Tomorrow's Teachers: International and Critical Perspectives on Teacher Education

By Alan G. Scott; John G. Freeman-Moir | Go to book overview

Teacher Education--A Question of Teacher Knowledge

F Michael Connelly and D Jean Clandinin

From different sides of Canada, we both read the same news item, an item that announced a plan to test teachers. Those that fail to meet certain standards, stated the item, will be required to take summer upgrading programmes. The news item was based on part of the 1999 election platform of a political party in a Canadian provincial election. However, we both realised that teacher testing is part of a larger social narrative, not just a local Canadian provincial initiative.

Teacher testing has gained considerable credibility in North America and abroad. It is yet another approach to an old topic--teacher evaluation--that has been in the literature since the early 1900s. But we see a new twist to the teacher testing proposals of the late 1990s, a twist that is connected to how we understand teacher knowledge to be different from knowledge for teachers. Until now, teacher evaluation has tended to focus on teacher performance, based on the assumption that certain kinds of teaching performance are related to student achievement ( Connelly, 1993). Some forms of teacher evaluation use correlations between teacher performance and student achievement. Other forms map teacher performance against an imagined standard of one sort or another that is assumed to correlate with student achievement. However, the teacher testing movement reflects a simpler notion, namely, the idea that paper and pencil tests can establish the knowledge, skills and even attitude levels of teachers and that these can be compared against a standard. These tests of knowledge, skills and attitudes make no attempt to reveal what the teacher evaluation literature, almost entirely without success, tries to get at, that is, high- quality teaching performance.

In this chapter we take the view that what teachers do reflects their knowledge; indeed, is their knowledge. Teachers' practice is their knowledge in action. As already indicated, we make a distinction between knowledge for teachers, which is what, indirectly, the teacher testing movement is after, and teacher knowledge, which is what the teacher evaluation literature addresses. Teacher knowledge and knowledge for teachers therefore are two related but very different matters. We first critique the notion of knowledge for teachers. We then elaborate a notion of teacher knowledge that we have worked on for many years and conclude by addressing some of the obstacles, difficulties and possibilities for teacher knowledge in teacher education programmes.

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