Developing New Teacher Education Curricula: Why Should Critical Rationalist Epistemology Talk Louder?

Article excerpt


Throughout the history of modern Western education, the English-speaking Anglo- American tradition and German-speaking continental European tradition have been developed largely by different philosophical, epistemological, social and psychological theories. One of the distinctions between these two traditions has been the different conceptual framework under which the main issues of teacher education have been handled. In the English-speaking world, educational psychology and curriculum studies have constituted the main conceptual frame. In the German-speaking countries and in Northern Europe these topics have traditionally been handled within the framework of Didaktik--a concept almost missing in the Anglo-American educational tradition.

For long decades, a comparative discussion between the concepts of Didaktik and educational psychology was virtually non-existent. Recent tendencies on both sides of the Atlantic indicate a growing interest in mutual comparative discussion between these traditions. Many authors have stressed that the disciplines of Didaktik, educational psychology and curriculum studies at least partially attempt to cover the same practical field (Hopmann and Riquarts, 1995; Kansanen 2002). Hopmann and Riquarts (1995:8) regard this recognition as resulting largely from the pursuits of Scandinavian educationalists, who have a long tradition of working with both of these conceptions.

Working within a range of influences from many foreign cultures is, however, not unique to Scandinavians. For centuries, many Eastern European nations have also been accustomed to maintaining their national identities amongst numerous simultaneously existing foreign cultures. Geographically located between two large cultural spaces--German and Russian--these countries have throughout history experienced an immense impact from both of them. During the decades of Soviet power after World War II, the Russian tradition was particularly influential, as these countries were within the Soviet bloc. After the fall of communism, however, the influence of English-speaking countries, particularly of the United States and Great Britain, has risen enormously. First of all, this tendency has resulted from rapid globalisation and from the efforts of the Eastern European countries to integrate Western tradition in all spheres, including education.

Thus, having been influenced historically by both the Anglo-American and German cultures, Eastern European countries are now forced to develop their own teacher education systems. On the one hand, this is an extraordinary, sophisticated task, as the foreign influences have been highly complex and contradictory. On the other hand, a certain detachment from both the Anglo-American and continental European cultures enables the Eastern European countries to be alert to the advantages and disadvantages possibly neglected by the native inheritors of these two traditions.

In this paper, the development of the teacher education curriculum in Estonia will be presented, with a focus on the complicated relationship between two of its core subjects - educational psychology and didactics, originated respectively from the Anglo-American and continental European traditions. In the period 1945-1991, Estonia was part of the Soviet Union. After the fall of communism, Estonia rapidly undertook especially liberal changes in all socio-political spheres that resulted in a haphazard emulation of Western models, including in education. Thus, in many respects, Estonia figures as an exemplary case in the Eastern European context. The clarification of the theoretical base for teacher education curriculum and the stimulation of mutual discussion is an inherently practical task. Therefore, a consideration of the foundations of curriculum and the positioning of selection principles are urgently needed.

In the present paper, it will be argued that from the traditional foundations of curriculum--psychology, sociology, philosophy and history--philosophical issues need more attention. …