Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teachers as Society-Involved "Organic Intellectuals": Training Teachers in a Political Context

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teachers as Society-Involved "Organic Intellectuals": Training Teachers in a Political Context

Article excerpt

In many Western countries, the first decade of the twenty-first century has been characterized by trenchant public debate about questions of education and teacher training. These issues were often accompanied by proposals for educational reform (Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2005, pp. 69-109; Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005; Shulman & Shulman, 2004, pp. 257-271). The proposed reforms concern, among other things, decentralizing the education system, cost-effectively increasing the efficiency of the system, introducing accountability into the system, setting educational standards, and measuring schools' performance. These changes mandate rethinking the image, role, and status of the worthy teacher in the education system and setting a challenge to the schools of education whose job it is to train him or her.

Many of the key officeholders in education systems and academics level criticism at the functioning of schools of education. Some claim that the schools overemphasize theories and inadequately address the practical realities of contemporary classrooms (Grossman & Loeb, 2008; Lewin, 2002). Others argue that they sometimes lack intellectual substance and focus instead on pedagogical practices, whereas still others argue that the old paradigm of university-based teacher education, in which academic knowledge is viewed as the authoritative source of knowledge about teaching, needs to change to one in which there is a nonhierarchical interplay between academic, practitioner, and community expertise (Zeichner, 2010, pp. 89-99). Common assertions made by some educational scholars include one to the effect that the typical school of education has a left-wing political bias (Finn & Madigan, 2001, pp. 29-31). Finally, some assert that most teacher training centers involve too many regulatory hurdles, thus discouraging the best college students from pursuing this profession (Borko, Liston, & Whitcomb, 2006, p. 199; Finn, 2002, pp. 62-67).

Researchers and experts engaged in teacher training level criticism against the trend toward open entry to teaching. The evidence provided by researchers on the quality of prolonged teacher training programs indicates that program graduates are better prepared for their professional work, drop out less, and contribute more as teachers (Boyd, Lankford, Loeb, Rockoff, & Wyckoff, 2008; Darling-Hammond, 2010, pp. 35-47). In the view of these researchers, emphasis on clinical experience in schools is significant in two directions: reinforcing the teacher's initial effectiveness and increasing the probability of professional perseverance (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007). It was found that novice teachers who did not undergo practical experience during their training dropped out at more than twice the rate of those trained in prolonged programs. This datum remains consistent even after five years (Henke, Chen, & Geis, 2000).

As we can see, the debate on the character of teacher training usually revolves around its adaptation to the changing global world and consequently focuses on its effectiveness and the means for its betterment. In this article we seek to present a training concept that expects the teacher not to accept the prevailing picture of reality but to question it and strive for its improvement. This approach views teacher training as an empowering transformative process. The main thrust of the present article is to propose one possible way of applying a concept such as this. At the basis of the article lies the question of how transformative teacher training can be applied in the context of a society that combines two processes creating a crisis situation: a regional ethnopolitical conflict and ever-widening socioeconomic gaps. A combination such as this tends to create pressure on teacher training to preserve hegemonic power patterns and avoid developing a critical approach in novice students. It is reasonable to assume that in the face of social or political crises, teacher training would sooner focus on reduced targets of measurable functionality (Ravitch, 2010). …

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