. All the teachers training institutions does not only impart theoretical but also practical knowledge and skill in teaching different subjects to prospective teachers. At the end of the session, teaching practice is carried out for practical application of theoretical understanding about different teaching methods.
Teaching is the process by which a person helps other people to learn. Teaching helps people to gain the knowledge and attitudes they need to be responsible citizens, earn a living and lead a peaceful life. It also provides a chief mean of passing knowledge to the next generation. (Encyclopedia, 1988: P.65)
Teaching practice is a vital aspect of the teacher preparatory programme in teacher training institutions and in Faculties of Education in Nigerian universities. It serves as an opportunity for student-teachers to be exposed to the realities of teaching and professional activities in the field of education. Every profession has its own practical side; the training of lawyers, doctors, engineers and other well-known professions make adequate provision for practical work which forms an integral part of the total training of the professions, hence the teaching practice exercise is the practical aspect of the teacher education programme. A sound professional preparation is necessary for successful teaching profession and teaching practice constitutes an important and indispensable component of the process involved in the adequate preparation of professional teachers.
According to Adesina, Daramola and Taiabi (1989) teaching practice can be defined as a teacher education programme or activity which involves the student-teacher putting into practice his/her acquired theory of teaching under the genuine experience of the normal classroom situation. It is an opportunity for student teachers to face the realities of their chosen career in terms of its demands, challenges and excitements. It can also be seen as periods when student teachers are aided to put into practice the theories and principles of education which they have learnt in the classroom as they teach (Ogonor and Badmus, 2006).
The term teaching practice embraces all the learning experiences of student teachers in schools. 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 (Stone and Morris: 1907 P.19).
Khan writes about the concept of internship as it is the responsibility to teacher education institutions to provide such learning experiences to students teachers that they may be able to identify, select, innovate and organize such learning experiences which may develop competence in the student teachers to teach the course of their specialization on the one hand and games, recreational activities and socially useful productive work on the other hand. The program of internship in teaching other than traditional teaching practice program can play an effective role in developing these concepts in the student teachers.Internship is a new experience in the profession of teaching. In which trainees are able to observe the entire work of the school and to participate actively in all the important professional activities of a teacher both in and out of the classroom (Khan: 1993, P.19).
Gower and Walters write that someone can learn about teaching by discussing it and talking about materials and techniques but like most skills one cannot really learn it without doing it. It is one of the few opportunities for prospective teacher ever have for trying out a new idea and perhaps having a critical but supportive set of observers. To focus on:
- Classroom sensitivity to problems of teaching
- Classroom sensitivity to learning problems
- Basic classroom management skills
- Teaching technique. (Gower and Walter: 1983, P.40).
According to Brown and Brown (1990, P.2, 3) Practice training provides:
- An opportunity to gain confidence.
- Chance to put theories into practice.
- An opportunity to learn the skills and attitudes of a competent and affective teacher.
- The chance to learn about children in real life.
- An opportunity to improve the knowledge of subject matter.
- The chance to gain from the benefits of constructive criticism.
- An opportunity for self-evaluation and to discover strengths and weaknesses.
- An opportunity for the teaching institutions to evaluate itself.
According to Merry field (1997, P.124) teaching practice provides the following opportunities to students:
- To apply knowledge and skills acquired in teacher education course work.
- To demonstrate attitude consistent with good teaching.
- To apply multiple principles of learning and multiple teaching strategies.
- Begin to identify with the role of a teacher.
- Develop entry-level competence in the full range of teaching function.
- Demonstrate professional and ethical behavior.
Perry (1998, P.23) narrates that teaching practice experiences contribute in some way to understanding of teaching. It helps to learn to use teaching experience in:
- Developing specialized knowledge
- Using the knowledge to access and make decisions
- Acquiring high standards of practice
- To develop knowledge and abilities in relation to each of these aspects.
Meetings are held to give the students the necessary information about their teaching practice. The teaching practice organizer together with the supervisors give out the necessary information of such as matters as procedure for observation days, on assessment, on appropriate dress, on learning aids etc.
Students can ask questions about any aspect of teaching practice that concerns them. The students should be told about their transport and about the times they are supposed to board the buses to and from the school. All the students going on teaching practice should attend teaching practice programs. (Macharia and Wario: 1994, P.8).
The aims of the teaching practice exercise according to Ogonor and Badmus (2006) are:
- To provide the teacher trainee some type of pre-service training which serves as an opportunity to be exposed to the realities of teaching and performance of professional activities.
- It provides opportunities for students to test theories learnt and ideas in the classroom as they come in contact for the first time with real life situations.
- It provides trainees the opportunity to utilize the various teaching methods in actual classrooms/school conditions under the constant supervision of competent and experienced teachers.
- It exposes student teachers to professional activities, which are part of the teacher roles in schools.
