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The Training Program
All of these activities were documented, and the children prepared flyers describing how water could be saved in their daily lives. They went out to the community distributing flyers in the streets and inviting people to save water and to find new ways to do so. The math methods instructor helped the children develop charts and graphs. The science methods instructor helped the children find different ways to measure water and make water flow from one place to another.
In another school for middle-class children, where the book area in a particular classroom was very poorly maintained, a project developed that involved 4- and 5-year-old children, the student teacher, and the head teacher in improving the area where the books were kept. The children learned with the help of the librarian how to organize and protect the books, and they learned the library rules.
The children inventoried their classroom books, organized them by subjects or topics, and repaired those that were in poor condition. Finally, they voted on a set of rules. A language arts methods instructor from the School of Education was directly involved in helping the class with this project. They made graphs and charts showing what kinds of books were more frequently checked out. They created a home-reading schedule with the help of their families, and each child had an attractive personal bag in which to bring home one book each week.
In an interview, a cooperating teacher commented about how the work among teachers and student teachers developed:. This encounter, repeated every year, involves a person who is an experienced professional the teacher and another one who is still learning how to become a professional the student. The cooperating teacher guarantees to the student teacher the appropriate conditions so that he or she can be responsible for his or her own development and provides the conditions for them to develop interesting projects with young children.
Proximity with the student teachers is needed on our part in order to cooperate, to facilitate the work, to improve practice, to analyze, to evaluate, and to reformulate the strategies to be used: We create together a path, ways of working, methods.
ECRP. Vol 9 No 2. Using the Project Approach in a Teacher Education Practicum
By critically thinking about her practice of today or of yesterday, she can reformulate it. But there is the need for openness to change. Distance is needed so that the student teacher can feel that the group of children is under her responsibility despite having the guidance of the cooperating teacher. She needs autonomy in order to become more responsible, more committed. We cannot forget that, by the end of the year, she will become a professional and will have to work by herself, hopefully in a supportive environment!
The cooperating teacher believed that by developing projects with young children the student teacher can become more autonomous, take initiative, develop ideas, and take the risk to develop innovations in the classroom. It is important, then, that the student understands that her intervention in classroom routines and implementation of projects is going to provoke changes in the daily life of the classroom and significant transformations in the way teachers work. Therefore, the student teachers are co-producers of new knowledge and of innovation Bruner, with their cooperating teachers.
She will bring energy into the team, through innovation and the enrichment of interactions. It is important that the student teacher understands that her contribution will bring change and a significant transformation! As a result of this work involving student teachers, cooperating teachers, university supervisors, methods instructors, and the practicum coordinator, these findings emerged:. It is in the pedagogical act that teacher educators, but also cooperating teachers and student teachers, come to better understand the uses of different teaching methods.
If one accepts this statement, the importance of the seminar and practicum in the teacher education program becomes clear. It is crucial to ensure the coordinated work of all the people involved—the cooperating teachers, the students, the methods instructors, and the practicum supervisor. Recognition of this fact ensures that the practicum addresses—in a deeply coordinated way—all aspects of teaching young children.
The result is that through a project, student teachers, as well as cooperating teachers and methods instructors, come to understand better how interdisciplinary work can occur in an educational setting for young children. This coordination also ensures curriculum coherence in the teacher training program. It is in the context of the interdisciplinary project seminar and practicum that methods instructors understand better the content and processes that students need to learn in the specific disciplines math, science, language arts.
The coordinated seminar and practicum contribute to the professional development of teacher educators in general and methods instructors in particular. The methods instructors through their involvement with project work with the children can find meaningful and less-formal ways to teach their courses. University supervisors of student teaching can enrich their own knowledge of specific curriculum areas.
Also, cooperating teachers will understand how project work brings innovation into their classrooms. The interdisciplinary project seminar and practicum are difficult to prepare, to negotiate, and to coordinate, and can be seen as working in the zone of proximal development Vygotsky, of all involved.
Project work presents problems not only for children to solve, but also for the adults involved. For student teachers, cooperating teachers, and teacher educators who do not have experience with the Project Approach, project work may entail operating above their level of development. All participants work together in a systematic process of negotiation—looking critically at and changing their own specific practices.
The use of the Project Approach in student teaching can help the student teacher understand that a very important part of professional development occurs in the context of the actual work setting—an important principle of lifelong learning. This process of professional development emerges as a dynamic kind of participation, a spiral of complexity, therefore offering opportunities for the empowerment of all participants Freire, The cooperating teacher in particular can clearly be empowered through this process, becoming, really, a teacher educator, part of the university staff.
In a process of guided participation Rogoff, , he or she is part of a team of trainers and becomes a key element in the overall program of teacher education. New knowledge emerges from participation in the practicum and seminar experiences. This knowledge transcends the sum of disciplinary knowledge competencies required for teaching different subjects. The final practicum becomes a transdisciplinary process Nicolescu, and a source of new knowledge.
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This new knowledge results from the interaction of disciplinary knowledge with the process of project work. It is dynamic and participatory, generating new forms of being present in the training process. Teacher educators feel gratified, and student teachers understand the role of the trainer as a support to their development.
According to Roland Barthes Interdisciplinary work, so present nowadays, is not about confronting the different existing disciplines none of them, in fact, having the disposition of stopping existing. Interdisciplinarity consists of a new object that belongs to no one. Beyond regulations, all participants are co-responsible, as Paulo Freire says: The author wants to acknowledge the outstanding work developed by her colleagues methods instructors at the Lisbon School of Education. Toward a workplace pedagogy: Guidance, participation, and engagement.
Adult Education Quarterly, 53 1 , The culture of education. Campos, Bartolo Paiva Org. In Bartolo Paiva Campos Org. From the initial teacher training college to the cooperating schools]. Pedagogia do oprimido [Pedagogy of the oppressed]. Pedagogia da autonomia [Pedagogy of autonomy]. The project approach 2nd ed.
Public policy, children, and childhood. O manifesto da transdisciplinaridade [Transdisciplinary manifest]. Desenvolvimento da autonomia e luta contra as desigualdade. Cognitive development in social context. From a mosaic approach to the curriculum as a training project]. Quality in early childhood education]. Das perplexidades em torno de um hamster ao processo de pesquisa: Project work in early childhood education in Portugal]. Retrieved July 24, , from http: The concept of scaffolding and its implications for preschool educational settings].
Research in early childhood in Portugal.
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The development of higher psychological processes. Expanding professional roles to promote reflection and shared inquiry. Topics in Early Childhood Education, 21 2 , Wood, David; Bruner, Jerome S. The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17 2 , She has been involved in early childhood teacher education for many years and also directly committed to working with the government in early childhood policies.
The Training Program The training program for early childhood teachers includes courses in mathematics, science, social sciences, and language arts. The Final Practicum The final practicum is a crucial component of the process of teacher education, having as its ultimate goal preparation of students for entrance into the profession of teaching.
The Tradition of Project Work in Portugal Incorporating projects into the curriculum has a long tradition in Portuguese pedagogy. The Interdisciplinary Project Seminar Overview As mentioned previously, the final practicum is a crucial component of the process of teacher education.