Problem statement: Incorporation of acting theories into teacher education has always indicated a positive influence on certain critical aspects of teacher competences such as professional identity development, nonverbal communication and immediacy. Although teacher beliefs are considered to be the heart of professional identity, the relevant literature does not present a study in which the impact of an acting course on the beliefs of prospective teachers was investigated. The reason why researchers have not pondered over this issue may be the lack of studies and accordingly a limited body of literature discussing the profession in terms of aesthetic criteria. In this respect, this paper aims at analyzing the development process of pre-service teachers’ beliefs on learning and teaching through an acting course that is specifically designed for English teacher education.
Purpose of Study: This paper presents a study measuring the impact of an acting course on the beliefs of prospective teachers about teaching English.
Method: Drawing findings from a qualitative research conducted at a Turkish university, the study investigates the transformational process through which prospective teachers shape their beliefs during the acting course. 67 student-teachers were randomly selected from seven different classes of an English Language Teaching department, and they were observed through certain qualitative tools during the course.
Findings and Results: The results suggested that an acting course designed for English teacher education helps student-teachers reconstruct their beliefs and approximate them to an academic level. Examination of prospective teachers’ beliefs at the beginning of the study showed that almost all of them possessed a behaviorist understanding of teaching English. However, the findings obtained at the end of the course displayed a significant improvement in two major variables. First, the sources of teacher beliefs were found to shift from personal experiences to an academic origin. Second, the types of teacher beliefs were observed to evolve from a behaviorist perspective to a more cognitive/constructivist ones. While types of teacher beliefs did not display a radical change like the impressive improvement in the sources of beliefs, the available findings, nevertheless, provided us with a glimpse of the change or the process of development in teacher beliefs.
Conclusions and Recommendations: The results are promising in many ways for pre-service teacher education. While still remaining as an uncharted territory, the literature of teaching as a performing art at least indicates that the pursuit of integrating arts and acting into teacher education is not a burden but a must. A longitudinal study beginning in pre-service years and ending in in-service years of teachers may investigate whether, and to what extent, the impact of such courses is permanent and influential in shaping the teacher beliefs.
Key Words: Pre-service education, teacher beliefs, teacher behavior, acting