The development of pre-service teachers’ schema for teaching students with diverse learning needs

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    This research seeks to extend knowledge and understanding of how teacher-preparation courses impact the cognition of pre-service teachers for teaching students with diverse learning needs in mainstream classrooms. The research examines the extent to which a professional schema for practice develops as a result of pre-service teacher participation in a program of professional preparation. A number of theoretical perspectives were used to frame the research. Schema theory, along with theories of complexity, self-organising systems and communities of practice were used to provide a structure around which the investigation developed. Research on successful self-organising systems shows the centrality and importance of a shared schema, allowing agents within a given system or community of practice to work together in meaningful ways (Bain, 2007; Gell-Mann, 1994). The research sought to determine the extent to which pre-service teachers build such a schema over time, and graduate with an entry-level schema for working with students who have a range of learning needs.
    Three separate, yet linked, studies were employed to investigate schema development in pre-service teachers. Study 1 developed and validated an instrument to measure pre-service teacher schema. Study 2 employed the instrument in a cohort design to investigate the evolution of pre-service teacher schema from initial enrolment in a pre-service teacher-preparation program through to the end of undergraduate education studies. Finally, Study 3 employed the instrument within a quasi-experimental design to determine any differences in schema development between pre-service teachers in teacher-preparation programs at three New South Wales (Australia) universities.
    Two comparison groups were also included in Study 3 to further explore the effects of a teacher-education program on pre-service teachers. These comparison groups were drawn from final-year students in exercise physiology and a cohort of graduates from a recently completed Master of Inclusive Education.
    The results from Study 1 showed that an instrument was able to be developed to measure schema, where it existed. Study 2 results indicated that schema development as pre-service teachers progress through their program was inconsistent, year-on-year. Little schema development was apparent until the end of the third year of progression, with growth apparent for that cohort dissipating by the end of the final year. Study 3 showed that none of the programs from which participants were drawn showed development of a functional schema for practice. The master’s degree comparison group indicated schema development at a functional level, while the exercise physiology reflected that of the undergraduate teacher-preparation graduates. Consistent across all cohorts was an absence of professional pattern language at a level that would be expected to support professional, practice-based conversations.
    These results are discussed in relation to the nature of teacher preparation and its impact on the cognition of graduates, self-organising systems and communities of practice in educational settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Bain, Alan, Principal Supervisor
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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