Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

How prior life experiences influence teaching: Multiple case studies of mature -age elementary student teachers

S. Kay Klausewitz, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Researchers say that what really differentiates mature age students is not age as much as it is life experiences. How and in what ways does that influence the preparation of pre-service teachers? What happens in the classroom is more related to the teacher than any other variable. All, and especially older student teachers, bring rich experiences and images into the classroom that affect their attitudes, approach, and decision-making. The overall purpose of this research was to learn how life experiences of mature age student teachers influence their learning to teach children in an elementary classroom. Participants are five students between the ages of 38 and 45, who did their student teaching practicum within a traditional teacher preparation program. Data was gathered from three in-depth interviews, three classroom observations with field notes and video tapes, and from selected documents. The Rainbow of Life Roles (Super, 1980) was used to supplement interviews about the life experiences of each participant. Stimulated Recall (Bloom, 1953 and others) was used to discover what past experiences influenced decision making and problem solving. Interview questions focused on participants' interpretation of their life experiences, their perspectives of themselves as learners, workers, and parents, and their ideas about teaching. Based on the data, the following conclusions were reached. (1) Life experiences, from activities such as other jobs, parenting, travel, reading, coaching, and community work were embedded in the perspectives of the emerging teacher serving as a lens or filter through which decisions were made in the classroom. (2) Life experiences provided connections to build upon or barriers to be reconstructed. Examination of prior experiences and beliefs will help to reconstruct these experiences into meaningful ideas about teaching that will be more than an overlay experience that may be washed out in the early rigors of learning to teach. Implications for teacher education include the need for promotion of the examination of prior life experiences to integrate self-knowledge with theory and practice and to remove possible barriers to the development of solid teaching practices.

Subject Area

Teacher education|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Klausewitz, S. Kay, "How prior life experiences influence teaching: Multiple case studies of mature -age elementary student teachers" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3179892.