Faculty Perceptions of Virtual Field Experience Placement in a Teacher Preparation Program in the UAE
The purpose of this study was to examine faculty perceptions of virtual field placement of preservice teachers at a university in the United Arab Emirates and to explore the factors that promote or hinder the success of this experience. Vygotsky’s concept of scaffolding was used as the theoretical framework of this study and to explain the faculty’s engagement with the field placement experience.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has affected the provision of teacher education programs around the world. It forced many universities to implement emergency remote teaching strategies including virtual field experiences.
Considering the novelty of this phenomenon, an exploratory qualitative research design was followed to arrive at an in-depth description of the faculty’s perceptions. A convenience sampling, which is characterized by the deliberate targeting of information-rich participants, was used to select five faculty members who supervised 40 Emirati preservice teachers during their virtual field experience. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews and analyzed using thematic analysis.
The framework put forth in this study could serve as a guideline for teacher education programs, especially field experience preparation.
It was found that faculty had different perceptions of virtual field experiences. Although preservice teachers were faced with unprecedented virtual field experiences, collaboration with different stakeholders helped them achieve the learning outcomes. A main drawback of the virtual field experience, however, impacted preservice Emirati teachers’ motivation about online teaching.
Preservice teachers’ technological skills should be reinforced and built to enable purposeful and practical technological integration in the teaching and learning process. Therefore, a holistic inclusion of all stakeholders’ approach is needed to upskill and develop the competencies of all parties involved in the process taking into consideration a more enriching collaborative manner. Such a redesign should be examined to assess its validity and efficiency on a wider and more diverse sample to ensure its reliability and success.
Researchers are recommended to explore the impact of virtual field experience on young children learning and engagement by including all stakeholders involved in the teaching and learning process, especially young students’ parents since findings showed that children under the age of eight are at a disadvantage in online learning.
Implications of the findings of this study show that sustainable virtual field experiences can be attained through a collaborative approach. Collaboration is essential as it enables preservice teachers to succeed in implementing inclusive pedagogical approaches.
Further studies can enrich the findings of this paper by expanding the collected data to provide deeper and more generalizable results. For example, virtual student teachers’ and school students’ scores should be collected and compared to face-to-face scores in order to assess and evaluate the learning itself.