Teacher Socialization: Opportunities for University-School Partnerships to Improve Professional Cultures
Johnston, Bill, Wetherill, Karen, High School Journal
Secondary school organizational structures often result in a marked lack of opportunity for university faculty, teachers and teacher interns to collaborate and engage in sustained discussions about teaching and curriculum. Emerging partnership efforts between schools and teacher preparation programs have encouraged more frequent and intense involvement of undergraduate education students with schools, classrooms and teachers. This article describes the results of research related to a partnership project that linked a teacher preparation program with two high schools. Data are presented that indicate interns benefit by an increased understanding of the realities of classroom dynamics and development of instructional skills. Partnership teachers contributed to the professional development of interns and reported renewed enthusiasm for teaching. With the emergence of institutionally supported professional partnerships, teacher education programs and K-12 schools have an opportunity to unite efforts to improve the quality of education for students in both educational contexts.
School reform and accountability legislation have altered the role of school administrators who are being asked to function as change agents. This role often carries with it expectations for administrators to lead by empowerment, involving teachers in making decisions that most directly relate to the improvement of student outcomes. These school improvement initiatives also place an increased emphasis on teachers' knowledge and skills. It is no longer sufficient for teachers to "just" master instruction in the classroom setting; they are now being expected to work on curriculum development, serve on site-based management teams, develop innovative forms of instructional delivery, and take an active role in solving broader issues related to student performance outcomes.
Alteration of the norms of practice has created a need for a professional culture in which teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders can engage in meaningful discussions about concerns affecting the whole school. Changing the nature of the professional culture in high schools can be particularly problematic. Secondary school organizational structures often result in a marked lack of opportunity for teachers to collaborate and engage in sustained discussions about teaching and curriculum (Clark & LaLonde, 1992). Furthermore, before pre-service secondary education students even enter the school site, they are prepared in programs which are typically more discipline-based with significantly fewer contacts with educators in the field or in other disciplines than is the case with elementary or middle grade pre-service programs.
Typically, the culminating experience for pre-service undergraduate education majors is student teaching. Many students report that they really learned to teach during this experience, but frequently fail to recognize the connections between prior coursework and the actualities of classroom teaching. Moreover, they tend to mimic the practices and activities of the cooperating teacher without recognizing that these practices and routines must be continuously reconstructed within the framework of the classroom context and purposes (Colton & Sparks-Langer, 1993). Therefore, the placement of these emerging educators with knowledgeable and articulate teachers becomes of paramount importance.
During the formative years of teaching, beliefs of novice teachers are often challenged as they are assimilated into the profession of teaching. Educators just entering the profession develop an understanding about themselves as teachers through experiences within the classroom and the school organization (Huberman, 1995). These beginning educators, as is true for all teachers independent of their career stage, are immersed in a process of self-analysis and reflection involving their teaching and learning. This process can be further advanced through collaborative dialogue, providing an opportunity for interactions that often raise new connections, examples and consequences based on the realities of the classroom/school context (Cambourne, 1988; Nolan & Francis, 1992).
Emerging partnership efforts between schools and teacher preparation programs have encouraged more frequent and intense involvement of undergraduate education students with schools, classrooms and teachers. In these partnership models, university and school-level educators have an opportunity to influence the professional culture of schools and positively impact the quality of teaching and learning. Importantly, these collaborative models create an even greater need to consciously attend to the socialization that naturally occurs in settings that link new and experienced educators.
This article describes the results of research related to one partnership project that linked a teacher preparation program with two high schools. The study focuses on the following key questions that relate to teacher socialization and reform at the secondary level:
* To what degree do the major partnership components influence the type and degree of socialization?
* What are the sources and influences of socialization apart from the partnership components?
* How does participation in the partnership influence the perspectives of interns, partnership teachers, site coordinators, and university supervisors?
* Are there identifiable barriers to the successful implementation of the partnership model and how do these influence professional socialization?
The following section provides an overview of three types of socialization to which students are subjected. This section is followed by a brief discussion of current reform efforts related to teacher preparation and a description of the university-school partnership at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the context of the research study. An overview of the research methodology and findings will precede the final section of the article in which the implications for secondary school leaders and school of education faculty are discussed.
