The Individual Study – Competence Specific to Students of the Teacher Training Program

Abstract

The initial and continuous formation of the teaching staff implies the development of certain professional competences, but also of certain transversal competences. In this present study, we are interested in the way in which the competence for individual studying is developed in the students enrolled in the teacher training program and we aspired to establish the sub-competences relevant in this context, to which we have subsumed their characteristic activities as well. Following that line of thought, we have initiated a research through which we endeavored to determine the opinions of the teaching staff (those that teach the students of the teacher training program) in what concerns the manner in which they strive to develop this competence in their students. Thus, we were concerned with finding out the methods through which the teachers process and systematize the information during lectures and seminars with the purpose of facilitating the individual study of the students, in what manner the students’ reflection is being stimulated during said lectures and seminars, and the modalities through which the retention of information by the students is facilitated with the aim of enabling their individual studying. The present study encompasses the results of this research, and these results determine us to consider that the selfstudy of the future teacher must involve didactic activities through which reflection becomes one of the primary elements, as we consider that through reflection the student achieves control over his own learning process.

Keywords: Competencesub-competencestudentsteacher training programprospective teachers

Introduction

The present study aims at presenting the results of the research we have undertaken concerning the

way in which the teaching staff develops the competence for individual studying in their students.

Furthermore, based on those findings, we intend to establish the sub-competences necessary to the development of the competence for individual studying, while simultaneously identifying the types of

didactical activities specific to each sub-competence.

‘Competence is the ability to perform activities related to an occupation or function at the standard

defined by the employers’ (National Curriculum and Vocational Qualifications). The competency-based

system on which the occupational standards for the progression in a teaching career relies on assumes and

adapts the categories and levels of competence with which the European Qualifications Framework

(EQF), the Qualifications Framework in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the National

Qualifications Framework for Higher Education (NQFHE) operate with to the specific of the teaching

profession and to the requirements of the Romanian educational system (Potolea, & Toma, 2013). Thus,

the initial and continuous formation of the teaching staff relies on the competency-based approach and on

the concept of cumulative development of the competence level (The Methodology of Continuous

Professional Development). The specialized competences are defined in accordance with the NQFHE

Methodology, the professional competences which we wish to ingrain into prospective teachers referring

to the cognitive dimension (knowledge, understanding and the use of specific language, explanation and

interpretation) and to the functional-actional dimension (application, transfer and problem solving, critical

and constructive reflection, creativity and innovation) (Potolea, & Toma, 2013). The transversal

competences concern autonomy and responsibility, social interaction, and personal and professional

development (Potolea, & Toma, 2013). We consider that for the future teaching staff, the competence for

individual studying (with its specific sub-competences) is absolutely necessary. It is for this reason that

we consider it beneficial to dedicate an exhaustive analysis to it, in this context.

We regard individual studying as being a professional competence which involves an integrated

array of abilities and skills for the application, the operation, but especially for the transfer of the

pedagogical acquirements, abilities which enable the efficient conduct of an activity, in our case namely

the didactic activity, and the functional use of the didactical knowledge, acquirements, and skills within

varied educational contexts (Jucan, 2009). We consider that the development of the competence for self-

study in the students enrolled in the teacher training program (and not only) is achieved during lectures,

and especially during seminars.

Research Methodology

In order to determine the opinions of the teaching staff regarding the methods for stimulating the

development of the competence for individual studying in students, we have designed and administered a

semi-structured interview to 12 members of the academic staff who teach the students enrolled in the

teacher training program, an interview comprised of 10 questions. We were concerned with determining

the modalities through which the members of the academic staff process and systematize the information

in lectures and seminars with the purpose of facilitating the self-study of the students, in what manner the

students’ reflection is being stimulated during said lectures and seminars, and the methods through which

the retention of information by the students is facilitated with the aim of enabling their individual

studying.

