10 SES 11 A, Academic Reading, Coherence and PCK in Teacher Education
How are different components of teacher education connected in order to prepare student teachers successfully? Various national settings give different answers to this question. Teacher education has been criticized for being disconnected (Hammerness, 2006). Misaligned, fragmented and isolated sets of courses counteract coherence and thus the improvement of the quality of teacher education. Connectedness within and between courses in the curriculum, between the program and the existing school and classroom realities has, on the other hand, been regarded as a tool for enhancing quality. Bateman, Taylor, Janik and Logan (2008) underline that there is little empirical research on the nature of coherence in practice and that the lack of a shared, overall vision makes it difficult to coordinate and implement programs. Despite the apparent importance of establishing coherent programs, the topic still seems to be scarcely investigated within teacher education (cf. Hammernes, 2006; McDonald, 2005).
The aim of the presentation is to identify how coherence within teacher education is viewed in programs and how it is perceived by teacher educators and student teachers. The perspective taken represents a Northern European viewpoint. The governmental guidelines for teacher education in Sweden, together with universities’ interpretations, form the empirical base for the presentation. When compared to its neighbouring countries Norway and Finland, Sweden represents an intermediate position regarding governmental steering, giving institutions conducting teacher education general aims to be interpreted and accomplished by the universities. The attention in the presentation is directed towards these pedagogical core courses common to different groups of student teachers and to the relationship between the guidelines and the interpretation made by the universities as well as within and between courses and other constituting fields of teacher education.
Based on the objective, the specific research questions are:
1. How is coherence exposed in governing documents in teacher education?
2. How do respondents perceive coherence when explaining experiences of teaching and learning?
Coherence is about connecting what belongs together and conveys a sense of purpose of establishing systematic relations and order between the constituting dimensions of teacher education curriculum (e.g. Blömeke & Döhrmann, 2012). Coherence is described as horizontal when it deals with the question of how certain concepts are linked together between different courses within programs and between different teacher programs. Coherence is vertical when concepts and activities are interrelated between consecutive courses within a program. One expression of coherence is related to the progression in a program, meaning the expanding requirements along the program.
General education studies, subject didactics and praxis are usually the constitutional fields of teacher education and can be connected in numerous ways (cf. NOKUT 2006). When the fields are closely integrated within the same institution, the possibility to establish coherence and promote communication is enabled because of few structural barriers. When the fields are separated in different institutions, structural barriers in form of subcultures developed within different subjects, challenge interrelations. The organization of teacher education thus mirrors the complex nature of the teaching profession. In order to educate teaching professionals with comprehensive knowledge and skills, many disciplines are involved.
Regardless the way teacher education is organized, alignment between the constituting fields and between aims, content, activities, evaluation within courses can be seen as an ultimate aim. In an ideally coherent curriculum, all elements in the program and in the courses are integrated, with a shared overall educational understanding (cf. Biggs, 1999).
The data for the paper was collected in evaluating studies of the core curriculum of teacher education programs at two Swedish universities between 2014 and 2017 (Hansén & Wikman, 2016; 2017). The evaluating studies encompassed firstly analyses of the relationship between national guidelines, the universities’ curricula and study guides containing aims, content and course outlines. Secondly, teachers’ and student teachers’ perceptions about the program were collected through individual and group interviews. In this presentation, the focus lies on scrutinizing perceptions about coherence as it was expressed in the university documents and in the interviews. We conducted semi-structured interviews with both student teachers and teacher educators. In group-interviews with student teachers, the average being three per group, in total about 60 students participated. Totally 31 teachers were interviewed, mainly individually. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and typed, finally covering about 400 pages of text. Semi-structured interviews were following standard procedures used because they enabled the informants to express freely their perceptions. Interaction within the groups could stimulate the members to complement one another’s opinions. Empirical data were collected from various sources in order to create an in-depth view of coherence. The overarching approach used for treating the data, as exposed in programs and by student teachers and teacher educators, was content analysis. The process of analysis contained ongoing discussions and interpretations between the researchers until reaching inter-subjective conformity. A significant part of the analysis consisted of an ongoing writing of summaries based on the empirical data. This approach was used both in the analysis of curricular documents as well as when analyzing interviews. Field notes taken when attending lectures and seminars complemented the analysis. Categories were identified and refined in the interplay with the data through an abductive process.
In the legislative implementation a close relation was noted between the prescribed content areas and the university courses and specific traditions could influence the profile of the programs. Certain areas were not covered as separate courses but rather aimed at permeating courses in general. Even if the prerequisites for developing coherence in this way were favorable, the risk was that the content strings were forgotten. When examining the core courses across the programs, no systematic expressed progression could be identified. In the end of the studies, more emphasis was however laid on aims directed towards judgement and attitudes. The horizontal coherence concerning core courses was expressed thoroughly giving the possibility to guarantee equal means of communication between different teacher groups, while the vertical coherence was relatively weak in terms of conceptual density. Teachers experienced that the communicative structures between the constituting elements were relatively weak, while students complained that educational themes were not treated during subject matter studies. Teacher education is multidisciplinary which implies that teachers should be able to work in complex and differential circumstances. Regarding coherence in curriculum design, the interconnections are a tough nut to crack. This can partly be explained by the necessary diversification of teacher education, but depends largely on how courses are designed and organized. Moreover, it is crucial whether teacher educators offer opportunities for students to interconnect and recontextualize meaning across contexts of campus courses and professional practice. Otherwise, programs may be segmentalized in such a way that processes of recontextualization are counteracted (Bernstein, 2000; Maton, 2014). It is thus crucial whether teacher educators, perspectives, courses, and curricular content are interconnected, and whether students are given the opportunity to distinguish courses as interrelated parts of a larger whole.
Bateman, D., Taylor, S., Janik, E., & Logan, A. (2008). Curriculum coherence and student success. Saint-Lambert: Champlain Saint-Lambert Cégep. Bernstein, B. (2000). Pedagogy, Symbolic Control, and Identity: Theory, Research, Critique (2nd ed.). Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Biggs, J. (1999). Teaching for quality learning at university. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press. Blömeke, Sigrid; Suhl, Ute; Döhrmann, Martina (2012). Zusammenfügen was zusammengehört. Kompetenzprofile am Ende der Lehrerausbildung im internationalen Vergleich. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik 58 (4), p. 422-440. Hammernes, K. (2006). From Coherence in Theory to Coherence in Practice. Teachers College Record. Columbia University, 108 (7). p. 1241-1265. Hansén, S-E. & Wikman, T. (2016). Kärnkurser i lärarprogram (UVK). Analys av dokument, intervjuer, enkätsvar och observationer. 4 U. Utveckling, utvärdering, utbildningsvetenskapliga kärnan, Uppsala universitet. Institutionen för pedagogik, didaktik och utbildningsstudier. Uppsala universitet. Hansén, S-E. & Wikman, S. (2017) . Kärnkurser i lärarutbildningar vid Örebro universitet. Analys av dokument, intervjuer, enkätsvar och observationer. University of Örebro, Sweden. (unpublished). Maton, K. (2014). Knowledge and Knowers: Towards a realist sociology of education. London: Routledge. McDonald, M. A. (2005). The integration of social justice in teacher education: Dimensions of prospective teachers’ opportunities to learn. Journal of Teacher Education, 56(5), 418-435. NOKUT: Evaluering av allmennlærerutdanningen i Norge 2006 [Evaluation of Compulsory School Education in Norway]. Published by NOKUT, Norway.
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