A case study of science student teachers' experiences of teaching practices in the faculty of education of University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2005.
The study aimed at exploring science student teachers' experiences of teaching practice and in particular, it focussed on five areas related to: (a) the science student teachers' practices and views ofteaching practice; (b) the science student teachers' benefits and skills acquired from teaching practice; (c) the help and support they receive from both the supervisors and the mentor teachers and; (e) the science student teachers' views of how the teaching practice could be improved. A pragmatic, mixed method approach to research was adopted. In order to gather data to answer the research questions empirical research in the form of a descriptive case study was carried out. This case study was conducted on the science teachers' experience of teaching practice for the academic year of2005. Data were collected from participants in the teaching practice programme at Edgewood campus using a questionnaire supplemented by interviews, observations and documents analysis. Sixty science student teachers doing Bachelor of Education 2nd , 3rd and 4th year and the Postgraduate Certificate in Education, completed and returned the questionnaire and seven of them were interviewed. In addition, four mentor teachers and five university tutors were also interviewed and twelve students were visited in their host schools. Among others it was found that: student teachers reported that they felt adequately prepared for the range of activities they were involved in during teaching practice, their expectations of practice teaching were met, and they had a positive view about the general learning and administrative environment ofthe schools. They reported using a number of different teaching methods but the direct teaching method was still predominant with the textbook being used as the main teaching resource but a positive indication was that over half the students indicated that they attempted something different or new during teaching practice mostly on their own initiative. When asked for detail about the skills they gained from teaching practice they reported benefits in terms of improved teaching techniques and methods, dealing with learners and classroom management. There was no one single benefit that stood out but rather a number of different benefits for different students. Generally females were more positive than males, there were very few differences between the year groups and the mentor teachers were seen to be more supportive than the university tutors. However, there were a small but significant number of students who indicated having not been supported or having gained any benefit from their mentor teachers or university tutors. This study also revealed that the critical triangular working partnership involving student teacher, university supervisor, and mentor teacher was problematic and needed to be reviewed. When asked to make suggestions for change, a number of recommendations were made such as: the teaching practice was too short and needed to be increased; the organisation of teaching practice needed to be improved and; the schools need to give better status to students on teaching practice. However, when asked to rate their overall experience of teaching practice experience almost three quarters of the students indicated that they had at least a satisfactory experience.