Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Finding a Canon and Core: Meditations on the Preparation of Teacher Educator-Researchers

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Finding a Canon and Core: Meditations on the Preparation of Teacher Educator-Researchers

Article excerpt

We educators seem prone to speaking in the subjunctive imperative: Teachers should do this, teacher educators must do that, policy makers should do this, schools ought to do that. These assertions often reverberate with a moral urgency, the implication being that those who disagree with us are not acting ethically or to use a common accusation, they must not "care about the children." Cochran-Smith and Fries (2001), using the language of Madeus and O'Dwyer (1999), described this as the jockeying of various opponents to "capture the linguistic high ground" (p. 12). This use of the subjunctive imperative (which I cut my teeth on as a new faculty member, writing as I was about "what teachers should know and be able to do") has gotten us in trouble, for it is not always clear what the warrants are for our claims.

In this article, I was invited to respond to the prompt, "Given the variety of teacher education goals and the reality of early 21st-century schooling, what should those in the field of teacher education do in their programs of teacher education?" Although I welcome the invitation to muse on the field of teacher education and what we ought to be doing in our programs, I am going to practice avoiding the subjunctive imperative. And so I will speak to a slightly different question, one more personal: As a teacher educator, what do I think I should be doing? In this sense, I offer this article not as a charge to the field but more as a proposal for my own work. And I choose to focus on one narrow--but I hope, compelling--area of concern: the preparation of future teacher educator-researchers.

My interests in and concerns about the preparation of future teacher educator-researchers who will lead our field are many. For one, I do not think that many scholars of this new generation have opportunities to learn to teach teachers in structured and scholarly apprenticeships; instead, they are thrown into the practice of teacher education, either as doctoral students or as newly minted Ph.D.s. Second, I worry that our field has swung too far away from a diverse set of research methods; to put it baldly, I worry that we have too enthusiastically embraced methods more interpretive and qualitative (Do a thought experiment: How many new job candidates for positions in departments of teacher education present job talks about research that uses sophisticated quantitative methods?). Yet my image of the well-educated professional is someone who appreciates, understands, consumes, and uses research that comes out of many disciplinary and interdisciplinary traditions, including large-scale work that is correlational or experimental. This has led--unintentionally, for the most part--to doctoral preparation programs housed in departments of teacher education that do not prepare students to conduct the range of research modeled by leading scholars in our field, such as the research done by Deborah Ball, David Cohen, Brian Rowan, and their colleagues in the Study of Instructional Improvement; (1) or Pamela Grossman, Susanna Loeb, and their colleagues on the Teacher Pathways Project (2)--two examples of ambitious, large-scale, multimethod, interdisciplinary studies that promise to make major contributions to the ways in which we understand teacher learning, teacher quality, and the policies that enable both.

I realize that these are oversimplistic generalizations (bound to raise the hackles of some colleagues), but they are helpful to me as I reflect on what I want to learn about doctoral education in the coming years. I want to help the new generation be a better generation of teachers and scholars. And for me, that means preparing some doctoral students to be challenging and caring teacher educators while they are also working on cutting edge, rigorous research that will help improve the education of all American children. (3)

SEVEN UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

   Schools of education that train doctoral students for
   careers in education research should articulate the
   competencies those graduates should know and be
   able to do and design their programs to enable students
   to develop them. … 
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