Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Glenda Campbell-Evans

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Carmel Maloney


With universities and schools of education receiving recurring criticism for being ineffective in preparing graduates for school teaching, this study sought to understand the phenomenon of learning to teach in order to investigate universal questions about who was learning to teach and what, where, when and how did they learn to teach during their initial learning to teach experiences at university. The topic was approached by listening to the voices and stories of those who ought to know the most about the phenomenon: the pre-service teachers. A multiple case study analysis was conducted with seven pre-service teachers, enrolled in their final year of study towards a Bachelor of Education course in an Australian regional campus. The pre-service teachers volunteered to participate in three semi-structured interviews, in which they reflected on their personal, contextual and professional aspects of the experience of learning to teach. They were encouraged to provide any artefacts or documentation about their experiences.

The significance of my study—and therefore its contribution to theory—is the proposition that pre-service teachers’ approaches to learning to teach are pivotal to what they will take from their teacher education experiences, and therefore their vision of teaching and how that might be enacted. The extent to which the personal, contextual and professional aspects are integrated and utilised by the pre-service teacher assert particular orientations to learning to teach. My study proposed three orientations to learning to teach. The influences of the personal aspects were found in all three orientations, but in the first orientation, the personal aspects were the single most influential impact on learning to teach. This orientation was described as a pragmatic orientation because the pre-service teacher relied on their previous experiences and observations of teachers and teaching, an established view of teaching that did not change and they were confident about their ability to teach. In the second orientation, the personal aspects combined with some of the professional or the contextual aspects, and it was described as a transitional orientation. In the transitional orientation the pre-service teachers recognised they must engage with the knowledge and skills for teaching in order to review and refine their understanding about teaching and teaching methods. The final orientation utilised and activated all three aspects (personal, contextual and professional) and it was described as having an integrated orientation. In this approach, pre-service teachers actively constructed and made new and more complex meanings about teaching and teacher’s work.

While the orientations found in my study were specific about the diversity of pre-service teachers entering a regional teacher education programme, they do offer teacher educators some insight into the complex, dynamic and idiosyncratic nature of learning to teach and make recommendations to attempt to address the pre-service teachers’ learning needs.

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