Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teacher Education Research: The outside and the Inside

Academic journal article Journal of Teacher Education

Teacher Education Research: The outside and the Inside

Article excerpt

Teacher education in the United States has been a neglected enterprise. Even commissioned reports on school reform from the early 1890s into the late 1980s make little mention of it (Su, 1986). The influential reports of James B. Conant on the American high school (1959) and the education of American teachers (1963), although separated in time by only a few years, are scarcely cross-referenced. Not surprisingly, with teacher education low in the priorities of the major research universities that surged during the second half of the 20th century, research on and in teacher .education languished. It has not yet found a distinctive place in the lexicon of educational research.

The neglect of teacher education has contributed to the often naive tendency of teacher educators to welcome the increased interest of policy makers. But welcome turns to concern when this interest decreases the authority of teacher educators in decisions for which they will be held accountable. Toward the end of her article, Susan Florio-Ruane (2002 [this issue]) wisely warns that when policy makers get interested in teacher education, there is a resulting hardening of the lines of educational inquiry. In recent years, scholars in various fields have expressed considerable concern over the extent to which being politically correct is influencing the choice of topics and citations in the literature of their domains of inquiry. Part of this concern arises out of the degree to which activity within the university is now being too much driven by the economic mission of the marketplace rather than by the traditional university mission of independent inquiry.

Influence on teacher education scholarship comes from both outside and within the academy. Influence from outside correlates with the considerable public stake in teacher education and hence justifies intense interest on the part of policy makers. And because the scholarly territory that teacher education encompasses is ill defined almost to the point of embracing everybody--but few people specifically--within academe, its boundaries lack both definition and defenders. There is little else in higher education that so drags colleges and universities into the lighted arc of policy makers' scrutiny. In the metaphor cited by Florio-Ruane, the man who is hunting only in the lighted area knows at the very least what he is looking for. In what ways, if any, should teacher-educating researchers endeavor to help policy makers decide what they should look for under the street lamp? In what ways, if any, should they help expedite the search? And what might they better leave out of the arc? My intent is to tidy somewhat the untidy terrain from which these questions arise.

Soon after reading the article by Wilson, Floden, and Ferrini-Mundy (2002 [this issue]), I had the opportunity to read a secondary analysis of the research papers they had selected and reviewed. The Education Commission of the States (ECS) had commissioned Patricia A. Lauer (2001) to draw from them possible implications for 11 questions pertaining to policy in teacher education. I was struck by the differences between the two analyses. The first was very much oriented to lessons for those inside of teacher education, the second to lessons of interest for those on the outside. There was, however, some overlap.

I then took a careful look at the invitation from Journal of Teacher Education editor Marilyn Cochran-Smith to write an article. She referred to this special issue of the journal as one about "research in [italics added] teacher education." In the next paragraph, however, she wrote, "There are several initiatives currently ongoing that are intended to synthesize research on [italics added] teacher education." Then, she expressed hope that this issue of the Journal of Teacher Education would be an "exciting discussion about cutting edge research of many kinds in [italics added] teacher education. …

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