Abstract||This thesis focuses on why prospective teachers want to teach. It argues that prospective teachers draw on their own perceptions of what teaching means to them and that these perceptions are clarified and refined during the initial stages of their university study. Firstly, it examines what attracts and holds first year student teachers to teaching and whether they really want to be teachers. Secondly, it compares studentsí perceptions of teaching at the start, during and at the end of their first year of their first year of university studies. Finally, it identifies the kind of early experiences at university and school sites that can either strengthen the initial commitment to become a teacher or might lessen the original desire to teach.
The context of the study is a regional university in a provincial city in Central Queensland. The selection of constructivism as a theoretical framework informed the research approach and allowed data to be gathered in a case study format using an iterative process to permit probing and identification of change, and reconstruction of relevant issues. In this research, data was collected through three individual interviews with nine first year prospective student teachers at the beginning, mid and end of that year. Constructivist analysis concepts were employed to draw from the data coded patterns, themes and issues displaying student teachersí emerging perceptions of their first year of learning how to teach.
The thesis reports that student teachers in their initial year were enabled to articulate their co-construction of what it means to be a teacher. During the year they were able to build up their construction of what it means to be a teacher which, over time, alleviated earlier uncertainties as their decision to teach was affirmed. The process of construction of being a teacher identified qualities, knowledge and skills identified from the start to the end of the program, building from perceptions to reality, from the old to the new.
Conceptions of teaching as work, and the importance of relationships in teaching contributed to the satisfaction of student teachers and helped affirm their commitment in anticipating their future as a teacher. The findings of the study exemplify that a well-structured, collaborative teacher education program in the initial year will attract and retain many prospective teachers. This thesis gives a wider understanding of the first year of a teaching career.
The research builds a contemporary picture of what prospective teachers think about teaching in their first year of a teacher education program. The issues and problems identified in the context of a regional campus, underpin the results of this research. This research enables studentsí voices to be heard and will inform teacher educators and others involved in teacher education to examine specific cases in the attraction and retention of prospective teachers.