Original Research

Preservice teachers’ perception of longitudinal child development field coursework at a university-affiliated teaching school

Larra Ragpot
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 10, No 1 | a699 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v10i1.699 | © 2020 Larra Ragpot | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 August 2018 | Published: 14 September 2020

About the author(s)

Larra Ragpot, School of Education, Trinity Western University, Langley, Vancouver, Canada; and, Department of Childhood Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Most field coursework in teacher education (TE) programmes do not incorporate extended in situ interaction with individual children in a classroom. Furthermore, child development theory (from coursework) is not taught in tandem with students’ extended periods of practicum placement in schools.

Aim: This study sought to determine preservice teachers’ perception of their longitudinal study of children’s development and learning in a clinical setting at a university-affiliated teaching school.

Setting: This study focusses on two undergraduate primary school TE programmes at an urban university in Johannesburg, South Africa. These programmes incorporate six semester courses on child development with extended clinical field experience at a teaching school on campus. Each student teacher follows a particular child’s development and learning over four years of their undergraduate coursework.

Methods: This was a qualitative descriptive study with some cross-sectional data. Data were collected from 120 undergraduate students, by using anonymous questionnaires and four focus group interviews.

Results: Students reported that they had gained in-depth learning of child development during their longitudinal pairing with an individual child and that assigned observation activities had taught them to recognise, and support, nuanced differences in a child’s learning.

Conclusion: Students regard their longitudinal interaction and learning in the clinical setting positively. Future research should focus on the long-term value of the clinical model with insights from students who have graduated from the programme and are in the teaching profession.


preservice teacher education; student teachers’ clinical field experience; child development and learning; teaching school; South Africa


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