Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Conversation of Many Voices: Critiques and Visions of Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Conversation of Many Voices: Critiques and Visions of Teacher Education

Article excerpt

It's on the horizon again, another looming "crisis" in teacher education. These predicaments don't seem to go away or get resolved. A state of perpetual professional calamity seems to threaten, characterize, and inform the teacher education endeavor. Whether the decade is the 1930s with Teachers College Dean William Russell's (1936) call for a "new charter for teacher education," the 1960s with Koerner's (1963) and Conant's (1963) respective critiques of teacher preparation, or the 1980s with the uproar initiated by Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), teacher education has been inundated by multiple and persistent criticisms. Some claim that schools of education overemphasize theory and inadequately address the practical realities of contemporary classrooms. Others argue that these centers of professional preparation lack intellectual substance and focus instead on pedagogical pedantry. Still others maintain that teacher educators engage in a form of leftist-liberal indoctrination. And finally, some assert that most university-based teacher preparation involves too many regulatory hurdles, discouraging the best college students from pursuing this profession. With most of these criticisms comes the charge that teacher education is, at best, ineffectual and, at worst, harmful and insidiously ideological.

In contrast to these mostly external critics, people within schools, colleges, and departments of education argue that our current public schools embrace a 19th-century understanding of student learning; that our public schools' promise of equal opportunity has yet to be delivered; that schools, as workplaces, discourage innovation and collaboration; and that the current and outdated factory model of schooling needs to be reformed so as to prepare students for productive lives in a world characterized by rapid and accelerating change, and a technologically integrated global economy. These internal voices maintain that public schools need to better reflect our current understanding of learning and address the pressing needs of our unequal and unjust social order. Recognizing the teacher's critical role in shaping students' educational experiences, they argue for preparing beginning teachers to teach in reformed and socially just ways. In addition, those inside schools of education turn a critical eye toward teacher preparation, where they note the wide variability in both the content and rigor in teacher education programs and ways in which the fiscal and organizational realities of institutions of higher education work against coherence and depth in teacher preparation.

The voices within and outside teacher education are not aligned neatly against each other. Certainly, some critics inside our professional schools agree with the external critics and some of the external voices are sympathetic to the obstacles of institutional life. These areas of overlap notwithstanding, it is the case that there are multiple, radically different views of the state of teacher education today. It is time, we think, to engage these varied voices, to have a conversation around these different views of teacher education. But before embarking on this conversation, it is informative to look briefly at several recent efforts to more fully examine and respond to the current crisis.

THE CURRENT CLIMATE OF COMMENTARY AND CRITIQUE

Recently, prominent scholars of teacher education have published major tomes on the state of teacher education and teacher education research. Preparing Teachers for a Changing World, edited by Linda Darling-Hammond and John Bransford (2005), is the result of work conducted by the National Academy of Education's Committee on Teacher Education (CTE). The volume outlines core concepts and pedagogical strategies that should inform initial teacher preparation and argues for the need to improve the context within which teacher preparation programs operate, so that beginning teachers, like their students, are optimally prepared to succeed. …

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