Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Constraint and Opportunity in Teacher Education: Reflections on John Goodlad's Whither Schools of Education?

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Constraint and Opportunity in Teacher Education: Reflections on John Goodlad's Whither Schools of Education?

Article excerpt

Goodlad's article markedly advances our understanding of the ongoing dilemmas experienced by schools of education in American universities at the end of the 20th century. In a wide-ranging, but crisp, fashion, Goodlad (1999, [this issue]) highlights in turn:

* Dewey's intense concern, a century ago, about how to link practice and inquiry in training people for the vocation of teaching;

* the evolution of American higher education during the 20th century that has placed schools of education within universities in a particularly tough spot;

* the public context of schooling, including the shape of the teaching career, that has sharply constrained the professionalization of this particular occupation, in sharp contrast to the major professions of medicine, law, and engineering;

* a set of seminal inquiries of the last half-century that began with Conant (1963), and extended through B. Othanel Smith (1980) and Clifford and Guthrie (1988), on to Goodlad's own major volumes in 1990--all squarely focused on the education of educators, particularly in Ed Schools;

* a concluding set of lessons and recommendations for much needed transformation, beginning with Goodlad's view that the correct purpose of a school of education is, as Clifford and Guthrie proposed, the professional one (p. 334)--as opposed to responding to the norms of academia or to multiple purposes. The derived lessons, Goodlad points out, require considerable unpacking.

I wish to concentrate on the issue of whether schools of education can and should have one purpose. I think not. To explain why, I will pursue three lines of thought: the central question of the peculiar constraints placed upon schools of education in their university locations; a new conception of modern forms of knowledge that we may apply to the production and dissemination of knowledge in teacher education; and finally practical networks of organization within and outside of schools of education that are context specific and point to multiple lines of reform.

Analysts of modern complex organizations stress the need for substantial open-ended trial and error. In a fast-changing world, schools of education will need to experiment their way from one decade to the next. They will need multiple visions worked out in practice in varied contexts. Ideas are put to work as they are tested against the realities of environmental possibilities and the internal competencies that can be constructed. Goodlad comments that in the case of the National Network for Educational Renewal, which he heads, it has been difficult to clarify how best to proceed with the problems of teacher education alone. An even more daunting challenge, he notes, is to do something of the same for schools of education, where the stakes are even greater. I will turn directly to that challenge. My focus will be squarely on the university units devoted to education, whether they are formally called schools, colleges, or departments (I will use school to represent all three). It is their fate that is in question.

The Organizational Constraint of Schools of Education

Schools of education, seen as professional schools located in contemporary American universities, are subjected to a triple set of constraints, ones (a) common to all professional schools, (b) common to a small group of schools representing minor professions (Glazer, 1974), and (c) those unique to the profession of school-teaching.

The most general constraint, one widely noted, is the need to face toward both academia and the outside profession. The norms of academia are set largely by letters and science departments; in the last half of the 20th century those norms have settled on disciplinary specialization and basic research. All professional schools have to face those norms as well as the culture and demands of their particular profession. This requires some balancing on an academic/profession seesaw--as I put it in an essay review of the book by Clifford and Guthrie (Clark, 1989). …

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