10 SES 16 E, Special Call: Mapping Teacher Education across Europe and Beyond
Teacher education is under attack in most countries around the world. Reformers argue that they want to increase the quality of K-12 education by making teacher education more practice-oriented, school-based, and market-driven. While reform processes associated with these agendas vary across contexts, there are certain similarities that remain consistent: university-based teacher education is often undermined and teacher educators’ contributions to reform processes are minimized. There have been several attempts to explore these changes through the lens of proletarization of teacher education (Ellis & McNicholl, 2015), marginalization of education as a discipline (Furlong, 2013), and deprofessionalization of the teaching profession (Evetts, 2008). Yet what is missing from these observations is the connection between teacher education reforms, educational commodification, and growing inequality on the global scale. The purpose of this paper is to problematize current conversations on global teacher education reforms by offering a new lens through which to examine the processes entailed in these transformations.
Drawing on the tradition of anthropology of policy, this paper presents a comparative analysis of recent teacher education reforms in Russia and in the US. This paper departs from the rationalist readings of teacher education reforms and explores policy processes associated with teacher education reforms as political theater. Informed by the theories of theater, performance, and spectacle (Boal, 1979; Goffman, 1959, 1974; Turner, 1974; Debord, 1994; Edelman, 1988; Willett, 1964), the framework of political theater explores the dramaturgical techniques that policy-makers use to advance their policy agendas. More specifically, this paper explores how the use of masks obscures intentions of teacher education reforms, how international assessments work as props to manufacture crises in teacher education, and how strategic grant-funding secures teacher educators’ acquiescence in accepting reforms that they often find to be unpalatable.
This study shows that despite different sociopolitical and sociohistorical conditions, university-based teacher education in Russia and in the US are subjected to similar attacks about the “low quality” of their students, ineffective programs, and graduates’ low employment rates in schools. This construction of crisis is accompanied by claims that performance on international assessments demonstrates low quality of education in K-12 schools that can allegedly be attributed to the failures of teacher preparation programs. The introduction of new standards for K-12 education that occurred in both countries around 2010 added further pressure to transform teacher preparation so that its graduates are better equipped for securing nations’ competitiveness in the knowledge economy. Yet the rhetoric of these reforms is duplicitous because under the guise of improving educational quality, reformers introduce change that decreases the quality of teacher education and bifurcates K-12 schooling along racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and linguistic differences, leaving underserved communities with the least prepared teachers. Even though many teacher educators recognize the precariousness of these reforms, competitive grant programs, such as Teacher Quality Partnerships Program in the US or the Program of Pedagogical Education Modernization in Russia, co-opt higher education institutions into reform agendas.
The significance of this paper lies in problematizing teacher education reforms unfolding in different contexts and in demystifying policy-makers’ claims about reforms’ intended but perpetually failing outcomes. The paper highlights how teacher reforms facilitate the spread of conservative social change (Apple, 2006) and entrench social inequalities on the global scale. By revealing the theatricality of politics involved in these reforms, this paper subjects to critique practices that mislead educators and the public about the agendas pursued by globally-connected reformers.
This study draws on the tradition of anthropology of policy by studying up (Nader, 1974) and by studying through (Wedel et al., 2005) teacher education policies as they are conceptualized and directed by various policy actors in Russia and the U.S. Anthropology of policy attends to the messy and contingent nature of policies that work as instruments of governing and power (Shore, Wright, & Però, 2011). Moving away from the realist rational frame, this tradition approaches policy as “contested narratives which define the problems of the present in such a way as to either condemn or condone the past, and project only one viable pathway to its resolution” (Shore, Wright, & Però, 2011, p. 13). Anthropology of policy recognizes that even if site research may not be accessible, rich insights into policy processes can be gained through various texts that capture different aspects of policy activities. For this reason, data sources used in this study include policy texts (such as the Concept of Support for Development of Pedagogical Education (Ministry of Science and Education of the Russian Federation, 2014) and Issues in Teacher Preparation (U.S. Department of Education, 2014), grant program announcements, teacher education standards, as well as videos of policy-makers’ presentations of new directions for teacher preparation. Policy texts related to teacher education reforms were uploaded into NVivo and analyzed using thematic inductive analysis that identified both commonalities in policy processes and unique features in how theatricality of reforms was constructed for different audiences.
The framework of political theater reveals ways in which policy-makers construct crises out of manufactured data or exaggerated representations of international assessments’ results to stir the audience (consisting of the general public as well as the educational community) to accept transnational policy scripts for teacher education reforms. Furthermore, this framework highlights ways in which the audience is expected to occupy a passive role of acquiescence and acceptance of the predetermined ways of educational change. When combined with marketization of education and deprofessionalization of teachers, this passive role ensures a turn towards a conservative social change, which perpetuates social inequality. The comparative policy analysis presented in this paper underscores the global nature of these reforms and calls of teacher educators to consider policy transformations affecting their work through global lens. The significance of this paper lies in offering new lens to examine global teacher education reforms and to problematize how the alleged pursuit of quality education often results in reinscribing social inequality around the world.
Apple, M. W. (2006). Educating the "right" way: Markets, standards, God, and inequality. New York: Routledge. Aydarova, E. (2019). Teacher education reform as political theater: Russian policy dramas. Albany: SUNY Press. Boal, A. (1979). Theater of the oppressed. New York: Urizen Books. Conquergood, D., & Johnson, E. P. (Eds.). (2013). Cultural struggles: Performance, ethnography, praxis. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Debord, G. (1994). The society of the spectacle. New York: Zone Books. Edelman, M. (1988). Constructing the political spectacle. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ellis, V., & McNicholl, J. (2015). Transforming teacher education: Reconfiguring the academic work. London: Bloomsbury. Evetts, J. (2008). The management of professionalism: A contemporary paradox. In S. Gewirtz, P. Mahony, I. Hextall & A. Cribb (Eds.), Changing teacher professionalism: International trends, challenges and ways forward (pp. 19-30). Oxon: Routledge. Furlong, J. (2013). Education–An Anatomy of the Discipline: Rescuing the university project? New York: Routledge. Furlong, J., Cochran-Smith, M., & Brennan, M. (Eds.). (2013). Policy and politics in teacher education: International perspectives. London: Routledge. Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Anchor Books. Rizvi, F., & Lingard, B. (2010). Globalizing education policy. London: Routledge. Robertson, S. L. (2012). Placing Teachers in Global Governance Agendas. Comparative Education Review, 56(4), 584-607. Shore, C., Wright, S., & Però, D. (2011). Policy worlds: Anthropology and the analysis of contemporary power. New York: Berghahn Books. Townsend, T. (Ed.). (2014). International perspectives on teacher education. London: Routledge. Turner, V. (1975). Dramas, fields, and metaphors: Symbolic action in human society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Wedel, J. R., Shore, C., Feldman, G., & Lathrop, S. (2005). Toward an anthropology of public policy. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 600(1), 30-51. Willett, J. (1964). Brecht on theatre: The development of an aesthetic. New York: Hill and Wang.
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Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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