Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Pluralistic Approach to the Revitalization of Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

A Pluralistic Approach to the Revitalization of Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Teacher education, as a field, has been proclaimed to be in crisis (Grossman, 2008). In her depiction of this crisis, Grossman describes how university-based teacher education, once the gold standard for entry into a teaching career, is being questioned over its relevance, doubted as to its contributions to student learning, and blamed for barriers to entry into the field. Teacher educators, she claims, are at risk of losing their "professional jurisdiction," specifically their rights to prepare newcomers to the field and to produce new knowledge. According to Grossman, this crisis can only be realized as an opportunity if teacher educators strengthen their commitment to rigorous research and work to improve teacher education based on evidence of its outcomes. Such actions, although laudable, are only part of the solution.

Grossman's (2008) diagnosis of the field of teacher education is not unfounded. Teacher education has been at the forefront of the national reform agenda since the seminal publication in 1983 of A Nation at Risk, which raised alarms about the poor quality of our nation's education system and recommended "substantial improvement" of teacher education (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). The consequent opening up of alternate routes to teacher certification since the early 1980s, which offered alternatives to the oft-criticized traditional university-based route, represents a significant but failed attempt to revitalize teacher education (Walsh & Jacobs, 2007).

Teacher education is in crisis, but it is a crisis with implications for both sides of the teacher education debate. It is a crisis emblemized by the challenges to creating genuine alternatives to traditional teacher education, a crisis epitomized by the lack of vitality in teacher education. This article argues that the emergence of true alternatives in teacher education has been stifled by normative pressures exerted by the teacher education establishment.

Attempting to depart from the polarizing discourses that have characterized much of the literature on teacher education reform, the use of the terms professionalizers and deregulators will be mostly avoided (Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2001). Wilson and Tamir's (2008) conceptualization of the various actors in the teacher education debate as the "orthodoxy" and "heterodoxy" within a social field will be used instead. Similarly, the intention here is not to debate the various merits and detractors of the traditional or alternative routes, nomenclature that has become increasingly inadequate as the lines between them have become blurred but shall be used for lack of suitable substitutes.

Ensuring the vitality of teacher education in an era in which the priorities and demands of schools and the teaching workforce are changing requires the adoption of a complex, evolutionary, and responsive approach to reform. A brief review of some of the literature on teacher pathways will demonstrate that alternative teacher preparation, as a reform, has not lived up to its promise or potential (Boyd, Grossman, et al., 2008; Walsh & Jacobs, 2007).

However, pockets of vitality do exist in the teacher education landscape. One example is the urban teacher residency (UTR), which was created in response to some urban districts' frustrations with teacher supply and quality. This unconventional model of teacher education will be highlighted as an example of an innovative approach to teacher preparation. A proposal will be made, following Hassel and Sherburne (2004), for introducing a portfolio approach to teacher education with the aim of increasing the diversity of options available to prospective teachers and the districts that will hire them. Salient features of the multiple provider approach to reform, as described by Hassel and Sherburne, will be presented, and points of departure will be elaborated.

What Is Vitality in Teacher Education? …

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