Becoming a Teacher: Issues in Secondary Teaching

By Justin Dillon; Meg Maguire | Go to book overview

7 Reforming teachers and
their work

Meg Maguire and Justin Dillon


Introduction

Ever since the state took over the responsibility for supplying teachers for schools in the nineteenth century, teachers and their work have been almost constantly subjected to criticism and reforms. Some of these criticisms have been driven by questions related to the curriculum or how to best educate intending teachers and prepare them for their demanding role in schools. Other critiques and reforms have been driven by pragmatism and expediency; here the almost constant dilemma of the supply of and demand for teachers has shaped the various ways that teachers have been trained/educated over time. Other concerns, such as the 'needs' of the economy and the 'needs' of society for high quality teachers to raise standards in schools, have also been reflected in various reforms of teachers and their work. Perhaps one of the most infamous reforms was the 'payment by results' policy of the nineteenth century, where teachers were paid in proportion to their students' capacity to respond to the oral questions of the annual inspection.

One of the dilemmas in all this teacher and teacher education reform activity is that, frequently, aspects of different attempts at change and improvement come into conflict with one another. Another dilemma is that sometimes, in fixing our view on the technicalities of the reform such as how to do it better or faster, we sideline and marginalize wider ethical questions such as what should be, or what ought to be, the role of the teacher in our society. For example, is teaching just a 'directed profession' (Bottery and Wright 2000) led by the demands of various governments where teachers are trained and prepared in the technicalities and delivery of what has been nationally mandated? Should teachers become 'agents of change' (Johnson and Hallgarten 2002) who take control of their professional destinies and influence policy in their area of expertise?

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