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The impact of teaching practice on the study of geography in the University of Buéa

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This research had as intention to investigate the impact of teaching practice and its impact on the study of Geography in the University of Buea. The researchers held the hypothesis that teaching practice has a significant impact on the study of Geography in the University of Buea. After a microscopic research conducted on Geography student teachers in the University of Buea, it was proven that teaching practice experience has a remarkable consequence on the study of Geography in the University of Buea. However, the researcher observed that some practicing teachers are not effective in mentoring teachers. Also, the intensity of the teaching practice process was not standardized.






1.0 Introduction


Teaching Practice is an integral component of the training process of a teacher. It grants student teachers a practical opportunity to actually experience the teaching and learning (Ngidi and Sibaya, 2003, p.18). Marrais & Meier (2004) assert that, the term Teaching Practice represents the range of experiences to which student teachers are exposed to when they work in classrooms and schools. They further argue that Teaching Practice is challenging, but an important part of teacher training especially in developing countries and Cameroon is not an exception. Teaching Practice occupies a key position in the program of teacher education. It is a culminating experience in teacher preparation. It provides Teaching opportunity to beginning teachers or student teachers to become socialized into the profession (Furlong et al, 1988). During teaching practice, working with students in schools provides a high degree of emotional involvement mostly of a positive nature. Student teachers feel themselves grow through experience and they begin to link to a culture of teaching. They also feel engaged, challenged and even empowered (Trowbridge & Bybee, 1994; Shurafuddin, & Allison, 1969). In the University of Buea, the programme of teaching is offered in the Faculty of Education during the second semester of the second year and during the first semester of the third year. This is in the Department of Curriculum Studies and Teaching. In a bid to explore the impact of this integral aspect in the formation of a teacher, this project will be looking at Teaching Practice and its impact on the Study of Geography in the University of Buea.




1.1 Background to the Study


Geography is the study of physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and of human activity as it affects and is affected by these. It also relates to the nature and relative arrangement of places and physical features. According to Wikipedia, Geography is a field of science devoted to the study of lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the earth and planets. Geography as a discipline can be divided into two main subsidiary fields. Human Geography and Physical Geography. Human Geography focuses on the built environment and how humans create, view, manage, and influence space. While Physical Geography examines the natural environment, and how organisms, climate, soil, water, and landforms produce and interact. The difference between these two approaches led to a third field known as Environmental Geography, which combines physical and human geography and concerns the interactions between the environment and humans.


Geography as a discipline is important in that; it gives an understanding on how the world’s basic physical systems work and affect our everyday life. For example, the role the sun plays in providing heat and life on earth and how wind and ocean currents affect the weather. This does not only help us to better predict and prepare for severe weather, but also how we can use the earth’s resources for our benefit. Moreover, Geography is also important in that, it makes us learn about other cultures, where they live, and how their location and climate affect their lifestyle. This can help us understand our differences as well as the similarities we all share. Also, it helps students to develop the skills of reading, observing, analyzing and interpreting diagrams, charts, photographs, maps and statistical data. Geography also prepares students for specialization like urban planning, meteorology, fisheries, forestry, agriculture, remote sensing, engineering, surveying and even teaching it in schools and universities as a discipline. Through Geography, we are also able to explain the origin of the solar system.


Geography in the University of Buea is a subject in the Department under the Faculty of Social and Management Science. Students studying Curriculum Studies and Teaching in Geography teach Geography during Teaching Practice during the Second Semester in the second year and First Semester in the third year. This is to enable them gain more skills in the teaching of the discipline.


According to Collins Dictionary, Teaching Practice refers to a temporary period of teaching in a school undertaken under supervision by a person who is training to become a teacher. The purpose of Teaching Practice is to provide the students with an opportunity to apply their pedagogic knowledge and skills in practice.


Early in human history, most teaching was didactic. Poets recited ancient myths and stories and few listeners learned them by rote. Individuals acquired skills by observing their elders who were fishers, artisans, lawyers, or anything else, and emulating what they saw. Seeing teaching as a process of passing on knowledge has persisted. Paul Woodring argues that “the oldest form of teacher education is the observation and emulation of a master. Plato learned to teach by sitting at the feet of Socrates. Aristotle, in turn, learned from Plato’’. Much observation and emulation still goes on. In The Teacher Educator’s Handbook, Sharon Feiman-Nemser and Janine Remillard (page 103) note that “Like much of our society, prospective teachers believe that teaching is a process of passing knowledge from teacher to student and that learning involves absorbing or memorizing information and practicing skills. Students wait like empty vessels to be filled and teachers do the filling’’.


Not all teaching in the past was didactic and not all learning was rote. Socrates relied on the relationship between himself and his students to arrive at truths of human existence; he was, in Axelrod’s sense, an evocative teacher. Socrates corrected occasionally and enjoined his students, but rarely taught didactically. The Socratic, evocative method places responsibility for knowledge growth on the students.


Using the evocative method, social studies teachers might teach geographical lessons from which they expect students to describe how communities develop relative to the natural world surrounding them.


