Original Research-Special Collection: Teacher education for the primary school and the perennial problem of practice

The practice learning experiences of student teachers at a rural campus of a South African university

Sarah J. Gravett, Lindiwe Jiyane
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 9, No 1 | a702 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v9i1.702 | © 2019 Sarah J. Gravett, Lindiwe Jiyane | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 September 2018 | Published: 07 November 2019

About the author(s)

Sarah J. Gravett, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park, Kingsway Campus and Soweto Campus, Johannesburg, South Africa
Lindiwe Jiyane, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park, Kingsway Campus and Soweto Campus, Johannesburg; Department of Early Childhood Development, University of Mpumalanga, Siyabuswa, South Africa

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Background: There is considerable agreement that learning to teach is optimised when coursework learning is combined with quality practice learning experiences in schools.

Aim: The main aim of this study was to explore the views of a group of student teachers on their practice learning experiences in a ‘teaching school’ (TS) and in the other schools where they were placed for school experience.

Setting: The study was conducted at a rural campus of a South African university.

Methods: Quantitative (questionnaire) and qualitative (focus group) data were collected, involving all the student teachers in the programme (n = 100). The responses to the questionnaire were analysed descriptively, and the constant comparative method of data analysis was used to analyse the focus group interviews.

Results: The overall pattern in the data shows that the practice learning experiences contributed to the student teachers’ development as teachers – not only at the TS but also at the schools where they were involved in work integrated learning, despite challenges, including teacher absenteeism and lack of guidance. Involvement in these schools potentially enables an understanding of the challenges that are typical in many South African schools. However, school experience in a well-functioning school remains crucial. Were it not for the TS, the majority of the student teachers would not have been exposed to mentoring and good teaching practices to be emulated.

Conclusion: The study concludes that TSs indeed hold the potential to strengthen the teaching practice component of teacher education considerably. International experience with school partnerships and the experience at another South African university also attest to this.


School Experience; Practicum; Teaching Practice; Work Integrated Learning; Teaching School


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