10 SES 17 F, Research on Teacher Educators
This paper examines the cumulative effects on teacher educators of a series of ideological and policy changes in the English teacher education landscape since the early 80s. In the UK these complex changes for teacher educators are part of the wider increasing ‘uncertain times’ of teacher education and teacher educators’ practice across Europe (George & Maguire, 2018). Within this range of national contexts, there is evidence of the accelerated pace for change and an increasing diversification of the teacher education landscape, designed to open up the ‘market’ to new, employment-based routes into teaching. This emphasis on alternative, school-based routes has significant implications for teacher educators as an occupational group and for their roles, identities and practices, as this paper will identify.
The first focus in the paper explores the nature of these rapid changes. We will argue that, these policies present a ‘turn to the practical’ (Furlong & Lawn 2011) which marginalizes the role of the university in teacher learning. The cumulative effects of these ideological and policy changes in the teacher education landscape have de-professionalised teacher educators and affected their work and status, often causing them to be (wrongly) positioned as only ‘semi-academics’ (Ducharme, 1993; Author, 2002) or as ‘out of touch’ with schools (Brown et al., 2015); both these positions cause their professionalism to be overlooked, devalued or dismissed by policy-makers.
Then, we examine how the current ideological and political teacher education landscape not only de-professionalizes teacher educators, but also appeals to the more instrumental or performative dimensions of teaching. Underpinning the ‘turn to the practical’ and related push toward school-led teacher education is a focus on ‘what works’. In such a view, being and becoming a teacher “is a matter of acquiring a limited corpus of state prescribed knowledge accompanied by a set of similarly prescribed skills and competencies. This model is a technicist one involving the acquisition of trainable expertise’” (Beck, 2009: 8). This technicist model is further supported by teacher standards that predominantly focus on what teachers do, or should be able to, rather than what and how they think about practice (Evans 2011), and accountability measures for teachers and schools that take pupil progress as an increasingly important measure of success in education. These interpretations of craft have implications for how teacher learning is seen, and for the legitimacy of the sources of teacher and teacher educator knowledge bases. If one conceives of teaching as a set of technical skills “that can be picked up in practice” (Biesta, 2012: 9), then teacher education is best conceived of as a practical experience in schools. According to this logic, the expertise of teaching is assumed to exist largely in schools, with teachers, and is also developed there.
We argue that the cumulative effects of these ideological and policy changes have de-professionalized the work of educating teachers and swept away teacher educators’ autonomy and control over their professional roles and responsibilities. This argument does not serve to demean the wisdom of practice (Shulman, 2004), nor the importance of technical skills for teaching. Yet, practical knowledge and experience have become ‘god terms’ compared to which all other aspects of teacher education are ranked as subordinate. Within this landscape we see a distinct need to re-state (and reinstate) the importance of higher education-based teacher educators, and to reclaim and celebrate their practices and the nature of the professionalism involved. We propose an alternative perspective of teacher educator professionalism in the form of a conception of enacted professionalism and also detail its consequences for (future research on) the professional development of teacher educators (see section ‘Conclusions’ for further details).
This paper’s analysis involves a re-interpretation and examination of our current - and we would argue our predominant - ‘way of seeing’ (Burk, 1952) teacher educator professionalism in policy and practice. More specifically, it engages in a reconstruction of the shifting landscape of initial teacher education in England, followed by an exploration of its impact on the roles, identities and practices of teacher educators as second order practitioners, and operating views of teaching and teacher education. While the analysis takes the English case as its starting point, these shifts and changes are explicitly framed within and contrasted with the teacher education landscape across Europe). This is evident in the policy documentation used as the basis for this examination in the paper which includes both national documentation (including, for example, official publications and records from Parliament and public speeches from the Secretary of State – Education Committee), but also recent European policy documentation (including, for example, the New Priorities for European Cooperation in Education and Training and the Supporting Teacher Educators for Better Learning Outcomes reports published by the European Commission). The proposed alternative model and conception of teacher educator professionalism draws on a critical synthesis of literature on the nature and substance of educator professionalism, as well as a recent multiple case-study with 11 teacher educators from a large teacher education provider in England, which served to empirically validated the proposed alternative conceptualisation of teacher educator professionalism.
In response to our call to reclaim and celebrate the practices of teacher educators and the nature of the professionalism involved, we put forward a model of enacted professionalism that gives way to teacher educators’ professional judgment to do what they deem is good, appropriate, or best - understood in a broad sense - to support the professional learning of newcomers in the profession. We invite the reader to rethink teacher educator professionalism as what is enacted by teacher educators, as engaged in their professional activities. A conception of enacted professionalism gives centre stage to what teacher educators actually do in practice, at a particular moment in time, in a particular context. The term ‘enacted’ emphasizes what is actually happening in practice, as opposed to teacher educators’ goals, intentions and aspirations for practice, and as opposed to normative definitions of teacher educator professionalism (e.g. in terms of lists of required competences or standards). In given centre stage to actual practice, a conception of enacted professionalism accounts for the complexity of the work of teacher education, as well as its inherent relational and contextualised nature. A view of enacted professionalism is more than an alternative conceptual lens to think and talk about teacher educator professionalism, but also offers a concrete perspective to actively work on and develop such professionalism. It questions the dominant approach to the professional development of teacher educators taken in many European countries recently: the development of a set of teacher educator standards that map and prescribe “the functions and tasks teacher educators should have” and “the knowledge and skills they should have” (Koster & Dengerink, 2001: 345). The paper therefore concludes with a proposal for more productive professional learning and development initiatives for teacher educators inferred from this alternative model of teacher educator professionalism.
Author (2002). Details removed for peer-review. Beck, J. (2009). Appropriating Professionalism: Restructuring the Official Knowledge Base of England’s ‘Modernised’ Teaching Profession. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30(1), 3-14. Biesta, G. (2012). The Future of Teacher Education: Evidence, Competence or Wisdom? Research on Steiner Education, 3(1), 8-21. Brown, T., Rowley, H., & Smith, K. (2014). Rethinking Research in Teacher Education. British Journal of Educational Studies 62(3), 281-296. Burke, K. (1952). A Grammar of Motives. New York: Prentice Hall. Ducharme, E. (1993). The Lives of Teacher Educators. New York: Teachers College Press. European Commission (2015). New Priorities for European Cooperation in Education and Training. Brussels: European Commission. European Commission (2013). Supporting Teacher Educators for Better Learning Outcomes. Brussels: European Commission. Evans, L. (2011). The ‘Shape’ of Teacher Professionalism in England: Professional Standards, Performance Management, Professional Development and the Changes Proposed in the 2010 White Paper. British Educational Research Journal 37(5), 851-870. Furlong, J., & Lawn, M. (eds.) (2011). Disciplines of Education: Their Role in the Future of Education Research. London: Routledge. George, R., & Maguire, M. (2019). Choice and Diversity in English Initial Teacher Education (ITE): Trainees’ Perspectives. European Journal of Teacher Education, 42(1), 19-35. Koster, B., & Dengerink, J. (2001). Towards a Professional Standard for Dutch Teacher Educators. European Journal of Teacher Education, 24(3), 343-354. Shulman, L. (2004). The Wisdom of Practice: Essays on Teaching, Learning, and Learning to Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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