10 SES 01 E, Learning from Practice
During the last few decades, European higher education programs that were previously characterized by a focus on professional practice have increasingly been subjected to processes of academization. Programs for professions such as midwifery, nursing, social work and teaching are increasingly integrated into universities (see for example Lukasse, Lilleengen, Fylkesnes & Henriksen, 2017; Laiho, 2010). Hence, traditions, views, ideas and knowledge domains that were primarily related to professional practice now need to coexist with traditions and values of the conventional university. Elementary teacher education (TE) in Sweden is a prime example of this trend. As in many other European countries, TE used to be organized at separate colleges but were integrated into universities and university colleges in the mid 1970s.
Although professional practice and academia certainly can nurture one another (Råde, 2016), tensions, conflicts and competition often arise between different perspectives on the purpose and content of education. In fact, there is much to suggest that tensions have grown over the last decade in Sweden, at least in policy. While the (social democratic) ambition has long been a unitary primary and secondary teaching profession, recent reforms have strived to “traditionalize teacher education content, practices and values by moving them to a ‘back-to-basics’ position” (Beach et al. p. 165, see also Erixon Arreman, 2005). The ambition seems to be built on ideological assumptions rather than on empirical analyses of the realities of teacher education (Beach et. al, 2014), which has always have been split between professional practice and academia, a state of affairs confirmed both in research and in reports (see for example Eriksson, 2009; Riksrevisionen, 2005; SOU, 2008).
Two international trends have intensified the tensions between professional practice and academia in TE: on the one hand, a somewhat utilitarian trend that education needs to come “closer” to practice in order to increase student employability, stressing generic competences, predetermined standards, efficiency and competitiveness (Råde, 2016; Zgaga, 2013); on the other hand, an evidence-based trend that professional actions need to rely on scientific knowledge rather than on practical experience (Thomas & Pring, 2004).
Bernstein (2003) has discussed the increasing emphasis on practical usefulness in teacher education on a more theoretical level, and suggests that the organization of teacher knowledge consists of two different knowledge domains: the trivium, which is a body of knowledge that refers to the “education” domain; and the quadrivium, which is a body of knowledge that refers to school curriculum subjects. In his view, the balance of emphasis between these two knowledge domains has shifted historically. Over the years, the trivium domain has eroded in the Western world in favor of a largely technical subject training associated with quadrivium.
The aim of this paper is to use Bernstein’s (2003) conceptualization of trivium/quadrivium knowledge domains in order to discuss tensions between professional practice and academia in a local TE setting. In order to do this, we use broad data about two distinct features of the academization of teacher education at a Swedish University – the writing of an academic essay as a degree project in elementary teacher education; and the introduction of a master’s program for teachers with an exam from teacher education.
The paper draws on data from interviews with students and teachers, as well as local policy documents, examinations, instructions and course guidelines. Analysis focuses on how practical perspectives that education should provide students with knowledge for their forthcoming profession come in tension with academic perspectives that education should cultivate students’ critical thinking, as well as their ability to use and do research on that same profession (Ek, Ideland, Jönsson & Malmberg, 2013). Bernstein’s (2003) concepts of quadrivium and trivium are used in the analysis. While quadrivium refers to a knowledge domain that is primarily related to the subjects that the students will be teaching in their future profession, trivium refers to a strong academic knowledge domain for the teaching profession (education), which is rooted in psychology, social science, and (e.g.) relates to how socio-political conditions and goals affect pupils’ opportunities to develop and learn (Beach & Bagley, 2012). The development of the teacher education program’s trivium has been described as important for bridging the gap between theory and practice, and for elaborating an understanding of teaching in relation to broader economical, socio-political and ideological structures, and hence for a strengthened teaching profession (Apple, 2001; Ken, 2010). According to Bernstein (2003), the content as well as the communication of and distribution between trivium and quadrivium have varied historically. What Bernstein describes is first a strengthening of teacher’s academic knowledge when TE was integrated into universities (described above), followed by a debate that argued for a return to a teacher education program that is more characterized by generic job-training. Bernstein (2003) expects that this movement will gradually phase out the trivium knowledge domain in teacher training and, in the long run, in the teaching profession (Bernstein, 2003). In relation to our study, these concepts will be used for the analysis of how students and teachers discuss and value different aspects of their TE knowledge in relation to the teaching profession.
Based on the interviews with administrators and university teachers in the master’s program, there is a clearly visible divergence between different perceptions of the overall meaning of the program. Some informants promote a somewhat utilitarian trend, in which it is argued that education needs to come “closer” to practice in order to increase the students’ employability, as mentioned above. The primary task for the master's program's will then be to develop the practical skills of the professional teachers. In contrast to this, some other informants stress that teachers should primarily develop scientific knowledge rather than relying on didactical and practical experience. In these interviews, both generic and didactic competence are seen as important, but the generic aspects are somewhat emphasized. The academic training of teacher education is highlighted and the step towards postgraduate education is stressed. The interviews with master’s students reveal the same split between professional practice and academia that is communicated by the teachers. A majority of the students say that their main purpose is to qualify for future work in academia. All of them emphasize that their work as teachers benefits/will benefit from their studies. However, in our paper we argue that the two lines of argumentation have to be recognized and made clear, and we believe that the tension between them needs to be discussed. The different perceptions also have to communicate with one another in a more elaborate and constructive way in order to interbreed. We argue that both the practical and the academic sides of the master’s program and teacher education can benefit from a further developed dialogue.
Beach, Dennis, Eriksson, Anita, & Player-Koro, Catarina. (2011). Changing teacher education in Sweden. Beach, D., & Bagley, C. (2012). The weakening role of education studies and the re-traditionalisation of Swedish teacher education. Oxford Review of Education, 38(3), 287-303. Bernstein, B. (2003). Class, codes and control. Vol. 4, The structuring of pedagogic discourse. London: Routledge. Ek, A., Ideland, M., Jönsson, S., & Malmberg, C. (2013). The tension between marketisation and academisation in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 38(9), 1305-1318. Eriksson, A. (2009). Om teori och praktik i lärarutbildning: En etnografisk och diskursanalytisk studie. Göteborg studies in educational sciences, 2009. Erixon Arreman, I. (2005). Att rubba föreställningar och bryta traditioner: Forskningsutveckling, makt och förändring i svensk lärarutbildning. Doktorsavhandlingar i pedagogiskt arbete, 2005. Laiho, A. (2010). Academisation of nursing education in the Nordic Countries. Higher Education, 60(6), 641-656. Lukasse, M., Lilleengen, A., Fylkesnes, A., & Henriksen, L. (2017). Norwegian midwives' opinion of their midwifery education - a mixed methods study. BMC Medical Education, 17(1), 80. Riksrevisionen. (2005). Rätt utbildning för undervisningen statens insatser för lärarkompetens (RIR, 2005:19). Stockholm: Riksrevisionen. Råde, A. (2016). Mellan akademi och lärarprofession: Integrering av vetenskapliga och professionella mål för lärarutbildningens examensarbeten. Akademiska avhandlingar vid Pedagogiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, 2016. SOU 2008:109. (2008). En hållbar lärarutbildning : Betänkande (Statens offentliga utredningar, 2008:109). Thomas, G., & Pring, R. (2004). Evidence-based practice in education (Conducting educational research). Buckingham: Open University Press. Zgaga, P. (2013). The future of European teacher education in the heavy seas of higher education. Teacher Development, 17(3), 347-361.
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