Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Navigating the Terrain of Third Space: Tensions with/in Relationships in School-University Partnerships

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Navigating the Terrain of Third Space: Tensions with/in Relationships in School-University Partnerships

Article excerpt

In the quest to deepen the quality of field experiences, teacher educators have focused on the development of partnerships between universities and P-12 schools (Darling-Hammond, 1994, 2006; Teitel, 2003). Yet 25 years after Feiman-Nemser and Buchmann (1985) discussed problems of the "two-world pitfall," challenges of bridging boundaries to support beginning teacher development remain (Zeichner, 2010). Even when partnerships have developed over time to bridge gaps, disconnects occur between what is taught in coursework and the learning opportunities in field experiences (Bullough, Draper, Smith, & Birrell, 2004; Valencia, Martin, Place, & Grossman, 2009; Zeichner, 2010). The complexities of teaching and learning to teach present formidable challenges to those who work to support and guide teacher learning.

Using the theoretical construct of hybrid or third space, Zeichner (2010) called for a paradigm shift and renewed focus on the "hybrid spaces in teacher education where academic and practitioner knowledge and knowledge that exists in communities come together in new, less hierarchical ways in the service of teacher learning" (p. 89). Zeichner argued that within these hybrid spaces, establishment of conditions for "learning in and from practice to be educative and enduring" (p. 91) can occur. He noted that one such hybrid space is that of the hybrid teacher educator, a university-based educator who works to establish partnerships with P-12 schools that support teacher development.

As three university-based teacher educators, serving as liaisons to partner elementary schools, we work as hybrid teacher educators. In agreement with Zeichner (2010), our hybrid work builds from the premise that mediation of student teaching experiences through interactions within a partnership context has a transformative potential for teacher candidates and for school-based and university-based teacher educators. Identifying ourselves as hybrid teacher educators from roles we assume, however, does little to illuminate the challenges or complexities of working toward third spaces in partnership settings. Understanding interactions of supervisors, student teachers, cooperating teachers, and others in social contexts of student teaching is critical to understanding how learning conditions are established and maintained to support teacher learning (Cole & Knowles, 1995; Slick, 1998a, 1998b).

To understand the challenges hybrid teacher educators face in efforts to foster third spaces in partnerships, we engaged in a collaborative self-study of our practices. We investigated the ways university-based teacher educators foster and mediate relationships to work toward a collective third space (Gutierrez, 2008). The questions we asked include the following:

* What challenges do I face in the school setting as I work toward developing and navigating a collective third space in a partnership setting?

* What challenges do I face in the university setting?

* What practices do I use to work toward developing and navigating a collective third space in a partnership setting?

In answering these questions, we investigated the relationships encountered in partnership contexts, challenges and tensions faced in these relationships, and ways we negotiated tensions and worked to overcome impediments to developing third space over time. Additionally, we propose a framework for moving beyond traditional notions of oppositional triadic relationships of student teacher, mentor teacher, and supervisor in recognition of complex social ecologies in the third space.

Perspectives on Third Space and Education

Theoretical perspectives on third space are founded on concepts of "in between spaces" (Bhabha, 1994) that reside in the "overlap and displacement of domains of difference" (p. 2). Conceptions of differences, as divisive binary oppositions, are rejected in favor of "both/and also" (Soja, 1996) notions of a hybrid space. …

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