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Thursday, July 4 • 3:30pm - 4:10pm
Semantic profiling as means for assessing teacher students' practicum lessons

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This paper presents a method for assessing student teachers’ practicum lessons. A practicum in Sweden lasts between five and ten weeks and during this period, the student is expected to teach an increasing number of lessons. During the practicum a visiting teacher from the university makes a two to three hour visit to observe a lesson and have a concluding discussion with the student in order to assess the students’ teaching abilities. Assessment in this manner is a complex task for a number of reasons. First, the students have a single opportunity to demonstrate their teaching abilities – good reason to be very nervous, in other words. Secondly, the assessment and grading process of these lessons is difficult as assessment criteria are broad, aspiring to cover all aspects of teacher work. In reality few lessons can cover this breadth of criteria, and hence, a method of finding a focus for lessons is essential.

Looking at research on the practicum from the perspective of the European Didaktik tradition can be conceived as didactic triangle that describes the three main considerations in an educational setting as being the learner, the teacher and the content in relation to each other and in a particular context. Previous research has tended to focus on the student or the teacher and not necessarily content or knowledge during lessons. Furthermore, previous research has focused on relational aspects and communicative abilities, rather than on knowledge, or content, in these practicum assessments. Finally, earlier studies has focused on why student teachers might ‘fail’ in a practicum assessment.

Therefore, this paper sets out a small project that sought to find out if semantic profiling could be used for evaluating student teacher work and become a valid assessment tool, based on the content and knowledge focus of the assessed lessons.

In this paper, we describe the use of semantic profiling to focus grading observations and subsequent judgements on content and knowledge inclusion in lessons. Semantic profiling allows for visualizing student teachers’ lessons and how their teaching allows for cumulative knowledge building, ideally a core focus for any lesson, and through which aspects of relations and communication also are portrayed. Semantic profiling, in this instance, has been limited to the concept of ‘semantic gravity’ which a visualisation of the degrees of context-dependence; the stronger the semantic gravity the more meaning is dependent on the context (Maton, 2014). It was decided to only focus on the semantic gravity, as examination lessons are not recorded rather an “on the spot” assessment is made.

In order to find ways to make the grading of this one-off-opportunity reliable and valid, semantic profiling focusing on semantic gravity. Following Kirk (2017), we have developed a semantic gravity profile for 13 practicum examinations of approximately 60 minutes each. Student teachers prepare a lesson plan to the visiting teacher prior to the visit and these lesson plans were first analysed and a semantic profile of the lesson created. During the visit, the pre-lesson semantic profile was complemented with a profile outlining what took place during the assessed lesson, with a focus on the content of the lesson. The profiles were then used to guide the follow-up discussion with the students, and formed an evidentiary basis for the grade.

The results suggest a discrepancy between lesson plan and lesson enactment. Many lesson plans suggested the enacted lesson would have semantic flatlines. In the actual lesson, however, there were quite clear waveforms in parts of the lessons. The analyses of these semantic profiles suggest that teacher students can become better at planning their lessons in relation to content, and that teacher education programs can become better at teaching about planning for content. Students need to be able to be more specific about what to teach instead of copying syllabus aims, focus on time management and structure, and leaving contents to “improvisations” during teacher-led Q&A-sessions.

This study contributes to research into teacher education practicums and puts a focus on knowledge and content rather than of the relational aspects of teacher work. However, it is small scale and made by one visiting teacher.

Thursday July 4, 2019 3:30pm - 4:10pm SAST
Room B47

Attendees (3)