Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 36, Issue 1 & 2 (March 2010), p. 111- 129. (Reviewed by the Portal Team)
Teacher educators prepare future teachers, and their own professional development is essential for successful teaching and learning in schools. This study aims at understanding teacher educators' professional development (TEPD) from the unique perspective of a group of educators who are regularly involved in planning, managing and implementing varied professional development programs for teacher educators, at the MOFET Institute in Israel.
The following questions guided the study:
1. How can the authors define teacher educators?
2. Is the professional development of teacher educators perceived as instrumental knowledge ('knowledge to go') or as personal, intellectual and cultural growth?
3. Is there a specific 'signature pedagogy' that characterizes professional development of teacher educators?
4. What are the relationships between the theoretical and the practical aspects of the professional development of teacher educators?
5. How could the professional development of teacher educators contribute to the development of a professional identity, and/or a common knowledge base?
This study focuses on teacher educators in institutions of teacher education. Data were collected by interviewing 10 MOFET high-level and middle-level executives.
Data analysis was performed along the lines of the 'grounded theory' traditions in qualitative research.
The participants were 10 MOFET staff members; five senior management executives and five middle-level management executives. All interviewees are female, ages ranging from 55 to 65 years. All have more than 10 years' experience in planning and implementing teacher educators' professional development programs.
Working theories were derived from the participants' statements as to the preferable course of TEPD. These evolved around three mental images of the professionally well-developed teacher educator: the model pedagogue; the reflective, self-studying practitioner; and the developer of professional identities.
Teacher educator as a 'model pedagogue': developing pedagogical knowledge
According to this theory, the teacher education system's need to direct its faculty to constantly develop and update their pedagogical knowledge. Thus they should learn about teaching adults, re-examine basic pedagogies and learn new ones. They should be exposed to the field so they can effectively tie theory with practice. Teacher educators' professional development according to this theory is actually a higher, more abstract and generalized version of teachers' professional development, carefully adapted to its higher education setting.
Teacher educators as 'reflective, self-studying practitioners'
According to this theory teacher educators' professional development must involve reflection, narrative inquiries, case studies and self-studies. These studies develop one's ability to be a mindful and self-aware practitioner in teacher education. Collaboration with colleagues in doing these qualitative studies is even more beneficial because it promotes commitment and a sense of belonging to teacher education. Social learning communities of practice promote support, gaining richer outlooks, developing openness for new ideas and learning new practices.
Teacher educators as 'collaborator in the process of developing professional identities'
This theory is against forming a list of didactic aspects teacher educators should learn and develop. Its holders recommend the formation of professional communities where teacher educators share experiences, elaborate on their meanings, exchange professional knowledge and ideas and let their professional identities emerge naturally. This theory originates in caring about teacher educators' growth, as well as their student-teachers' growth.
Teacher educators as 'career self managers'
This theory analyzes teacher educators' preferences at the various stages of their career. It states that teacher educators strive to manage their professional development in accordance with their inner needs, simultaneously with the system's demands. This last theory implies that the more systemic view of teacher educators' professional development that requires, at every stage, the development of commitment, good pedagogies and/or reflection and self-study, and the exchange of practices and their meanings, needs to be in tune with teacher educators' own needs and demands.
The authors view the study as contributing to our understanding of the nature of the professional development of teacher educators, perceived by leaders in this domain who describe their 'ideal curriculum' for teacher educators.