Development of entrance examinations for pe teacher qualification rogram.
Physical educators are challenged to modify their teaching content as regards children’s behavioral and psychological responses to exercise and physical activity. They should also take into account the increasing diversity of pupils’ field experiences as well as develop their own promotion, advocacy and political skills (McKenzie 2007). There is growing pressure to prepare PE teachers to act as physical activity directors in their schools (Beighle et al. 2009). Teachers should fulfill these demands simultaneously as expectations towards their attitude to professional lifelong development are growing (Armour 2010).
Furthermore, there is the notion that the teacher’s personality is very important (Strean 2009) and educational benefits for pupils are highly dependent on teachers’ pedagogical skills and variables (Bailey et al. 2008). Due to these expectations, it is very important for universities to be able to identify persons appropriate for the demanding and challenging work of a PE teacher. There were almost 400 (24 %) unqualified physical education PE teachers working in Finnish comprehensive, upper secondary and vocational schools at the beginning of the 2000s (Ojala 2005, Väyrynen 2005). To assist these teachers in gaining formal physical education teaching qualifications, the Ministry of Education financed the PE teacher qualification program. The program commenced in 2005 and has since continued in the Department of Sport Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä.
The purpose The aim of this study was to develop entrance examinations for the PE teacher qualification program. Two different kinds of PE teacher groups were sought for the program. One was a group of teachers who were working as PE teachers in schools and attained the educational background of sports instructors (i.e. they had gained a Bachelor’s degree) and the other group consisted of teachers who were teaching PE although they were qualified in other subjects and so were mainly classroom teachers (i.e. they had gained a Master’s degree). Based on the type of group, different subjects and elements were included in their entrance examinations.
The entrance examinations were developed by applying the action research method on the basis of the experience of 100 PE teachers’ entrance examinations and the students’ subsequent performances during a 2-year-long qualification program. Teachers were selected from between 83 and 176 applicants in the years 2004-2009. They lacked formal qualifications but had 1 to 19 years (with a mean of 4.5 years full time) experience of teaching PE. Their ages varied from 27 years to 55 years (with a mean age of 37.5). Each group in the program had 20 places, and 1 to 2 groups began each year. The program included approximately 16 contact periods of 3 or 4 days. Four lecturers worked with the teachers during this one kind of “in-service” program.
PE teacher qualification program The objectives of the qualification program were to reach substantive mastery of PE subject teaching (mastery of different sports skills and their teaching), develop meta-cognitive and processing skills (i.e. learning to learn, the controlling, management and networking of activities, self-reflection) as well as group dynamics and interaction skills (such as group processes, leadership and power, own role and interaction relationships). During the program principles of shared expertise and working-life orientation were used.
Theoretical aims were learned through experiential learning and dialogue-based instructions. Participative and co-operative methods like teamwork, together with networking periods, were used as working 1426 methods. Teachers reflected on their learning by keeping learning diaries, making entries after each and every contact period. Entrance examinations Over the five-year development of the entrance examinations, the following were included: personal interviews, written essays, motor skills tests and teamwork tests. Interviews All group members had a personal 15-minute interview. There were two interviewers, one male and one female. One was a lecturer of the program and the other was a staff member of the Department of Sport Sciences. They evaluated each interview independently and discussed (for approximately 5 minutes) their evaluation after each completed interview session. The interview included two sections.
The first section included four areas of questions seeking to evaluate the teachers’ orientation and skill for self-reflection and his/her ability to vary routines. Some examples of these kinds of questions were: Do you think that you are developing your work? In what way are you developing it? Give us some examples of such development; and Do you think that this work is developing you as a teacher? If so, give us an example. Another section included questions exploring the teachers’ interaction skills and how committed the teachers were toward the qualification program. During the interview, the interviewers observed the applicants’ eye contact and how appropriate their listening was. In addition, the interviewers listened carefully to the expressions used by the applicants in order to evaluate how clearly they were able to express themselves. All applicants were interviewed. Written essays Essays were required, based on provided material such as articles concerning education and pedagogy. Over the course of one year, material written in English on subjects such as popular physical activities was also used. The essays were evaluated based on the following four evaluation criteria: proper structure, relevant content, synthesis of knowledge, and the use of references and conclusion sections. All applicants were required to write an essay.
