Lost in transition: the effect of split student teaching experience on beginning early childhood teachers' practices

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Arizona State University's (ASU) teacher education program has been restructured several times in the last two decades to train teachers to teach children more effectively by responding to their individual

Arizona State University's (ASU) teacher education program has been restructured several times in the last two decades to train teachers to teach children more effectively by responding to their individual needs and learning demands. One of the reasons for restructuring was to respond to new licensing requirements by the State. To serve young children's needs, the state of Arizona required individuals working with young children to obtain either early childhood licensing or endorsement by January, 2009. Responding to these new requirements, ASU now requires student teaching in a preschool setting in addition to the existing Kindergarten to third grade student teaching and internship requirements. This study addressed the question of teacher preparation and self-efficacy based on this newly restructured teaching model used in the ASU Tempe teacher education program. The following questions guided this study: 1) What effects do beginning teachers perceive that their split-student teaching experiences have on their experience as a new teacher; 2) How do beginning teachers' prior schooling, educational, and personal background influence their current teaching; and 3) What role does home, family, and collegial support play as beginning teachers start their teaching career? A qualitative case study research method was utilized in this study. Two face-to-face, in-depth individual interviews and one focus group interview with three second-year and two third-year beginning teachers were utilized to understand their experiences in the program and in their beginning years of teaching. An analysis of interview data revealed beginning teachers' student teaching experiences partially fulfilled their need of having adequate in-classroom experience before starting their teaching careers; yet they highlighted some suggestions for student teaching assignments to better prepare prospective teacher candidates in the program. Moreover, they expressed both satisfaction and dissatisfaction toward courses taken in the program. Their statements also emphasized the importance of having effective mentorship in their student teaching and first year of teaching. Support from administration, experienced colleagues, friends, and family members were also acknowledged as highly valuable as they struggled with issues in their beginning career.