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A journey of a thousand miles of future teachers begins from a single step in a microteaching class

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A journey of a thousand miles of future teachers begins from a single step in a microteaching class
    A journey of a thousand miles of future teachers begins from a single step in a microteaching class *   Rahmila Murtiana IAIN Antasari Banjarmasin ABSTRACT This paper presents findings from a qualitative exploratory study which investigated the experience of student teachers as they went through the process of teaching practicum in a microteaching class. The purpose of the study is to examine to what extent reflective practice  benefits students and enables them to make progress in their practicum. A cohort of student teachers from an English teacher education program of a higher institution in Banjarmasin, Indonesia took part in the study. The data were gathered from obs ervational notes, students’ reflective journals on how they planned and conducted their mini lesson, peer comments, and interviews. The findings revealed that the experience in a microteaching class, despite its limitation as it only offers a glimpse of what teaching is like, can serve as the crucial beginning step from which the student teachers enhance their pedagogical knowledge and develop their teaching expertise. This supports Richards and Farrell ’s (2011) argument that “microteaching  provides experiences that can trigger a deeper understanding of teaching through processes of critical reflection .”   Key words : microteaching, student teacher, reflective practice BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY In a teacher education program, an important course that must be taken by the students is teaching practicum. Richards and Farrell (2011) in their book  Practice Teaching: A Reflective  Approach used the term teaching practice and practice teaching interchangeably, and the term  practicum is used to refer to both. There are two different kinds of teaching practicum  –   the first is microteaching  , and the second is teaching an ESOL class . The former refers to teaching a short lesson or part of a lesson to a group of fellow student teachers, followed by feedback by a supervisor and fellow student teachers. It is often conducted as part of a group activity on *  Papaer presented at the 6th International Seminar: Research in Teacher Education:What, How, and Why, Satya Wacana Christian University, Salatiga 21-22 November 2012. Published in the Proceedings pp.459-475    teacher-training courses, where students are put into groups and asked to plan and teach certain  parts of a lesson. Meanwhile, the latter refers to working at a school with a cooperating teacher or a mentor teacher and teaching part of lessons or entire lessons for an extended period of time in his or her ESOL class. The student teacher will work closely with a mentor teacher, sharing lesson plans with him or her or collaborating on planning lessons. The mentor teacher will also observe lessons conducted by the student teachers and give feedback on their teaching (Richards & Farrell, 2011). In most teacher colleges or universities which have teacher education programs in Indonesia, teaching practicum is well known as PPL or field experience practice. In a four-year teacher training program, this course is usually offered toward the end of the third year after the students have passed several theoretical courses in the previous semesters. Generally, the field practice or PPL is implemented for two semesters: PPL 1, which is conducted in campus, and PPL 2, which is conducted at schools for a period of two until three months. PPL 1, commonly known as microteaching, is used as the pre-requisite and foundation before student teachers do their teaching practicum at schools, where they have to teach real students Historically, microteaching was developed in the early 1960s at Stanford University, with the  purpose to provide student teachers to master specific teaching skills (Amobi, 2005). Later on, the microteaching activity has expanded into a broader scope, in which student teachers can  practice not only to master a particular skill, but also a more complete experience where they can  practice various teaching skills (Ogeyik, 2009). In a microteaching class, the two most important activities are mini lessons which are videotaped and feedbacks from a lecturer who acts as a supervisor.    In the faculty of teacher education and training where I teach, the microteaching practice is offered at the fifth semester after the students have completed the required courses which include skills subjects such as Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing, and content subjects such as TEFL, Curriculum and Material Development, and Teaching Media. In the 2-unit microteaching class, the student teachers are put into groups of 10-11 supervised by one lecturer, and they should meet once a week. Each student teacher will conduct a mini lesson for 15 minutes in front of their peers and supervisor. The total number of practice is 6 times for each student. The lesson materials cover junior and senior high school curriculum. Ideally, each lesson should be videotaped, however, due to the limited facilities  –   only two microteaching rooms which are equipped with the video camera  –   most of the teaching practice in my faculty should be conducted in regular classroom without being videotaped, so in each group, the students only had the opportunity to be videotaped twice, that is, in during the third  practice (which is the mid test), and the sixth practice (which is the final test). As a matter a fact, videotaped lessons are very beneficial as it will give the opportunity for the students to revisit their lessons and reflect on their acts during teaching practice, so they can improve their next teaching performance. Richards and Farrell (2011) have suggested that student teachers need to be provided and opportunity to take part in ongoing reflection on what he or she is learning about teaching and about himself or herself as a teacher throughout this process. Reflective practice may include different forms, such as keeping a teaching journal, lesson reports, group discussions, observation and evaluation of teachers’ own classroom practices,  action research, and narrative inquiry. Recent research has emphasized the impacts of teacher self-reflections (Richards &    Lockharts as cited in Geyer, 2008). Among the impacts are knowing what their strengths are, what constraints they encounter in conducting their mini lesson, what are some possible solutions, and what is the outcome. Previously, observation and evaluation of the student teachers in my faculty were carried out by using/relying on the observation sheet provided by the microteaching bureau of the faculty as well as by the English department. The evaluation was done by both supervisors and fellow students. The supervisor may decide whether to give feedback after each lesson to an individual student, or give overall feedback after all students finish their practice that day. The feedbacks were done orally. Meanwhile, the feedbacks by the fellow students were carried out by returning the completed sheet to the person being evaluated. However, it then turned out that the observation sheet was too rigorous and not really appropriate with the context of a mini lesson. Students failed to understand how to evaluate their peer performance as no clear guidance was given accompanying the evaluation sheet. Consequently, the students did not make much improvement in their practice. In an attempt to improve the microteaching practice and to maximize the reflective practice, I decided to modify the evaluation process by assigning the student teachers to write a reflective journal after each teaching practicum. This study then focuses on the experience of student teachers as they went through the process of teaching practicum in a microteaching class and how they respond to reflective practice. The questions of the study were: How do student teachers benefit from microteaching? What are some common  problems that student teachers encounter during their teaching practicum? How do students    teachers respond to reflective practice? To what extent does reflective practice enable the student teachers to make progress in their practicum? LITERATURE REVIEW 1.   Microteaching: benefits and limitations Microteaching practice may vary from one teacher training program to another, but basically the main purpose is “to provide a safe and stress -free environment in which to develop and practice  basic teaching skills (Roberst, 1998 as cited in Richard & Farrel, 2011). It also focuses on a specific teaching skills and strategy where the student teachers can get immediate feedback (Wallace, 1991 as cited in Richard & Farrell, 2011). As an initial professional development tool, microteaching is believed to have numerous benefits for the student teachers. Among the benefits is it prepares the student teachers before they go to the real field. Through a microteaching practice, student teachers are able to get a view of what is teaching like. They can also receive feedback on their teaching performance, teaching style, the material they use, and their language competence (Cakir 2000, as cited in Ogeyik, 2009). In addition, student teachers will be more trained in how to preparing and arrange a lesson in a limited time because during a microteaching practice, the time to conduct a lesson usually ranges only around 10-15 minutes. Some studies also have revealed that microteaching activities help student teachers overcome their anxiety levels, defeat hesitation and fear, increase professional commitment, raise consciousness about teaching profession, become efficient in all topics related to teaching proficiency, learn how to interact with students, become
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