The Findings of the Research

For the question ‘Do you make use of charts, diagrams, tables, cognitive organizers in order to

help students study easier, individually?’ the answers were as follows:

Figure 1: Table 1. The distribution of answers on the second item of the interview guide
Table 1. The distribution of answers on the second item of the interview guide
See Full Size >

The majority of the teachers interviewed, a number of five, have answered that they generally do

not use charts, diagrams, tables, cognitive organizers during teaching in order to facilitate the students’

individual studying. Only three of the professors interviewed have stated that they generally use charts,

diagrams, tables, cognitive organizers during teaching. Only two members of the academic staff have

stated that they always employ charts, diagrams, tables, cognitive organizers during their teaching. The

teaching style of the remaining two members of the academic staff, according to their statements, never

include charts, diagrams, tables, and cognitive organizers. The conclusion reached, in this case, is that

teachers do not seem to be interested in the manner in which they synthesize the information taught to the

students with the aim of, subsequently, facilitating their understanding during their self-study.

By studying the fifth item of the interview guide, we intended to determine to what extent the

teachers are concerned with ascertaining whether the students have understood the content taught or the

learning tasks (by asking questions), to thus aid the students’ self-study.

Figure 2: Table 2. The distribution of answers on the fifth item of the interview guide
Table 2. The distribution of answers on the fifth item of the interview guide
See Full Size >

‘Always’ is the answer given by one teacher, and a number of three teachers have answered that

generally, yes, they do ask questions of the students in order to enable their individual studying. The

majority, namely five of the members of the academic staff interviewed, have answered that they do not

usually ask questions of the students with the purpose of promoting their individual studying, and three of

the teachers have claimed that asking questions in order to verify the extent of the students’ understanding

of the content or of the learning tasks is not a method used by them. The distribution of the answers given

by the teachers on this item indicates that teachers place a higher emphasis on the transmission of the

informational content and are less focused on the students’ understanding and on individual studying.

Through the sixth item of the interview guide, we aim to determine whether the teachers are directly interested in creating moments for reflection or for individual study during the lectures or

seminars.

Figure 3: Table 3. The distribution of answers on the sixth item of the interview guide
Table 3. The distribution of answers on the sixth item of the interview guide
See Full Size >

Out of the interviewed teachers, three of them have stated that they generally strive to create

moments for the students’ reflection or individual study during their lectures or seminars, and five of

them have answered that they usually do not create moments for reflection or for self-studying. The

answers at the extremes of the scale were offered by a small number of teachers, only a single teacher

stating that during their classes and seminars they always create moments for the students’ reflection and

individual study, and three teachers have answered that they never create said moments of reflection or

individual study during their lectures or seminars. It is worrying that the interviewed teachers do not seem

concerned with exploiting the students’ reflectiveness during the teaching-learning process, nor with

providing opportune moments for the students’ individual studying during lectures or seminars.

The seventh item of the interview guide refers to the students’ individual studying process, namely

the approach they use in relation to a specific learning task.

Figure 4: Table 4. The distribution of answers on the seventh item of the interview guide
Table 4. The distribution of answers on the seventh item of the interview guide
See Full Size >

The answers obtained on this item indicates that the interviewed teachers are not preoccupied with

the manner in which their students study individually, the answers given by them being as follows: five of

the teachers have stated that they never ask their students to describe the approach they have used in

solving a task, four of the teachers have declared that they generally do not ask of their students that,

when they have a task, they should describe the moment of individual studying, two of the teachers have

answered that they generally ask the students to describe the learning process they use when they have a

certain task, and only a single teacher has stated that they always ask the students to describe their

studying process.

The analysis of the answers to this question of the interview leads us to the conclusion that the

teaching staff is more centered on the teaching process, to the detriment of the observation of the

individual study process.

The eighth item from the interview guide asked the teachers to identify the concrete methods

through which they consider that they would be able to support the retention of information by students

and, implicitly, their individual study.

One of the teachers offered the following answer to this item: ‘For the themes that I approach, I

will attempt to use teaching methods that are as interactive as possible and ask the students to

demonstrate that they have understood the content, by applying what I have told them in a practical

manner.’

Figure 5: Table 5. The distribution of answers on the eighth item of the interview guide
Table 5. The distribution of answers on the eighth item of the interview guide
See Full Size >

We have introduced this particular item in order to verify if the teachers performed any personal

reflections concerning the methods they use in order to facilitate the individual study of the students,

methods which, due to the variety of answers obtained, have been grouped in categories and ordered

based on their frequency.

