Smooth Transitions: Integrating a High School and Teacher Education Program

The Faculty of Education, University of Regina and Regina public schools have partnered for five semesters to deliver an integrated university course, Education Core Studies (ECS) 100 at the Campus Regina Public High School. This course is a unique program integrating the learning outcomes of ECS 100, English 20/30, Psychology 30, and Career and Work Exploration 20/30 with a view to promote a smooth transition from high school to post-secondary and encourage greater diversity in pre-service teacher education. The purpose of the research was to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities of this integrative approach and consider ways to support high school students’ transition into teacher education programs. Many of the students recruited might be deemed “unlikely” to attend post-secondary education particularly in the area of teacher education (Fehr, 2010). 

This study used transformational grounded theory that combines particular elements of constructivist grounded theory, participatory action research, and decolonizing research methodologies. Data was collected throughout one semester primarily through three interview cycles with 23 high school-aged students, their two teachers, and the university professor. An Indigenous scholar was the critical friend providing research guidance and teaching alongside the teachers on four occasions. 

The students’ perception of university life at the onset of the semester shifted from a perception that university is expensive and difficult to a perception that personal independence was a key to their success. The teachers negotiated instructional strategies of “supportive independence” where they attempted to help the students build confidence and comfort in their abilities to succeed in university. At the same time, the teachers wondered if the Faculty of Education was prepared for these diverse students. Ironically, many students wanted the university component of this course to be traditional and stereotypical – professors as talking heads and, at times, they resisted more constructivist approaches to learning. The teachers constantly negotiated what academic rigor ought to look like in this integrated setting. The emphasis on understanding how knowledge is constructed and how it is reflected in diverse worldviews and values was both welcomed and resisted. The experiential nature of the course validated many of the students’ hopes that they could succeed in teacher education. Also there was a chorus of insight that teaching was a lot of work and more than just presenting.