Reflecting on English student teachers’ critical incidents during teaching practicum

  • Nhlanhla Mpofu
Keywords: critical incidents, ESL, reflective practice, student teachers, teacher education, South Africa


The purpose of this study was to examine the English as a Second Language (ESL) student teachers’ critical incidents during teaching practicum. Critical incidents are situations that are seen as challenging and that require immediate ratification before effective teaching and learning is restored. By their very nature, critical incidents result from the unpredictable environment in teaching and learning landscapes. However, there is a paucity of studies that focus on describing student teachers’ critical incidents as part of their teaching knowledge construction process. Against this background, this study sought to answer the following question: What critical incidents do student teachers encounter during teaching practicum? Theoretically, the study is underpinned by insights from reflective practice, and experiential and transformative learning, and embraced a qualitative intrinsic case study design within an interpretivist paradigm. I collected data using participants’ reflective journals and focused group discussion in which they recorded written descriptions of critical incidents. Purposive sampling was utilised to select 15 student teachers as participants. Using inductive thematic analysis, the following themes emerged:critical incidents in developing professional identity, critical incidents in the context of teaching English Language and critical incidents in teaching Language skills. Based on the findings, a need for guiding student teachers’ professional awareness as part of their reflection practices was identified.

Keywords: critical incidents; ESL; reflective practice; student teachers; teacher education; South Africa


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0259-9570