Also the teaching practice exercise enables the students to be more familiar with variety of instructional materials and resources, evaluate and select those materials appropriate for the objectives in a teaching unit or lesson (Afolabi, 2000). Anupama (2009) summed this up by stating that the positive side of the whole exercise of teaching practice is to give sense of accomplishment to student teachers. They learn to take responsibility, gain confidence and improve upon their classroom management skills.
In University of Benin, the teaching practice exercise is a compulsory course for students both at the penultimate and final levels of the Bachelor of Education programme, the teaching practice exercise is a 6-week duration programme which is a co-operative venture involving both the student-teachers and supervisors (usually academic staff of the Faculty of Education). The teaching practice exercise is the equivalent of industrial training in Engineering, Sciences and other professions.
Subjects in curriculum and teaching methods offered in the Bachelor of Education programme are intended to prepare students teachers in the pedagogical skills in specific subjects. Ojoawo (1996) like other educators is of the opinion that the theoretical dimension takes care of the acquisition of theoretical knowledge in the classroom while the practical dimension constitutes all forms of pre-service contact with the act of teaching in the classroom. Links between theory and practice are emphasized in education programme so that students could draw close professional links between the universities and the secondary schools where they are prepared to function as teachers.
Urevbu (2004) noted that the knowledge and skills acquired are demonstrated before examiners who give feedbacks so as to improve their practice before they are finally evaluated. Teaching practice creates a mix888ture of anticipation, anxiety and apprehension in the student teachers as they commence their teaching practice (Manion, Keith, Morrison & Cohen, 2003). According to Perry (2004), teaching practice is exciting but challenging. It is against this backdrop that this study tries to examine the challenges faced by student teachers during the teaching practice exercise.
One of the principles of learning is to know the learners and start working with them. Student teacher is deeply concerned about knowing the situation in which he/she will work and the people with whom he / she will associate. He/she has also concern to know about the curriculum plans of school. Student teacher will need to become familiar with the particular units of work in which the pupils be engaged when he / she begins his/her student teaching.
The concept involved and the instructional material being used. Another whole area of concern is his / her relations to other staff members and the school administration to parents and school community. Students must know: School calendar, school hours, Reporting accidents, first aid service, health services, Playground rules, Lost and found articles, Duties of safety patrol, Passing in corridors, ground movement within the building, Use of library, auditorium, gymnasium, audio-visual materials, Use of duplicating equipment, requisitioning supplies and equipment, Testing program, Testing program, Teachers meeting, other professional and in-service meetings, Teachers library, Parent – Teachers meeting, Report to Parent, Central Record Office, Supervisory policy, principal central office personnel, Reporting pupil and teacher absence, Special school services, store, bank etc. (Stratemeyer and Lindsey: (1969, P.205).
Stratemeyer (1969, P.84) suggested a few tasks for students, which are as follows:
- a) To observe the work of other teachers (cooperating teachers) and of classes other than the one with which he / she is concentrating,
- b) To participate in all school projects in the total program of an educational unit and to develop a feeling for the responsibility and get the feel of the teachers work load
- c) To participate in planning for and presenting school assembly programs
- d) To observe the work of several clubs of different types and to share in the responsibility for guidance of and of special interest to him / her or to which he / she brings special competence
- e) To study how administration affects teaching and teachers. To get a picture of the activities of school administrators a student might spend two or three days working full time with the school principal. It is important that the students do more than sit passively in an office and watch people come and go
- f) Attending the regular faculty meetings in school. The nature of the meeting, its purposes and probable procedures and one’s planning for contributing to the discussion at hand
- g) Include to getting the responsibility for the guidance of pupils in dealing with their personal and education problems.
Whereas Johnson and Deprin recommended the following tasks of students teachers:
- a) Observe the teaching procedures followed by the cooperating teacher, taking note of the general routine
- b) Become familiar with available instructional materials
- c) Make a special effort to become acquainted with the pupil’s learning as many names as possible
- d) Identify areas in which plans can be made for immediate participation with individual or small groups
- e) Acquire background information on the pupils with whom he will be working
- f) Attaining an understanding of school situation; the school program, physical surrounding and facilities and the responsibilities of the teacher to the school, community and profession
- g) Obtaining experience in performing satisfactorily the routine tasks, which are normally the responsibilities of classroom teacher
- h) Engaging in a wide range of professional activities like using available instructional media, arranging bulletin board, classroom and management, keeping attendance register etc. (John and Deprin: 1971, P.29-31).
1.2 Statement of the problem
Teaching practice is a period when student teachers are given opportunity to try the act of teaching before actually getting into the real world of teaching profession. Inspite of the observed relevance and purpose of the teaching practice exercise in teacher preparatory programme, a number of challenges appear to hamper the optimum realization of its objectives in the professional growth of students in training. Many student-teachers get agitated about entering the classrooms to take up teaching tasks in unfamiliar environment. According to Kiggundu and Nayimuli (2009) such mixed feelings can contribute to discouraging a student teacher. Hence the focus of this study is to investigate the various challenges faced by biology student teachers during teaching practice exercise.
