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Interplay: A Study of Pre-Service drama teachers and the practicum – Experiences, beliefs, expectations and managing

Gray, Christina (2015) Interplay: A Study of Pre-Service drama teachers and the practicum – Experiences, beliefs, expectations and managing. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The practicum is internationally recognised as a valuable component of teacher education. It is an opportunity for pre-service teachers to develop teaching skills in authentic ways, pursue professional inquiry into practice, and be mentored by experienced teachers. It is also fraught with challenges and the literature identifies the practicum to be overwhelming and stressful for pre-service teachers. While extensive research has been conducted into the practicum generally, little research focuses on the practicum experience for pre-service drama teachers. This research is key to better understanding the issues and challenges of the practicum so as to improve pre-service drama teachers’ experience, better induct them into the profession, and retain them in this demanding field.

The study was designed in three phases using a bricolage of qualitative methods. In Phase 1, the perceptions of 19 pre-service drama teachers were revealed through focus groups. Phase 2 involved field work and analysed multiple data sources (participant observation, formal and informal interviews, journals, lesson plans, lesson reflections, practicum evaluations) to investigate five participants’ lived experience of the practicum, providing depth to key issues and challenges. Phase 3 employed in-depth interviews capturing participants’ reflections on school drama as key to their beliefs and values. These data were then developed into a series of narrative portraits communicating key influences on these emergent teachers.

The research highlights the complexity and emotionality of practicum through intersections of experience, dynamics, beliefs and aspirations. A key finding is that pre-service drama teachers are vulnerable during practicum and a consequential lack of belonging and inadequate preparation causes considerable stress. Furthermore, the interplay between beliefs about drama teaching and the practicum experience is significant. When beliefs and practicum experiences were in harmony, participants had a more positive practicum with improved self-efficacy; conversely, disharmony saw participants experience culture shock and stress. The study concludes with implications for pre-service drama teacher practice and suggestions for further research.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Supervisor: Wright, Peter and Pascoe, Robin
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