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With demands on teacher preparation courses to produce ‘work-force ready’ graduates to teach diverse student populations many universities internationally are using service learning experiences to reform their approach. In the process many new questions and challenges arise: What might service learning experiences look like when large cohorts of preservice teachers complete 70 hours as an integral part of an undergraduate primary teacher education program? Is there a match between perceived gains from the service learning experiences and the teaching standards governing the profession? In this study, 130 preservice teachers in their third year of a four-year Bachelor of Education Primary course participated as tutors in a community-based homework program as part of their compulsory professional experience unit over 24 weeks. Preservice teachers’ written online discussions about their experiences were audited against a set of professional teaching standards. Findings indicate that many preservice teachers gained valuable insights about people, learning and themselves (personally and as prospective teachers) as a direct result of their experiences in the non-school setting. Factors which led to the success of the program involved: scheduling time for service learning into the weekly timetable for those studying third-year education units; providing an induction program for preservice teachers; having a designated liaison person to facilitate clear communication between the agency and university partners; and, providing prompts for preservice teachers’ regular and focussed critical online reflections on their service learning experiences. In spite of the modest levels of success with the implementation process, feedback from preservice teachers using the university evaluation instrument indicated preservice teachers needed more regular contact with the children they tutored to develop productive learning relationships.


School of Education

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Journal Article

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