Motor skills tests These tests formed part of the entrance examination. Lecturers from the Department of Sport Sciences conducted fundamental motor tests on applicants. Tests included evaluation of ballgame skills, gymnastic ability, swimming, dance and rhythmic skills. The motor skills of the classroom teachers were also tested but those of sports instructors were not. This difference was explained by the amount of practical skills practice that they had gained in their previous studies. Sports instructors have more practice of motor skills activities in comparison to Finnish PE teachers. Teamwork This aspect included the discussion of common topics between four to five participants over a 20-minute period. The teams needed to choose their topic within two minutes. After that they had two minutes to form their own opinion (through quiet reflection and with the option of writing their thoughts on paper) and then 15 minutes to discuss the chosen topic. Within the last three minutes the groups needed to form a consensus of opinion on the topic.
Three lecturers and staff members evaluated the participants’ interaction and commitment levels within each group. Evaluation criteria consisted of three areas: task orientation (such as how actively the teacher carries out his/her responsibility to achieve the task), opinions (such as the degree to which the teacher gives reasons for his/her opinions and has the ability to listen to different opinions) and, finally, constructive participation (for example how actively the teacher participates in the teamwork). The criterion of teamwork was added for the last two years to all applicants, as lecturers’ experiences during the program had demonstrated that the personal interview hadn’t revealed as much about the co-operation skills of teachers as had been expected and required. 1427 Mixed methods as research methods Over the five years of research, several methods were used to discover the kinds of entrance examinations which would be most suitable for finding the best possible applicants for the program.
The Action research method required the intensive teamwork of lecturers to modify the entrance examinations based on the experiences of each and every group of applicants. Interviews. Two different kinds of interviews were used for data collection: interviews with teachers conducted by lecturers during the entrance examinations and interviews with four lecturers conducted by a corresponding researcher. Statistical analysis was used for numerical data. Numerical data included scores in different parts of entrance examinations (such as motor skills tests, personal interviews, written essays and team work) and lecturers’ numerical evaluations (from 0 to 5) after two years of studies of how much the program was able to change the teachers’ thinking and teaching behavior.
The remarks and assessments of the group of sports instructors (with ratings ranging from 1 to 5) contained in their Master’s theses were included in the statistical analysis. The associations between the numerical data were measured by the Pearson correlation coefficient.
RESULTSStatistical analysis confirmed that each part of the entrance examination measured the different characteristics or skills of students. High scores in the personal interview of the entrance examination correlated (r =. 23; p = .02) with the lecturers’ evaluation of the effects of the education program on the teachers. Out of 100 teachers in the qualification program, lecturers evaluated only three teachers to have 0 points, 0 points meaning that the program had not affected or changed his/her thinking or teaching behaviour. (Table 1.) Although a statistically significant correlation between the essays written during the entrance examinations and the remarks contained in the Master’s theses cannot be seen, the presence of difficulties in the writing of the Master’s theses were strongly recognized by the supervisors.
Table 1. Correlations between different parts of entrance examinations and teachers’ evaluation after the two-year qualification program.
Table 1. Development of entrance examinations for pe teacher qualification rogram.
Through entrance examinations it was possible to select appropriate personality types for PE teacher education. We found that it is important to ensure, as early as in the entrance examination stage, that PE teachers have the appropriate motor skills (e.g. in Finland, swimming). As lifelong learning is growing in importance, future teachers should embrace the attitude of career-long learners who wish to update their knowledge continuously (Armour 2010). It is possible to identify this kind of attitude in a personal interview. The teachers’ social-emotional skills are revealed by their interaction skills.
That is why a small amount of teamwork included in the entrance examinations reveals the applicants’ skills in terms of creating an appropriate motivational climate, which is crucial for a teacher giving PE lessons (Strean 2009). Appropriate academic writing skills and critical reflective thinking can be evaluated by the essay in which applicants need to choose relevant material out of the given articles and to compose and write a reflective synthesis. The current five-year-long period of developing appropriate entrance examinations for future needs demonstrated that entrance examinations indeed help us to choose teachers who are better able to respond to tomorrow’s challenges by being life-long learners and PE experts who develop their work and preserve, at the very least, the standards required of the subject.
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