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Preservice Teachers Engaging With Social Constructivism in Elementary Classrooms Open Access


Other title
Field Experience
Teacher Education
Preservice Teachers
Pedagogical development
Social Constructivism
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Toy, Karena, Louise
Supervisor and department
Bainbridge, Joyce (Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Education)
Examining committee member and department
Mackey, Margaret (School of Library and Information Studies)
Leroy, Carol (Elementary Education)
Rich, Sharon (Nipissing University)
Dunn, William (Secondary Education)
Nocente, Norma (Secondary Education)
Department of Elementary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Social constructivist approaches to teaching and learning emphasize the interdependence and interrelationship of social and individual processes in the co-construction of knowledge, meaning, and understanding. Although theorists and educators agree that teacher education programs must support preservice teachers’ development as social constructivist educators, few studies have been done to understand how this might occur. This study focused on the ways in which three preservice teachers, engaging both individually and socially with social constructivist theory, developed towards being social constructivist educators. Pedagogical understanding was socially constructed through a methodology and study design that allowed for reflection and immersion in social constructivist theory as well as practical teaching time. Drawing upon the central tenets of Vygotskian genetic development theory which informs contemporary conceptions of social constructivism, this study examined epistemological and pedagogical growth in three preservice teachers. The preservice teachers engaged with the principles of social constructivism as ‘theoretical concepts’ appropriated through learning in their zone of proximal development. Evidence of appropriation was seen through onsite teaching events and in their pedagogical approach to classroom teaching. Data sources for this study included participant-generated response journals, researcher-kept field notes of onsite teaching events, and transcripts of post-teaching debriefings and whole-group conversations. The data was analyzed thematically and presented in chronological order. Three main findings arose from the study. The first finding showed that the preservice teachers’ epistemological stance played a significant role, not only in their practice, but in how they appropriated concepts and developed pedagogy. The second finding demonstrated that the preservice teachers’ use of social constructivist pedagogy in their onsite teaching classroom was essential to the development of their knowledge and experience; preservice teachers’ partial but ongoing appropriation of social constructivist concepts was linked to their partial, yet increasing use of social constructivist pedagogy in their classrooms. The third set of findings were linked to the kinds of supports preservice teachers found valuable as they worked to appropriate difficult social constructivist concepts. Immediate feedback and conversations with a teacher educator acting as a more knowledgeable other, practical field experience with teaching from a social constructivist stance, and opportunities to discuss with learning peers the challenges of learning a new way of teaching were cited as the most critical supports a teacher educator could provide.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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