Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Understanding "Core Practices" and "Practice-Based" Teacher Education: Learning from the Past

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Understanding "Core Practices" and "Practice-Based" Teacher Education: Learning from the Past

Article excerpt

Over the past 5 years, a small but growing strand of research has investigated ways of focusing teachers' professional training on "core" or "high-leverage" practices of teaching (Ball & Forzani, 2009; McDonald, Kazemi, & Kavanagh, 2013). Central to this work has been identifying and specifying teaching practices that are essential for novices to become capable at before they are permitted to assume independent responsibility for a classroom (e.g., Grossman et al., 2009; Lampert, Beasley, Ghousseini, Kazemi, & Franke, 2010; Windshitl, Thompson, Braaten, & Stroupe, 2012). Closely related is the development of pedagogies that are effective for training novices in the use of core practices. Teacher educators are experimenting, for example, with the practices of modeling (e.g., McDonald et al., 2013) and rehearsals and other "approximations" of practice (Grossman et al., 2009; Lampert et al., 2013), and with the use of video and other artifacts of teaching for representing and decomposing practice (e.g., Ball, 2013; Ghousseini & Sleep, 2011).

This work is one of an increasing number of efforts to develop what is often referred to as "practice-based" teacher education, or professional training that attempts to focus novices' learning more directly on the work of teaching rather than on traditional academic or theoretical topics that may have only marginal relevance to the realities of the classroom. Other initiatives that are also called "practice-based" include extending student teaching placements and other kinds of "field experiences" and creating new programs such as teacher residencies that situate most of novices' learning in K-12 classrooms. All are aimed at preparing teachers who are skilled at teaching, not just studying and analyzing schools and classrooms.

One way to understand this new wave of reform is as part of a long trajectory of attempts to build teacher education into powerful preparation for practice. When the first American normal school was founded in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1834, its sole purpose was to prepare young women and men to assume independent responsibility for classroom instruction. In the more than 150 years that have elapsed since, attention to the actual work of teaching in the teacher education curriculum has waxed and waned as teacher educators have navigated often competing pressures and pursued interests in a wide variety of issues and topics not always directly related to instruction, but it has never disappeared. Yet what teacher educators and education researchers have meant by "practice" and "practice-based" teacher education has varied from one era to the next, in ways that often matter for what teachers learn how to do and what and how much pupils learn.

This article investigates what can be learned by comparing and contrasting teacher education focused on core practices with other approaches that might also be called "practice-based," including those dating back to the 19th century. It begins with a brief analysis of how the phrase "practice-based teacher education" is used today, including its application to teacher residencies and similar programs, and then compares current core practice approaches with the work that took place in three important periods in the history of American teacher education: the heyday of the normal schools in the late 1800s, the period of scientific efficiency in the 1920s and 1930s, and the era of competency-based teacher education in the 1960s and 1970s. The goal is to distinguish the work on core practices from other conceptions of practice-based teacher education so that its potential contribution to the improvement of the field can be more easily evaluated and understood.

What Is Meant by "Practice-Based" Teacher Education?

Although the phrase "practice-based teacher education" abounds in policy documents, program descriptions, and other literature, there seems to be little consensus about what it means or should mean. …

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