The first experiences of beginning, middle grades teachers
Bisel, Allison Reagan
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The purpose of this interpretive study was to understand the first experiences of four beginning, middle grades teachers during their first grading period as in-service teachers. Moreover, it was important to understand how the participants interpreted their first experiences and what meaning they were able to derive from their experiences. A narrative case study method was used to elicit stories from the beginning teachers. Participants were selected using a purposeful sampling method, and each participant engaged in three semi-structured interviews regarding their self-identified first experiences. This study was initially guided by Dewey’s work regarding experience and learning and later guided by Roth and Jornet’s theory of experience that described four aspects of an experience. The constructs of informal and incidental learning also provided a lens through which to view participants’ experiences and what they learned from these experiences. A thematic analysis was conducted from which seven types of first experiences and four elements of a first experience for beginning, middle grades teachers were determined. The types of first experiences identified from the 39 stories of first experiences included interactions with parents, interactions with students, interactions with colleagues, classroom management, grading and assessment, preparation for the first day, and being absent. The four elements of a first experience were identified as emotions, challenges, relationships, and learning. The findings of this study may contribute to the preparation and support of both pre-service and in-service teachers as well as broaden the conversation of experiential learning in terms of the importance of first experiences for beginning teachers.