After the introduction of a new teacher education curriculum structure in 2019, the proportion of practice courses, vis-à-vis the traditional foundation and methodology courses, has been significantly increased. Closely linked to schools, practice courses are expected to give pre-service teachers preliminary teaching experience. This research examines a newly designed practice course, which aims to enhance course-takers’ techniques of co-teaching and to encourage the formation of professional learning communities, and this example may provide valuable ideas and inspiration for other teacher education institutes to learn from.
This practice course, implemented in a teacher education center in Taipei, established a partnership with a senior high school for an eight- week teaching practicum. Three English pre-service teachers were grouped as a team to help students experiencing difficulty keeping up with peers. A teacher educator and an experienced high school teacher were also involved in lesson preparation, classroom observation, post-course discussion and the setting up of a professional learning community. This research interviewed 18 pre-service teachers who participated in this course as well as their guiding mentors. In addition, their teaching portfolios were also analyzed to examine any actual enhancement in classroom practice.
The gathered data demonstrated that ‘co-teaching’ reduced anxiety among pre-service teachers and collective effort not only improved lesson planning, but also fostered an atmosphere of professional development. Pre-service teachers employed formative assessments to divide students into groups of high, medium and low ability levels. In class, they can practice teaching basic core knowledge as well as more advanced content, which exhibited the feature of a differentiated class. Moreover, this course offered a rare opportunity for pre-service teachers to experience leading a class of students for eight consecutive weeks. The intensity of this teaching practice can be seen as a bridging course closing the gap between pre-service training and a full teaching load in an actual school setting.
The guidelines of the new teacher education curriculum put emphasis on pre-service teachers gaining competence in teamwork, a goal rarely stressed in such courses. This design provides a real context for course-takers to explore co-teaching and experiment with the pedagogies and strategies they can deliver together in class. As part of this process, professional learning communities work as a platform and catalyst for young teachers to explore fresh ideas and accustom themselves to this cooperative culture for future lifelong teaching professional development.