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The Trichotomy of Practicum (Knowing-Doing-Being of Student-Teachership) February 20, 2010

Posted by Noel E K Tan in Uncategorized.
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Teaching practicum begins next Monday.   This will probably be the 6th (or 7th, I’ve lost count…) semester that I’ve supervised graduate student-teachers in their 10-week stint in Singapore schools.  I met my assigned 3 this evening for their pre-practicum supervision briefing, and got to know something about each of them.

Each supervision experience is different because of the personalities and shifting contexts involved, and yet there is always the mix of anticipation and anxiety that I sense.  I’ve seen it a couple of times in their eyes already over the various semesters; it’s that same edgy eagerness to take that next step on the educator’s journey.  For the past 16 years of their lives since primary school, they’ve been preparing themselves for Monday, with all the knowledge that they have gained and here they are on its threshold.

On that Monday, it will also be their first real encounter with the Trichotomy.  Practicum is valuable precisely because it provides an opportunity for them to develop the aspect of ‘Doing’, which I see as the application aspect of their beginning practice.   This is where theory will be tested and either proven or debunked by real-life experience. This is also the time when they see how the ‘Knowing’ aspect can get in the way of  Doing and Being, as they toggle between past experiences, theories gained with what is actually going on in the classroom and in the staff room.  For me, this sets up a nice state of cognitive dissonance where the coaching advice of a supervisor becomes well-taken.

This evening, I was asked a question that essentially sought to clarify how some of their seniors have thrived in practicum.  On my way home, I reflected that most items that I had described to them were very much related to how connected the aspects of Doing (eg well-conceptualised lessons, engaging delivery, accurate and timely grading of assignments etc) are to the aspects of Being (eg possessing an inviting personality, having an interest in the kids’ lives, holding a view that everyone can successfully learn, and the humility to know that the teacher himself is also a learner).  Not that much about ‘Knowing’, it  would appear, although that is entry-level requirement.

So going back to my earlier point about cognitive dissonance – this comes most apparently if student-teachers place the foundation of their professional identity on what successful students they themselves were, and are wondering why their students are not switched on by the same motivations as they were.  The lesson observations that must take place are essential but are only the way in to deeper reflections.  My role, in all this , is fairly simple.  I’m there to facilitate their individual sense-making of all that is about to emerge for them in the next 10 weeks and to help them see with new eyes, the connections between the 3 aspects of this Trichotomy.  More of that in another entry.

Noel E K Tan

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