Figure 6: Fig. 1. The distribution of answers on the eighth item of the interview guide
Fig. 1. The distribution of answers on the
      eighth item of the interview guide
See Full Size >

We can observe that the modalities preferred by the teachers and aimed at facilitating the retention

of information by the students are as follows: nine answers were centered on employing modern

didactical methods, another nine answers referred to teaching with the help of modern teaching aids,

seven answers stated that the teachers will employ charts, four answers claimed that they will use

explanation as a teaching method, another four answers specified that they will start writing down the main ideas on the blackboard, and the final three answers opted for emphasizing the important ideas

during their teaching. These answers indicate, nonetheless, the readiness of the teachers to facilitate the

students’ self-study by assuming the role of mediator and mentor in the students’ learning process,

through their involvement and the use of modern didactical means. The answers demonstrate that the

teachers do, in fact, want to help the students, they want to enable the individual studying of the students,

practically, they aspire to streamline their teaching style.

The Conclusions of the Conducted Study

The conclusions of the conducted study lead to the idea that in the framework of efficient teaching,

most of the teachers are focused on the transmission of contents and less on exercising the skill sets

necessary to the students during their self-study; the teachers attach great importance to understanding the

informational content and less to the methods through which they can facilitate the students’ individual

studying; the teachers do not appear to be concerned with the individual study the students employ for

their discipline; the teachers do not associate efficiency in learning with the ability of the students to

describe the process undertaken in their self-study. However, a gratifying aspect is the fact that the

teachers interviewed wish to employ modern didactical methods and want to teach with the use of modern

teaching aids, and in this manner, facilitate the individual study of the students.

Conclusions

Consequently, we consider that through the learning situations presented during lectures and

seminars, the teaching staff can develop in the prospective teachers the competence for individual

studying, through the following sub-competences (Jucan, 2009), which we will analyze in what follows

and we will associate their related activities:

The ability to understand the pedagogical information and knowledge;

The ability to explain, analyze and exemplify them;

The continuous development of a personal reflection process;

The ability to realize connections between the pedagogical contents;

The ability to organize and systematize the didactical knowledge within the individual study;

The ability to take notes in a systematic, organized and structured manner.

In order to be able to transmit information in accordance with the current standards, the future

teachers must have an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter and demonstrate intellectual mobility, so

that they would be capable of helping the pupils to create ‘cognitive maps’, to operate with connections

between varied ideas, and to address biases (Jucan, 2009).

Teachers must know how to structure the interdisciplinary connections and how to apply the

theoretical ideas to everyday activities. This type of understanding provides the foundation for knowledge

of the subject matter, from a pedagogical perspective, a fact which enables the prospective teacher to

transmit said knowledge and make it accessible to others (Shulman, 1987).

1Developing the Ability to Comprehend Information and Knowledge of a Pedagogical Type

Teaching others means first and foremost understanding the goals, the deep structures of the

subject being taught, and the fundamental ideas promoted by said subject matter, as well as those ideas

which have an effect outside of the strict framework of the discipline. The prospective teachers must

understand ‘what’ they are teaching and, where possible, they must comprehend this issue in multiple

manners (Tăuşan, 2016).

Comprehension at the level of the objectives is extremely important. Through the activities during

the courses and seminars of the teacher training module, the teaching staff engages in the pedagogic

process (of teaching) in order to achieve the following educational goals:

Instilling intellectual curiosity and the desire to acquire new information into students, by presenting the educational objectives, using accessible language, at the beginning of each course and seminar;

Helping the students achieve a broader understanding of the information accumulated by using graphic organizers, modern teaching methods, predominantly, explanation and problem-solving during seminars; Helping the students to develop a number of skills and a system of values required for the

integration in a society of liberty and justice (Shulman, 1992); helping the students to accept the

evolution of their responsibility, teaching them to trust others and manifest respect towards

them, by putting forward models of good practice;

5.2Developing the Ability to Reflect upon the Pedagogical Content

Reflection represents a mental process which, when applied to the act of learning pedagogical

content, stimulates the students to make use of their critical reasoning in the examination of the

information presented to them, question its validity, and reach conclusions based on the resulting ideas.

