Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Research We Need in Teacher Education

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

The Research We Need in Teacher Education

Article excerpt

Prompted by internal and external criticism, demands for accountability, and an authentic desire to better understand processes associated with learning to teach, the field of teacher education--and more specifically, of teacher preparation--is experiencing a vigorous period of change. In some cases, this has resulted in "innovations"--such as current proposals to evaluate and regulate teacher education and preparation programs, reform of the requirements to attain qualified teacher status (QTS), and the creation of systems for evaluating teacher effectiveness--that have been enacted without evidence of potential effectiveness. In addition, because different communities or networks operate using different rules and instruments to achieve intended goals, a persistent problem with respect to teacher education policy and practice is a lack of coherence leading to contradictions in the system.

For instance, in the United States alone, a number of complex networks shape policy and practice in teacher education; these include, but are not limited to, university and non-university-based teacher educators, schools' policies and practices, including mentoring and induction, educational researchers with diverse scholarly backgrounds (e.g., political science, economics), accreditation agencies such as Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), regulatory agencies at the local and federal levels such as the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), and private advocacy groups such as the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

The resolution of contradictions that have emerged out of raising and addressing policy and practice questions in teacher education has in some cases served to move the field forward, but in other cases, has done just the opposite. An international case in point is in England, where the Department for Education has introduced a proposal to reform the current "Qualified Teacher Status" which, if implemented, would effectively transfer the responsibility to judge when a teacher is qualified from university-based teacher education to the school's headmaster after first undergoing a significant period of school teaching. In some cases, these contradictions are far from resolution as advances in related areas of knowledge and practice (e.g., cognitive science) have revealed the enormous complexity inherent in teaching and in learning to teach. These findings bring into question traditional ways of knowing in teacher education as well as current notions of what it means to be an effective teacher and by extension, what constitutes an effective teacher education/preparation program.

The role of research at this moment has never been more important as a vehicle that can facilitate learning by examining and reflecting on the "construction and resolution of continuously evolving contradictions" (Engestrom, 1987, p. 79).

Contradictions in Teacher Education and the Role of Research

Globally and from a cultural and historical standpoint, teacher education has often involved the resolution of contradictions created by questioning, implementing, and reflecting on the system. The most prominent of these are what the goals and purposes of teacher education should be, who should teach and what should teachers know and be able to do, where and how should teachers be prepared, and how quality can be secured, evaluated, and reported.

In the sections that follow, each of these issues is "unpacked" with respect to the need for research evidence to inform policy and practice directed at improving the preparation and ongoing development of effective teachers.

What Should Be the Goals of Teacher Education?

Much discussion has occurred around whether teacher education's key goal is to prepare teachers as autonomous professionals able to adapt the curriculum to the diverse needs of students guided by a strong moral compass, whether teacher preparation should be focused on equipping teachers with technical expertise capable of effectively enacting the curriculum and managing classrooms (e. …

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