10 SES 03 B, Programmes and Approaches: Digital settings
The preparation of teachers responsible for the education of citizens in a society that is increasingly competitive and demanding towards knowledge has assumed considerable importance as a focus for politicians, policy-makers and researchers. In fact, according to Zeichner (2012), there is an ‘intense debate that is taking place in many parts of the world about the kind of teaching and teacher education that should define education in the twenty first century’ (Zeichner, 2012: b).
Nowadays, teachers are seen as the key resource in ensuring the global competitiveness of each nation state’s education service, which highlights the concern on how teachers are being prepared (Furlong, 2013).Considering that knowledge is changing, school is changing, and the role of teachers is changing (Cornu, 2008), there is a need to rethink the purpose of teacher education, since it plays a very significant role in increasing and assuring the quality of teachers (ATEE, 2006). Having recently established its place within higher education, teacher education needs to respond to the demands that challenge more traditional or established subject disciplines and professional fields (Lopes et al., 2014; Boyd, 2013).
One of the goals of teacher education is the recognition of the speciﬁcity of teachers’ professional knowledge and the recognition of teachers as autonomous builders of their own knowledge. This highlights the importance of ‘research’ as a crucial element in developing advanced professional knowledge (Buchberger et al., 2000). In this sense, teacher education may play a significant role in the way it prepares student teachers to work using a research-oriented approach in their practice (Stenhouse, 1988). However, the way ‘research’ is perceived within initial teacher education may vary since different countries face different challenges according to their past and current situation regarding teacher education and the teaching profession.
In the last few years there have been significant efforts to accomplish a certain level of similarity in higher education among European countries, yet some differences still persist. According to Zgaga (2013) the idea to harmonise European higher education systems around two cycles was received differently. In the case of initial teacher education the organization into two-cycles has become the prevailing model among most European countries (Zgaga, 2013) - for example in Portugal student teachers have to complete a three year degree and then go on to a second Masters cycle. Notably however, this is not the system adopted in other current European countries, as for example the United Kingdom.
So, although there have been important efforts to develop a European teacher education, the varying circumstances and situations in which education across the continent exists make this objective very difficult to achieve, as different countries face different challenges according to their past and current situation concerning the teaching profession and teacher education (Hilton, 2012). It may be concluded that (initial) teacher education and the regulation of the teacher profession have remained essentially nationally-based (Zgaga 2013). Consequently, the requirements for becoming a teacher differ significantly across Europe, and this translates into different emphases being placed within programmes on the vocational or academic dimensions. This means that the organizational settings and national educational systems may have a strong impact and influence in the meaning and value given to research within teacher education.
The main objective of this paper is to inquire into the different perspectives and meanings given by teacher educators based in higher education institutions towards research in initial teacher education within two different national contexts: Portugal and England.
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