This continuous process enables the students of the teacher training module to restrict the area of possible

solutions and, ultimately, draw a conclusion. The result of this effort is the achievement of a better

understanding of pedagogical concepts. Without reflection, the learning of didactical content becomes

‘lacking in the reorganization of reasoning imposed by an in-depth learning’ (Ewell, 1997). The situations

of self-study in which efficient learning is achieved require thinking time. The students think of

themselves as individuals that are learning, all the while evaluating their own cognitive processes used to

decide which are the best strategies. They will then be able to apply this new information when

confronted with a future learning situation, either in pedagogy, or a different discipline. The teachers,

during their lectures and seminars, will, therefore, strive to create learning situations in which students

must employ their critical thinking in regards to given problem situations, to explain these, to find

solutions and original methods for resolving problematic situations.

5.3Developing the Ability to Explain, Analyze and Exemplify the Pedagogical Content

The possibility to understand the foundation of the knowledge of pedagogical activities lies at the

intersection between the content and the elements of pedagogy, and consists of the capacity of the

prospective teacher to transform the knowledge of the content in forms that are less influential from a

pedagogical perspective, but adaptable to the variety of abilities of the students. The didactic activities

undertaken in this context, aim at the possibilities of the student teacher to deduce, describe, explain, and

analyze the educational phenomenon by making connections, initiating debates, exemplifying within

educational contexts.

5.4The Continuous Development of a Personal Reflection Process within the Pedagogical Act

Reflection implies the revision, reconstruction, restoration, and critical analysis of the personal

didactical abilities, followed by synthesizing these observations with the intent of instituting changes that

may improve the future teacher’s performance. This is generally what a teacher does when they analyze

their activity in retrospective – reconstructs, restores, remembers events, feelings, and personal

achievements. Lucas (as cited in Ornstein, Thomas, & Lasley, 2000) has argued that reflection is an

important element of professional evolution. All prospective teachers must learn to observe the outcomes

and determine the causes for their success or failure. The learning situations during the lectures and

seminars of the teacher training program will center, therefore, on examples of good practice, which will

allow the students to observe, to critically analyze, to reflect, and especially to argue their chosen

approach.

5.5Developing the Ability to Realize Connections between the Pedagogical Contents, to

Structure and Restructure the Information, the Ability to Organize and Systematize the Didactical

Knowledge during the Individual Study

Through acts of teaching, the prospective teacher acquires a new type of comprehension of the

goals of the educational process, of the subject matter taught, of the pupils, and in general of the

pedagogical mechanisms (Brodkey, 1986).

The studying framework created through the courses and the seminars enables the prospective

teachers to build their foundation of pedagogical knowledge (Grimmet, & MacKinnon, 1992), to explore

new ideas, to acquire and synthesize information, to formulate and resolve problem situations. To

accomplish this requires the creation of special learning situations, more relevant than the simple lecture

and heuristic conversation on the topic of the new pedagogical concepts acquired (Ball, & Cohen, 1996).

The future teachers learn best by studying, applying, and reflecting upon that which they studied,

collaborating with their colleagues, communicating the observations they make. A suitable setting for

training teachers provides numerous opportunities for the research and examination of the issues, for trial

and error, for discussing and evaluating the outcomes of the learning and teaching activities. The

combination between theory and practice (Miller, & Silvernail, 1994) is best achieved when there are

problems to be solved in a real context, during an ongoing seminar, within an environment in which the

theory acquired can be implemented.

We argue that the individual studying of the prospective teachers requires a model through which

reflection becomes one of the key elements, as we believe that through reflection the student assumes

control over his own learning process, during each lecture or seminar. Practicing reflection during each of

these will enrich their self-evaluation skills which, in turn, will help the prospective teachers to identify

their successes, as well as the inefficient procedures used by them in their learning process. During the

seminars, the students’ ability to apply their acquired knowledge in new contexts will be practiced, which

will result in a considerable impact on their process of knowledge acquisition, in the long-term.

Therefore, the teaching staff should strive to construct, during their courses and seminars, learning

situations through which the student teachers will be able to expand their theoretical knowledge,

inclusively through its operationalization and redefinition in the themes and tasks suggested for their

individual studying.

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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2017.05.02.87

Online ISSN

2357-1330