Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Turn Once Again toward Practice-Based Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Turn Once Again toward Practice-Based Teacher Education

Article excerpt

"Teaching rather than Teachers" makes an important contribution to the improvement of classroom instruction by developing a sharper focus in initial and continuing teacher education on learning to enact core instructional practices. It is part of a growing literature on making teaching practice the central element of teacher education, an approach that has been referred to as practice-based, practice-focused, or practice-centered teacher education (Ball & Cohen, 1999).

Although this article and practice-based work generally make very helpful contributions by raising a compelling alternative to the currently dominant discourse that the path to improving classroom instruction lies primarily in bringing more academically talented people into teaching, even for a short time (Auguste, Kihn, & Miller, 2010), there is a danger that the growing movement to focus teacher education on core instructional practices (e.g., Ball & Forzani, 2009; Grossman, 2011; Kazemi, Franke, & Lampert, 2009; Lampert & Graziani, 2009; Windschitl, Thompson, & Braaten, 2011) will fail to benefit from what we have learned from the difficulties experienced in past efforts to establish a practice-focused approach in teacher education. Although Hiebert and Morris add important dimensions to the growing scholarship on practice-based teacher education (PBTE), they and other advocates of a practice-based approach give insufficient attention to other aspects of teaching that are fundamentally important to improving the quality of teaching. In the current political climate for teacher education, if these other aspects of teaching are not explicitly included within the scope of proposals for PBTE, they will be defined as not essential and will be marginalized or eliminated.

I will make a few comments related to the turn once again toward PBTE and about the arguments that are laid out in the article by Hiebert and Morris. I will also discuss some of the things that I think we should not lose sight of in this national effort to refocus teacher education and professional development on core teaching practices.

PBTE Is Not a New Idea

My first point is that the thinking and logic involved in studying the activities and practices in which teachers engage, as the basis for teacher education curriculum, is a strategy that has been used in some form for many years. One of the earliest examples of this is the "Commonwealth Teacher Training Study," a study referred to by Saylor (1976) as an "orgy of tabulation," carried out between 1925 and 1928. Charters and Waples (1929) and their team collected data from several thousand teachers and others and sought to increase the accuracy of the teacher education curriculum by obtaining a more exact knowledge of teachers' activities. They assembled a comprehensive list of activities by mailing surveys to teachers in 42 states. The final list of 1,001 activities was subdivided into seven major divisions, such as instruction and classroom management. More than 200,000 statements were analyzed to get to this final list.

Although some of the activities were concerned with things beyond instruction (e.g., securing cordial relations with the superintendent), others focused on instruction and looked very much like the kinds of activities that have been included in various incarnations of PBTE (e.g., selects the types of instruction adapted to the needs of the class and establishes cordial relations with pupils). The intent was to have these activities and the 83 traits identified (e.g., foresight and magnetism) form the basis of the teacher education curriculum. Kliebard's (1975) discussion of the process of "scientific curriculum making" in teacher education in this study concluded as follows:

   A blow was dealt to fuzzy thinking in teacher education and a major
   stride taken in the direction of a scientifically determined
   teacher education curriculum. … 
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