In the past in America, John Adams, David McCullough points out that in colonial America, teaching was something men did if they did not have anything better to do. He notes that in 1755 John Adams, not having the money for the apprentice to a lawyer, although ‘’untried and untrained as a teacher, immediately assumed his new role in one-room schoolhouse at the center of town’’. It is interesting that McCullough uses the phrase ‘’untried and untrained’’. This is because there was no training for teachers in 1755. The first formal teacher preparation began in the 1820s with the establishment of ‘’normal schools’’ in Vermont and Massachusetts.


The establishment of normal schools became a movement in the nineteenth century; almost every state had at least one of them. The normal schools’ purpose was perfectly straightforward: the preparation of teachers. Cities were desperate for teachers. By the early 1900’s, nearly every city had a normal school, often tied with high schools. Normal schools were technically oriented toward the practice of teaching. Modeled on earlier established European institutions for teacher training, these schools provided very specific training. In Salterton Trilogy (1986), Robertson Davies pro a fictional but accurate picture of what transpired in many normal school classrooms. They taught ways of teaching children with talent for drawing how to draw; they taught how a school could be formed and trained where there was no instrument but achpipe. Education in which prospective teachers learned how to do things. Didactic education suggests that teaching is an emergent art in which teachers evoke from students what they already know and lead them to the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. By the 1940s, most normal schools had expanded, into four-year state teacher’s colleges or liberal arts colleges.


In the 21st century, state universities began to develop their teacher preparation programs. University and college teacher education grew rapidly as states developed specific licensure requirements often based on college level coursework. As accreditation of secondary schools grew, the need for teachers with college degrees also grew. The norm became a combination of a degree with a major in an academic subject and completion of required education courses.


Student teaching practice is a kind of apprenticeship stage during which the students are sent out to schools to gain practical and professional experience by translating all the educational theories they have acquired or learnt during training into practice (Fagbu, 1984). It is a practical teaching activity by which the student teachers are given an opportunity in actual school situations to demonstrate and improve training in pedagogical skill over a period of time (Salawu & Adeoye, in Noun, 2008). The term practice teaching has three major connotations: the practicing of teaching skills and acquisition of the role of a teacher; the whole range of experiences that students go through in schools; and the practical aspects of the course as distinct from theoretical studies (Stones and Morris, 1977).


Whatever definition is given to Teaching Practice, the most important fact is that it is a professional exercise which is focused on helping the student-teacher, to bridge the gap between theory and practice in education and develop competence as well. In the process of bridging the gap between educational theories and practice, the student-teacher, through a program of cooperative and interactive guidance, acquires valuable skills in teaching and the management of teaching from experienced teachers thus improving their quality.


The goals of Teaching Practice are similar in most teacher training institutions. That makes teaching practice to be a compulsory course in all the teacher training institutions in Cameroon. In three other state universities which have schools of education – Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS) for the training of secondary school teachers (in Yaounde, Bamenda and Maroua), a period of three months is blocked for Teaching Practice and it is done only once until the students graduate. During this time classes are not held so that student teachers and their supervisors can concentrate on Teaching Practice. The block period for Teaching Practice is used by most universities in the world and therefore it seems to be the standard model for teaching practice even though, within this model, there are limitations especially with regard to the duration.


In the University of Buea, the bachelor’s degree program of Curriculum Studies and Teaching of the Faculty of Education trains secondary school teachers and has a unique model in Cameroon. Students start micro teaching right from the first year in the three years training where students do presentations before their course mates. Students are sent to secondary schools twice for Teaching Practice; in the second semester of the second year and in the first semester of the third year. This goes alongside with classes for other courses in education. Therefore, a student completes twenty-four weeks of Teaching Practice upon graduation.


Students are sent to different schools where they are expected to spend twelve weeks per Teaching Practice session. They are assigned to co-operating teachers who are selected based on their competence and to university supervisors only from the Faculty of Education, who are expected to see the student at least twice during each session. After observing the co-operating teacher, they begin teaching and the co-operating teacher follows up the student closely in all aspect of the student’s professional life. At the end of the exercise, the student receives an aggregate score derived from the co-operating teacher, the university supervisor and the student’s portfolio which is made up of a report, lesson plans, lesson notes, a journal and teaching aids. This is the only secondary school teacher training programme in Cameroon where teaching takes place concurrently with classes in the University.




1.2 Statement of the Problem


Teaching Practice is a very important activity to student teachers, universities and even to secondary schools that receive student teachers during their Teaching Practice. It is important in the sense that; it provides the student teachers with opportunities to put into practice what they have learned theoretically. By this it helps them to be exposed to real life classroom experiences, provides a forum of them recognizing and practicing self-reflection for the purpose of personal professional growth. Moreover, it also helps them respect and work with students of various backgrounds. However, it has been observed that some students do not take this exercise seriously. Also, some co-operating teachers too are not intentional and effective in the mentoring of these students to be better future teachers in the field of Geography. For this reason, this researcher will examine Teaching Practice and its impact on the study of Geography in the University of Buea.




1.3 Objective of the Study


Generally, this study aims at investigating the impact of Teaching Practice on the study of Geography in the University of Buea.


In specific terms, the study is out:


To investigate the consequences of the Teaching Practice experience on the study of Geography.

To find out the effectiveness of practising teachers in mentoring student teachers.

To investigate the intensity of the Teaching Practice process.



1.4 Research Questions


What are the consequences of the Teaching Practice experience on the study of Geography?

How effective are practising teachers in mentoring student teachers?

How intensive is the Teaching Practice process?

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