"Everyone Wants You to Do Everything": Investigating the Professional Identity Development of Teacher Educators

By Olsen, Brad; Buchanan, Rebecca | Teacher Education Quarterly, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

"Everyone Wants You to Do Everything": Investigating the Professional Identity Development of Teacher Educators


Olsen, Brad, Buchanan, Rebecca, Teacher Education Quarterly


Teaching, teachers, teacher education, and teacher learning have received considerable research attention in the United States over the last few decades (for reviews, see Ball & Tyson, 2011; Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005; Sikula, Buttery, & Guyton, 1996; Wittrock, 1986), but the United States does not currently possess a trove of systematically derived knowledge about teacher educators and their development, experiences, and careers. As Edward Ducharme and Mary Ducharme (1996b) declared 20 years ago,

   the intense education reform agenda ... has promoted close
   scrutiny of American public education, including substantial
   criticism of the education of teachers and, implicitly, those who
   educate and help prepare them for teaching. Yet there continues to
   be a lack of knowledge [about] those who educate teachers and what
   they do. (p. 58)

In response to this lacuna, the question we pursued was, How and from where do teacher educators develop their understandings of what it means to do their work? Employing stratified random selection, we chose 16 teacher educators from four California universities, interviewed them twice, and collected documents about their programs and teacher education in California more generally. For analysis, we used teacher identity to consider the teacher educators as dynamic, whole persons who integrate past, present, and future into ongoing professional understandings, and we used ecological systems design to examine the complex, situated contexts in which the teacher educators worked. The teacher identity lens allowed us to study how multiple parts of each teacher educator's biography, professional preparation, and career history combined to shape how each teacher educator understood and enacted his or her work. The ecological systems lens enabled us to view the contexts of the teacher educators' work as multifaceted and locate their professional development inside a unique space that lies in between the university and K-12 classrooms. We call this space the world of the teacher educator and believe that it should be understood as a professional context of its own. All three parts--the professional identities of the teacher educators, the embedded nature of their work, and the unique context of contemporary teacher education--along with closing implications for practice are explored in this article.

Background

Researching Teacher Educators

Thirty years ago, Lanier and Little (1986) devoted seven pages to teacher educators in their 42-page chapter on teacher education in the American Educational Research Association's Handbook of Research on Teaching. They found it hard even to define who teacher educators were with any empirical accuracy because undergraduate instructors and building principals were those who mostly taught or trained and supported teachers. Prior to the 1980s, few professors or instructors in schools of education focused on teacher education at all.

In Places Where Teachers Are Taught, John Goodlad (1990) considered teacher educators. He found that, because teacher education departments had low status in universities, teacher educators contended with perceptions of their work as low prestige and nonscholarly and felt boxed in by ill-fitting rules around publishing and promotion. Furthermore, he found that the uncertain nature of teaching and teacher preparation and the highly rigid state credentialing requirements led many teacher educators to feel both a lack of autonomy and an absence of responsibility for the future of teacher education. David Labaree's (2004) The Trouble With Ed Schools also discussed the lowly status of teacher education professors relative to other professors on campus, arguing that teacher educators get the least amount of respect, even among their education peers who focus on research and training doctoral students.

In the early 1990s, Ducharme (1993) and Ducharme and Ducharme (1996a, 1996b) studied teacher educators in the United States. …

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