Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Reflections of a University-Based Teacher Educator on the Future of College- and University-Based Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Reflections of a University-Based Teacher Educator on the Future of College- and University-Based Teacher Education

Article excerpt

A little more than 30 years ago, I began my career as a university teacher educator as a team leader in the National Teacher Corps supervising Teacher Corps interns in Syracuse, New York. At this time, competency-based/performance-based teacher education was mandated for program approval in a number of states and in all Teacher Corps projects (Gage & Winne, 1975), and the federal government funded the development of a number of competency-based teacher education program models in elementary education that were to serve as exemplars for other institutions across the nation (Clarke, 1969). Preservice teachers in many parts of the United States had to demonstrate proficiency on numerous competencies as part of the process of gaining their initial teaching license. These competences were assumed by many to be based on empirically demonstrated relationships of "teacher effectiveness" established by researchers between particular teacher behaviors and student achievement test scores, despite evidence to the contrary (Heath & Nielson, 1974). Many of the assessments in teacher education programs were cast in the form of behavioral competencies that could be observed because of the heavy influence of behavioral psychology and systems theory on education at that time (McDonald, 1973).

These efforts to strengthen teacher education and teaching through the articulation of a "knowledge base" for teaching in the form of teaching competencies was not the only vision for how teacher education programs could be strengthened. At the same time that efforts were being made to expand the professional education component of programs, others were advocating for less emphasis on methods courses, foundations courses, and so forth and arguing for a greater attention to preparation in the content knowledge to be taught by teachers. Several years prior to my entry into teaching, a series of widely publicized attacks on schools and colleges of education had criticized the allegedly low academic standards in teacher education programs and the weak content knowledge preparation of prospective teachers (e.g., Conant, 1963; Koerner, 1963). These external critics of teacher education programs argued that professional education course work should be reduced and that more time needed to be spent by prospective teachers in studying and mastering the academic content that they would later teach. Special efforts were made by a number of foundations at the time that I went into public school teaching in the late 1960s to attract liberal arts graduates into teaching through master's level certification programs (i.e., M.A.T. programs) that were firmly grounded in the liberal arts and academic content departments (Coley & Thorpe, 1986).

During this same period, the field of multicultural teacher education began to receive national visibility as the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education formed a commission on multicultural education and subsequently published several reports that include a survey of member institutions about multicultural education practices and resources related to strengthening the multicultural component of programs (e.g., American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 1980; Baptiste, Baptiste, & Gollnick, 1980). In addition, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education began in the late 1970s to require teacher education programs to meet standards related to multicultural teacher education for national accreditation of an institution's programs (Gollnick, 1991). At this same time, other teacher educators identifying with the historical movement of social reconstructionism advocated for teacher education programs to prepare teachers who could act as agents in the realization of greater social justice in school and society (Giroux & McLaren, 1987; Shor, 1987).

These three visions for improving the quality of teacher education have been identified as the professionalization, deregulation, and social justice agendas for teacher education and have continued to frame the debates concerning the question of teacher quality and how to strengthen teacher education programs in the United States (Zeichner, 2003). …

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