Are the course work requirements just a formality in teacher education? It may seem so, says Christine Watne Kristiansen in her doctoral dissertation.
Work requirements are various course assignments or tests which the students must pass in order to sit the exam.
“Higher education doesn’t have long traditions for using mandatory coursework. In the case of the teacher education, it may seem like students rarely fail, and they take it for granted to pass”, says Christine Watne Kristiansen.
She has written a doctoral dissertation on oral presentation requirements in the teacher education and concludes that this assessment form can be confusing for students and teacher educators to deal with.
“The teacher educations are connected with the tradition in schools. It is a professional degree programme and should reflect the school and the practice that takes place there. And the practice in school has long been to emphasise inclusion and community rather than assessment. This also applies to the teacher educations”, says Kristiansen.
In 2003, the Quality Reform in Higher Education was implemented in Norway. It provided guidelines for all higher education institutions in the country, and among the guidelines was closer follow-up of students. However, it did not say anything about how this should be done. The introduction of work requirements became a solution, and a practice that the professional communities themselves initiated.
Work requirements come in different forms, and Kristiansen looked specifically at oral work requirements. These are typically designed as oral presentations, either alone or in groups, which are presented in front of fellow students. Posters, PowerPoint presentations and the like are often used. After the presentation, oral feedback is usually given, both from fellow students and the course instructor.
“My research shows that there are unclear expectations around this assessment practice. Teacher educators are often unclear about how the assessment should be carried out. This means that students do not know how to do the feedback process. They do not quite know what to say”, says Kristiansen.
She interviewed both teacher educators and students and observed oral work requirements. It turns out that the teacher education holds on to its traditions, which, among other things, are about social community and oral expression. Students should feel good and not be exposed to pressure. Work requirements, on the other hand, are a situation where students are put under a certain amount of pressure. They have to make an effort and pass, because otherwise they cannot take the exam. It turns out that teacher educators are torn between the desire to protect and care for the students on the one hand, and to make demands on them on the other. This all means that the practice of work requirements does not work in the best possible way.
“When the expectations from lecturers are unclear, it is not so strange that students put little effort into passing their work requirement. The teacher education has also been constantly renewed, with overlapping guidelines on teaching and assessment. This can make it difficult for teachers to actually know how to implement work requirements and assessment in a good way”, says Kristiansen.
As there are no clear national guidelines for how work requirements are to be implemented, each education programme has a genuine opportunity to define the different work requirements, Kristiansen believes.
To help with the current situation, she proposes three possible measures.
The first is to look at whether oral work requirements are needed in the education at all.
“Work requirements were introduced because that is how the professional communities in higher education interpreted the Quality Reform. But the requirement the reform sets is to provide closer follow-up of students, and there are many other ways of achieving that”, says Kristiansen.
The second measure she envisages is to find better ways of implementing work requirements. The students can be more involved, let them help set the goals, and link the practice more closely to how assessments are carried out in schools. In this way, both the proximity to practice and work requirements can be used in a good way.
The third measure is more ambitious than the others.
“Currently, each teacher education programme decides how to implement work requirements. I think collaboration across work requirements can have a lot to offer, and it will also fulfill the goal of interdisciplinarity. This is part of the new curriculum, the 2020 Knowledge Promotion Reform. Here, the teacher educations should reflect the school more closely, because if it is stated in school curricula, it should also be included in teacher education programmes. But this comes on top of everything else the teacher education is already doing, so it may be difficult”, Christine Watne Kristiansen concludes.