A Connected Space for Early Experiential Learning in Teacher Education
Carefully-constructed field-based experiences in teacher education programs have been recognized as one of the essential conditions for effective teacher learning. ┬áMost college/university-based teacher education programs, however, are still dominated by the epistemology that academic knowledge is the authoritative source of knowledge about teaching, while spaces outside the college classroom remain the ΓÇ£practice fieldsΓÇ¥. ┬áThis study examines Project CONNECT (PC), an afterschool program designed to create early experiential learning opportunities by bringing together different aspects of expertise from the schools, communities, and universities. Preservice teachers (PSTs) in this study were placed to work with children one afternoon a week in school-based sites in their sophomore and junior years. Case study design was adopted to assess the impact of the experience on teacher learning as well as the process created such effects. Multiple data such as open-ended survey, written reflection, and field observation notes were collected and analyzed. Results revealed participantsΓÇÖ transformation of professional identity, and development of professional skills and dispositions. Several factors emerged as important to PSTsΓÇÖ learning throughout the experience, including connections between the course and the program, quality of faculty supervision, and systematic reflection. Implications for teacher education were discussed.
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