A Case Study of Innovation and Change
Jenny Leach and Bob Moon
Teacher education is going through an unprecedented period of change. Across the world, the number and quality of teachers are becoming a key policy concern. This phenomenon affects the richer, industrialised nations and those in the process of developing stronger economic infrastructures. In California, in 1999, over 30,000 teachers in K1-3 were teaching on emergency credentials, that is, without any teacher education and training. In South Africa, the challenge to upgrade the qualifications of unqualified and under-qualified teachers was one of the first priorities of the national government of reconstruction in the 1990s. In rich and poor countries, the lure of the new knowledge-based, often technological industries and services is having a significant impact on those who have traditionally become teachers.
Ensuring an adequate supply of high-quality teachers is therefore a challenge, as is the expanding task of providing coherent, career-long, professional development opportunities for all teachers. As knowledge increases and technologies emerge, so the status, knowledge and understandings of teachers have to adapt. The scale of demand for teacher education is huge. In this context it is clear that the institutions of teacher education created in the twentieth century, almost wholly 'bricks and mortar' institutions, win be unable to meet the demands of the twenty-first. To follow an inevitable logic, it is now becoming apparent that some form of school-based, open, flexible form of support for teachers will merge with the traditional initial and in-service structures existing today. That process is already underway. Existing institutions will play a role, but it will be a transformed one that builds on traditional strengths but utilises the new modes of working. They will reflect the global trend towards merging 'face-to-face' instruction and 'open and distance' modes of instruction brought about by new forms of communication technology.
During the 1990s, the United Kingdom's Open University has developed a new generation of open and distance courses. These have been developed within the ever evolving context of teacher education that, in England and Wales, has witnessed through the 1990s a turbulent period of reform ( Moon, 1999) and raised specific challenges for the university's initiatives. These challenges have, however, now been taken up in a range of international contexts as varied as