1.3 Research questions
The study of problems encountered by biology education students in the course of teaching practice is of great relevance/importance as far as efficient and effective teacher training is concerned.
Arising from this, the following will be the research major questions.
- What are the views of biology student teachers based on their experiences, the duration and the relevance of teaching practice?
- What are the problems biology student teachers encounter during teaching practice?
- What are the solutions to be proffered so as to improve the quality of the exercise?
In order to further examine the problem of the study, the following research hypotheses were raised.
Ho 1: there is no significant difference between male and female biology student teachers experiences on teaching practice.
Ho 2: There is no significant difference between the teaching experiences of biology student teachers in urban and rural schools on the challenges faced during teaching practice exercise.
1.5 Purpose of the study
The purpose of study is listed as follows:
- To determine the importance of Teaching Practice, its duration and experience of biology student teachers.
- To determine the problems/ various challenges faced by biology student teachers during teaching practice exercise.
- To make recommendations based on these findings aimed at providing solutions to these problems so as to improve the quality of the exercise.
1.6 Significance of study
The relevance of this study cannot be over emphasized, and it can thus be seen below:
- The study would reveal the problems faced by Biology student teachers during the teaching practice and also provide useful information for the improvement of the system of teaching practice.
- The study would also provide guides to respectively faculties of Education in different institutions as to problems faced by biology teachers and also proffer solutions to these problems in order to enhance the effectiveness of teaching practice. Also the study would not only be of help to only Biology students alone but it would be relative to other courses in Education.
- The study would help new student teachers in practice to understand underlying problems and challenges faced by his/her predecessors and see possible solutions to such situations so that they would have a wonderful teaching experience for proper effectiveness and efficiency in teaching.
- Some of these problems are school based problems of secondary schools used for teaching practice and as such this study would help expose the various challenges of such schools which hamper the efficiency and effectiveness of teaching practice.
Lastly, the educational knowledge gotten through this exercise will be well transmitted if the problems involved there in are solved. Teaching/learning will be made more efficient and both the student teachers and students will gain academically.
1.7 Basic assumptions
For the purpose of this study the following assumptions are made:
It was assumed that teaching practice exist in all teacher training college and institution of higher learning and has been an important aspect of all teacher education programmes.
It is also assumed that assessment improves significantly the quality of student teachers.
It is also assumed that problems encountered by student teachers in a particular educational institution may be of similar effect on students of other educational institutions.
Lastly, it is assumed that the possible solutions to these problems will be of help to check the problems encountered by student teachers, supervisors and school administration.
1.8 Scope/delimitation of study
The research is limited to student teachers in four (4) hundred level Biology Education class who were involved in the last teaching practice conducted by the Faculty of Education, University of Benin.
It was also further delimited to finding out their problems as well as how such factors of their sex, location of school (either Urban or Rural) and marital status contributed to their problems during their teaching practice.
1.9 Definition of terms
The following terms would be encountered in the course of this study and they are defined as generally used in the field of education or faculty of Education, University of Benin:
- Student teacher: a college, university or graduate student who is teaching under the supervision of a certified teacher in order to qualify for a degree in education.
- Profession: a vocation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain.
- Panacea: an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties.
- Biology Education: A course area in the Department of Educational Psychology and Curriculum Studies in the Faculty of Education, University of Benin.
- Student-teacher/Teacher-trainees: are students at undergraduate and postgraduate diploma’ levels studying to become teachers.
- Teaching Practice Monitoring: involves the visitation, observation and evaluation of student-teachers by teacher educators where they have been posted.
- Pre-practice Teaching Activities: are the array of activities carried out in preparation for the teaching practice exercise by student-teachers, facilitators, supervisors, teacher educators aimed at ensuring a successful teaching practice exercise.
- School of Education: refers to colleges of Education and the academic unit in various Universities across the country charged with the responsibility of producing competent teachers in various programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels through distance learning modes.
- Cooperating Schools: are the schools where the student-teachers will be undertaking their teaching practice exercise.
- Cooperating Teachers: are the subject teachers in the cooperating schools who serve as mentors to student-teachers assigned to their classes. Cooperating teachers, according to Afe (1990) are usually appointed by the Head Teachers on grounds of age, competence, experience and qualification. They are to play the role of guiding, advising and helping the student-teachers. In addition, they act as a bridge between the school and the supervisors.
- Head Teachers: are the Heads of Primary Schools or Principals of Secondary Schools or the Heads of Departments of specific subject areas in cooperating schools.
- Evaluation:refers to the assessment and judgment of the student-teacher’s performance during and at the end of the teaching practice. The essence of evaluation is to determine a student-teacher’s overall performance in order to assign him/her a grade.