Influences on Teacher Socialization
There are three primary forms of socialization that contribute to the self-identity formation of teachers. One is socialization into the discipline one intends to teach. This form is initiated during the pre-service period through selection of an academic major and participation in the courses that induct one into the disciplinary body of knowledge. For secondary students opportunities for identification with their discipline are often greater than those that lead to an identification with the profession as a whole, especially during the pre-service period.
A second form is socialization into the profession of teaching. A critical beginning occurs in pre-service educational programs. Within most schools of education this is initiated through study of the social and psychological foundations of education followed by general studies of curriculum and pedagogy and more specialized study in disciplinary specific methodologies. Professional socialization continues following pre-service education but in more idiosyncratic forms as teachers self-select to participate in the variety of professional association activities, workshops, and graduate education opportunities available.
A third form is socialization into the particular school organization; that is to say, the school in which one is employed. This is of greatest significance in the identity formation of most teachers for a variety of reasons. One is that the teacher is being more intensely and extensively initiated into the norms and practices of the school than typically occurs in the preservice level, even including the student teaching experience. Second, within the school, the carriers of the local culture and traditions are immediately and inescapably present; it is as if the novice is suddenly thrust into a "totalizing institution" (Goffman, 1961).
Simultaneously, in most cases, the relative influence of the discipline is limited by the routine year after year preparation of classes and presentations of the basic concepts and ideas of the discipline to students. Moreover, socialization into the norms of the profession may also be weakened by organizational socialization, although this need not be, and in some situations, is not the case. To the degree that typical practices in a particular school are consistent with the norms and values represented by the profession, organizational and professional socialization will be mutually reinforcing (Darling-Hammond, 1994). This is the ideal.
The Problem of School Change
While teacher preparation programs are reexamining, refining and implementing responsive programs and courses that align with needed reforms, parallel efforts exist in PreK-12 schools. The curricular, pedagogical and organizational reforms advocated over the past fifteen years by educational researchers as well as by the political and policy leadership of the profession, are codified in the standards of practice outlined by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) documents. However, many educators have found that these are inconsistent with the traditional practices that continue to dominate at the building level. Over the past few years considerable consensus has emerged at the professional level regarding the types of changes that are needed to restructure the institution of schooling while simultaneously renewing teacher education (Fullan, 1991; Goodlad, 1984, 1990; Sarason, 1990).
Despite the range of such reform efforts, many universities now find themselves in the position of advocating educational principles and practices which prepare pre-service teachers and administrators consistent with an image of schools which is not yet widely manifest in practice. There are a variety of reasons that schools may be reluctant to adopt reforms consistent with professional standards, as defined here. One is that many teachers have developed coping responses to the variety of external demands placed upon them. Another is that many teachers' ability to articulate the theories and principles which guide their practice is underdeveloped (i.e., they often know more than they can say). This may limit their ability to adopt innovations in collective, mindful and organizationally effective ways. One result is that preservice education majors learn the techniques and perspectives which have been tested and proven by teachers and others in a plethora of pilot studies and demonstration sites, and are then thrust into schools which may be indifferent, or even hostile, to incorporating these innovations into practice.
These students then report that their university education failed to prepare them for the real world of schooling. The consequences from this inconsistency and the resulting frustrations vary. Many beginning teachers choose to leave the profession after only a few years. Others abandon their pre-service professional training and conform to the patterns manifest in the school where they are employed, while some retain the pre-service professional orientation or begin a process of independent classroom-based innovation which may isolate them from the broader school faculty. We believe that, at present, a significant barrier to school restructuring lies in the patterns of organizational socialization that are inconsistent with the needs and direction of the profession.
Emerging Collaborative Efforts
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Publication information: Article title: Teacher Socialization: Opportunities for University-School Partnerships to Improve Professional Cultures. Contributors: Johnston, Bill - Author, Wetherill, Karen - Author. Journal title: High School Journal. Volume: 85. Issue: 4 Publication date: April-May 2002. Page number: 23+. © 1999 University of North Carolina Press. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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