10 SES 04 E, Research on Teacher Educators
In contributing to the mapping of teacher education across Europe and beyond, this paper begins by examining findings from an interpretive policy and discourse analysis of documents informing contemporary initial teacher education (ITE) policy development in Aotearoa New Zealand. The study asked: what is the problem of teacher education constituted in policy and associated documents in the period 2010-2018? We then compare the problem established within the policy sphere and suggested solutions, with recent evidence about the work of teacher education in New Zealand, to theorise about the potential utility of solutions to address the problems raised.
Within the last decade persistent suggestions of problems with initial teacher education provision have pervaded policy papers and discourse in Aotearoa New Zealand. Teacher workforce issues, observed in a declining number of applicants for teaching, a suggested lack of preparedness of graduate teachers, a proliferation of teacher education options, and concerns over poor and/or variable programme quality are often argued as evidence of the system’s failure. A desire to improve education system quality, including the quality of the teacher workforce, is routinely expressed. However, evidence of the failure of teacher education from actual studies into the work of teacher education in this country is scarce; recent empirical work in the field has more often focussed on urgent quality issues of ITE curriculum relevancy, practice components of student teacher learning (Grudnoff & Haigh, 2017; McDonald, 2018; Sewell, Hansen & Weir, 2017), and notions of partnership (Aitken, Corkery & Jones, 2017). Two other relatively large, multi-year projects, an Auckland University project working with complexity theory, equity issues and ITE (Ell et al. 2017; Grudnoff et al, 2017) and The Work of Teacher Education – NZ study* (Gunn, Berg, Hill & Haigh, 2016 [WoTE-NZ]), have added insights into aspects of current provision, strengths, issues and future directions. An emerging body of work is beginning to tackle broader issues of ITE practice and design (for example, Aspden & McLachlan, 2017; Bell, Robertson, Norsworthy, 2017; Cooper, Sexton & Gunn, 2017).
Notwithstanding the relative dearth of locally produced evidence about the supposed failures of ITE provision in Aotearoa New Zealand, the professional body for teachers has signalled major changes to the initial teacher education programme accreditation and approval system (Teaching Council New Zealand, 2018). Apparent in the documents foreshadowing change is a sense that we need to centralise control of some aspects of ITE, to improve and streamline it, and to standardise graduate outcomes through the introduction of certain forms of ITE assessment, officially mandated and sanctioned. Our analysis suggests these measures may be seeking to ameliorate the risk of variable/poor quality ITE. Yet, we question whether the policy responses will actually achieve these aims arguing in return that they may actually diminish the quality ITE provision nationwide.
Taking account of the policy measures in light of findings of the WoTE-NZ study and related scholarship, we use this paper to comment on contemporary education policy and practice as a basis for evidence based decision making and planning in the field.
* The Work of Teacher Education-NZ study (Gunn, Berg, Haigh & Hill, 2016) was generously funded by the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative, Grant No: 9142
Engaging with teacher policy (Tatto, 2008), interpretive policy analysis (Browned, Coffey, Cook, Meiklehohn & Palermo, 2018), and discourse analysis (Foucault, 1977; Gunn, Forthcoming), we first undertook document analysis of policy documents associated with a stocktake of the teacher education workforce and ITE provision in Aotearoa New Zealand produced between 2010 and 2018. This analysis identified the policy problem this body of work sought to address, the social construction of key players within this (e.g., teacher education and teacher educators), and proposed solutions. Subsequent to this policy analysis, we examined findings from a two-phase, cultural historical activity theory informed exploration of the work of university based teacher education in Aotearoa New Zealand (WoTE-NZ) and considered evidence about teacher education work in relation to the policy discourse. The WoTE-NZ study is part of a network of related work of teacher education (WoTE) projects (Brennan & Zipin, 2016). Launched progressively in England and Scotland, Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand and Canada, the studies set out to examine internationally, the cultural constructions and material realities of university- based initial teacher education, and teacher educators’ (TEs) work. Given the policy discourse of risk associated with poor/variable quality ITE, the WoTE-NZ study and associated scholarship provides us with evidence of successes, issues and challenges being faced within teacher education at the time of the policy development to help explain and comment on the veracity of the policy discourse in relation to evidence of the actual work. The WoTE-NZ study was conducted in accord with ethical standards and obligations consistent with the authors’ institutional and professional standards.
Initial teacher education as a problem has permeated education system policy discourse in Aotearoa New Zealand in the last decade. Notwithstanding the assertion that ITE needs reform to, in part, mitigate the risk of poor/variable quality ITE, evidence of ITE quality from studies of teacher education work in Aotearoa New Zealand are scarce. This comparative analysis of the policy problem and solutions, with research evidence of teacher education work, underscores the imperative of engagement with local and relevant evidence-based knowledge as a basis for evidence informed decision making. As a case of teacher education policy making, this project contributes to the growing profile of teacher education research in Europe and beyond.
Brennan, M. and Zipin, L. (2016). The Work of Teacher-Educators, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 44:4, 302-305. Browne, J., Coffey, B., Cook, K., Meiklejohn, S. and Palermo, C. (2018). A guide to policy analysis as a research method. Health Promotion International, 1-13, DOI:10.1093/healpro/day052/5067652 Foucault, M. (1977). Power/knowledge: selected interview and other writings 1972-1977 (C. Gordon, L. Marshall, J. Mepham & K. Soper, Trans.). New York: Pantheon Books. Gunn, A. C. (Forthcoming). Foucauldian discourse analysis in early childhood education. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. G. Noblit. New York, Oxford University Press. Gunn, A. C., Berg, D., Haigh, M. and Hill, M. (2016). Work of teacher educators: Teaching and learning in New Zealand university-based initial teacher education. Wellington: Teaching and Learning Research Initiative. Tatto, M. T., (2008). Teacher policy: a framework for comparative analysis. Prospects, 38, 487-508.
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