Toward Reconstructing the Narrative of Teacher Education: A Rhetorical Analysis of Preparing Teachers

By Bullough, Robert V., Jr. | Journal of Teacher Education, May-June 2014 | Go to article overview

Toward Reconstructing the Narrative of Teacher Education: A Rhetorical Analysis of Preparing Teachers


Bullough, Robert V., Jr., Journal of Teacher Education


Introduction (1)

Last summer was difficult for teacher educators. On June 16, the self-proclaimed National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) (2) released its 105-page report, Teacher Prep Preview, a document concluding that of the roughly 1,300 institutions in the United States that support teacher education, only 4 made the "Dean's List," and only these 4 institutions were thought up to snuff. Thirteen additional institutions had two or more highly rated programs. The vast majority of the remaining were judged marginal at best. The Council warned consumers, "It is not just conceivable, but likely, that many aspiring teachers and school districts will not be able to locate a highly-rated program anywhere near them" (p. 57).

In addition, this past summer, the merger of NCATE (National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) and TEAC (Teacher Education Accreditation Council) quickened pace. In the spring, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) (3) unveiled its recommendations, revealing what promises to be a very complex evolving system of review. CAEP's message is one of crisis, a demand for "urgent changes in educator preparation" (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation Commission on Standards and Performance Report, 2013, p. 5). CAEP offers a vision of an "ideal system" of teacher education, suggesting that the Council's aim is to produce a single, national, model of teacher education permitting slight variations. Diversity of programs and practices is viewed as a serious weakness, not a strength. Throughout the report, this message is clear from urging the establishment of "specific and common cut-score[s] across states" (p. 18) on a set of common tests to development with federal funding of a single "national information [data] base" (p. 33) to locate problems in programs.

CAEP and NCTQ draw support for their assertions from Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy, a publication of the National Research Council (NRC), Committee on the Study of Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States (NRC, 2010). Extending conclusions drawn from other Council publications, particularly Scientific Research in Education (NRC, 2002), Preparing Teachers sets a vision for the future of teacher education embraced by CAEP, one that presumably will answer education's critics while putting teacher education on a solid--scientific--footing. The Committee was charged with answering questions related to (a) characteristics of teacher education candidates, (b) instruction and experiences offered in teacher preparation programs, (c) the scientific standing of that instruction and those experiences, and (d) identification of a model of data collection that would produce "valid and reliable information about the content knowledge, pedagogical competence, and effectiveness of graduates from the various kinds of teacher preparation programs" (NRC, 2010, p. 1). Tapping expert opinion and reviewing a large body of published literature, the Committee stuck close to its charge.

Given the prestige of the NRC, including the influence of its publications as they contribute to the current discussion of teacher education, teacher educators need to thoughtfully and critically engage Preparing Teachers. To promote critical engagement, the beginnings of a rhetorical analysis of Preparing Teachers follow, a deconstruction in anticipation of a much-needed reconstruction of the narrative of teacher education. The importance of work of this kind was underscored by Feyerabend (1994) in noting that

   languages and the reaction patterns they involve are not merely
   instruments for describing events, but that they are also shapers
   of events, that their "grammar" contains a cosmology, a
   comprehensive view of the world, of society, of the situation of
   man. (p. 164)

In framing the task, insights are drawn from literary theorist and critic Kenneth Burke, including elements of his "dramatistic" conception of the role of language as symbolic action with suasive intent. …

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