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ERIC Number: ED513068
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 222
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1092-3790-0
Freedom within Limits: Program Structure and Field Instructor Autonomy
Brondyk, Susan Vander Veen
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University
Field instruction remains a mainstay in most teacher education programs, but there is little empirical evidence as to its effectiveness--whether it contributes to better teachers or influences student achievement. Research says even less about how field instructors learn to do their work. The aim of this study is to describe and explain field instruction in four, university-based teacher preparation programs. This is a multi-site case field study with a nested design: field instructors were studied within each program. At the programmatic level, program leaders were interviewed, field instructor meetings observed, and program documents analyzed. Within each program, a minimum of two field instructors were interviewed and observed leading student teaching seminars. This study describes the practices of field instructors--what they do and how they do them--and then examines the variability that exists among field instructors. The field instructors employ similar practices, but enact them in very different ways. Using an interpretive analytic approach, the theory of loose coupling offers one possible explanation for this variability. Weick's (1976) seminal work on loosely coupled systems provides a lens for thinking about field instructor autonomy. In the language of Shulman (1983), loose coupling involves both obligating structures and autonomy. This provides a way to think about the relationship between program structures and field instructor autonomy. The loosely coupled nature of this relationship explains why the system functions so well, but it also highlights problems within the system. It points, for example, to an inherent tension between coherence and adaptation. Field instructors are expected to perpetuate and adhere to program goals and expectations, while also remaining flexible due to the situatedness of field experiences. Field instructors frequently make judgment calls in the course of their work as they negotiate this tension. In some cases, these decisions deviate from program expectations. The implications of this study include a consideration of future research on field instruction. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A