Magazine article Academe

Knowledge versus Pedagogy: The Marginalization of Teacher Education

Magazine article Academe

Knowledge versus Pedagogy: The Marginalization of Teacher Education

Article excerpt

OR MANY YEARS THE FIELD OF HIGHER EDUCATION HAS BEEN SPLIT BETWEEN THE world of knowledge and the world of pedagogy. People view the work of scholars, articulated through the academic disciplines, as a corpus of knowledge to be presented to students; the means of presentation is considered unimportant. Pedagogues, on the other hand, are seen as concentrating on the learning process, which is without content; when they call for attention to student learning, they are accused of "watering down" real knowledge.

Why does this division exist? One factor contributing to it is the view, held by many people, that knowledge is a disinterested search for universal truth, one that is disassociated from the circumstances under which it is produced. Pedagogy, which focuses mainly on the process of attaining knowledge, is thus cut off from the enterprise of knowledge production. This separation, embedded in the organization of colleges, universities, graduate schools, and even graduate schools of education, denies the evolving nature of knowledge and the role of teachers and students in its ongoing construction. Yet to explore how a given field is constructed and continually "made" by researchers, teachers, and students need not dilute content so much as contextualize it. For us, the term "pedagogy" applies not just to teaching techniques but to the whole classroom production of knowledge; it encompasses the full range of relationships among course materials, teachers, and students. Such broadened conceptualizations of pedagogy challenge the commonly held assumptions of the professor as a disinterested expert, the content as inherently "objective," and the method of delivery as irrelevant to the message.

The split between the world of knowledge and pedagogy is not merely philosophical; it also defines the role of the field of education in almost all institutions of higher education. Instead of being viewed as a subject relevant to the whole academy, education is seen as having to do only with the training of teachers of children and adolescents and research on schools as institutions-topics considered less prestigious than the study of any other aspect of our society. (Studying our families, churches, media, and political institutions entails getting a Ph.D. in a liberal arts discipline, but the study of schools is in the field of education, not the liberal arts, and often involves earning the less prestigious doctorate of education.) In recent years initiatives have arisen on college and university campuses across the country to improve undergraduate teaching. But most of these efforts have ignored the potential contributions of teacher preparation programs and education departments to campuswide discussions of learning, leaving education students and faculty and their curricula isolated and demeaned.

Education Departments in Liberal Arts Colleges

OUR OWN EXPERIENCES AS EDUCATION PROFESSORS AT liberal arts colleges, where we each began our academic careers, made us aware of the lowly position of our discipline. As former teachers of high school social studies, we were excited about joining a common intellectual community, but we learned quickly that our field was not considered on a par with other disciplines. When Tetreault was first introduced to her faculty, the dean lauded her education and her recently published book, but was silent about the fact that she was a social studies educator and that her book was a collection of primary source materials in American women's history for high school students. Maher was told upon her arrival that no one in education had ever received tenure before for several reasons. Education was a minor, a preprofessional program in a liberal arts setting. Besides that, administrators at her college were unsure of their commitment to public school teaching despite the program's popularity.

Even though we both attained tenure, largely because of our work on gender issues, we felt that our field continued to marginalize us. …

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