Teacher Education Policy in Canada: Beyond Professionalization and Deregulation

By Walker, Judith; von Bergmann, HsingChi | Canadian Journal of Education, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Teacher Education Policy in Canada: Beyond Professionalization and Deregulation


Walker, Judith, von Bergmann, HsingChi, Canadian Journal of Education


Introduction

In Canada, teacher education policy has by and large failed to capture the attention of politicians, journalists, and many academics. In the United States, in contrast, debates on teacher education quality regularly dominate the media, and teacher education has become a target for policy reform in the war against a declared educational crisis (e.g., Darling-Hammond, Wei, Miller, & Camburn, 2009; Luzer, 2011; Medina, 2009). Presently at least, there is no comparable declared "educational crisis" in Canada. (1) For the most part, Canada has an admirable K-12 public education system: Alberta is often held up as an educational model to be emulated; school children in China can undertake a British Columbian high school education; and, on average, Canadian children perform comparatively well in international assessment tests, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). (2) Conversely, there is a persistent dissatisfaction from citizens towards public education in the United States, which has spilled over into teacher education (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009). Differences between state education systems and individual schools are vast in US public education; to address the long identified "splintered-vision" (Schmidt, McKnight, & Raizen, 1997) curricular problem (i.e., the unfocused nature of teaching practices, textbooks, and curricular goals), a majority of states are banding together to establish a common-core curricular system. (3) While individual states continue to regulate public education in the United States, the federal Department of Education has taken a more central role with the creation of initiatives such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. In contrast, although education is almost entirely a provincial responsibility in Canada, there are great similarities across Canada, as professional organizations engage in dialogue and joint research to identify best practices and priorities. Despite the differences between the United States and Canada in incentives (or lack thereof) to examine teacher education, Fullan's (1998; 2010) question--"Do relevant, inspiring, clear policy frameworks exist in the main domains essential for serious reform of the education system?" (p. 1)--is still relevant to Canada and to the domain of teacher education.

In this paper, we call attention to the importance of the policy dimension in Canadian teacher education and to the shifts in governance across the country. In examining teacher education policy, we draw on the work of American and Canadian scholars (e.g., Cochran-Smith, 2001; Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2002; Fenstermacher, 2002; Grimmett, 2008, 2009; Grimmett, Young, & Lesard, 2012) who have observed a distinct trend in teacher education policy over the past two decades toward professionalization and deregulation. We take up Grimmett's (2008, 2009) thesis regarding recent Canadian teacher education policy as the starting point for our study to answer the following question: How is Canadian teacher education policy from 2000 to 2010 characterized by dual processes of professionalization and deregulation? The aim of this paper is to examine the policy landscape of teacher education in Canada through Grimmett's lens of professionalization and deregulation. We also seek to explore the ways in which the policy context may go beyond a professionalization-deregulation divide. We adopt a cross-provincial approach by focusing on Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario in our examination of legislation, institutional programs, and government documents.

Teacher Education Policy in Canada: A Brief Overview

In the words of Sorenson, Young, and Mandzuk (2005), teacher education in Canada has generally been a "policy backwater" for most of its existence. Wideen and Grimmett (1995) reflected, "teacher education [has been] largely seen as an irrelevant or hopeless player in educational reform" (p. …

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