University-Based Teacher Education in the Field of Tension between the Academic World and Practical Experience in School: A Norwegian Case

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 33, Issue 4, p. 361–374. (November 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purposes of this paper are to discuss, interrogate, and identify problems inherent in the tensions between academia and the proximity to the field and the need for robust knowledge production through research and the 'tips for teachers' approach.

The following paper compares between the goals, values, and institutional position of individuals and groups, along with the constraints that regulate their actions. This comparison, is based on historical source material, surveys, field notes, and verbal sources.

Different cultures

The cultures of a university institute are unlike those of the teaching world and it is therefore reasonable to describe them as different cultures (Murray, Swennen, and Shagrir 2009). 
A survey that looked at the attitudes of teachers to pedagogical theory and to TE as supporting a skills environment in school-improvement projects indicated the negative opinions of teachers towards educational research.

Teacher education
In the 1970s, a discussion emerged about incorporating TE as a part of the university's organisation. The top officials of University of Oslo expressed an increasingly strong wish for Pedagogic Seminary in Oslo to become part of University of Oslo. The Centre for Teacher Education and In-service Training (CTE) was established on 1988. However, CTE had a mixed culture: partly norms, values, and interests that were close to the school culture and partly employees with a research identity. The university affiliation created pressure to adapt to the university's expectations without losing the professional proximity of TE to the practical field of work in schools. Since 1988, a number of structural adjustments have been made by CTE to adapt to the university environment.

However, there have been tensions between the assessments for professorial standing of staff belonging to academic disciplines and staff belonging to subject didactic disciplines. Furthermore, being a teacher educator does not enjoy a high status as being a member of university staff.

On the other hand, University of Oslo has accepted an initiative to establish a research program that invites researchers from other faculties to collaborate on school-relevant research together with TE staff. In addition, a new tendency is for more students to be accepted into the teacher program, which involves school placements each year. A development of this sort contributes to the students developing a stronger identity towards the teaching profession while studying.

The institution's self-dynamic
The author have also described a reduced relationship between university and educational authorities. In such a case, the future role of the university would be in the form of academic courses and teacher training, but relatively little besides. This tendency can be observed in Norway: non-university bodies are able to offer products that, to a substantial degree, lack the attributes of university products.

Status of teachers and teacher educators

The status of teachers has been reduced in Norway over time, but the need for teacher recruitment is growing strongly (Aamodt and Turmo 2008). The authorities have been obliged to set a minimum qualifying grade for entry into teacher training from secondary school and steps have been taken to make the teaching profession more attractive in Norway. A more pragmatic relationship with the needs of society is now strongly apparent at University of Oslo .

Concluding remarks

There are serious concerns about combinations of university-based and school-based learning in Norway and elsewhere (Grossman 2008). The author concludes that the difference between academia and practice is significant within teacher education in Norway, at least in one institution.

Aamodt, P. O. and Turmo, A. (2008) Forskjeller i lærerkompetanse i videregende skole: konsekvenser for elevenes læringsutbytte?. Norsk pedagogisk tidsskrift 93 , pp. 122-134.

Grossman, P. (2008) Responding to our critics: From crisis to opportunity in research on teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education 59 , pp. 10-23.

Murray, J. , Swennen, A. and Shagrir, L. Swennen, A. and van der Klink, M. R. (eds) (2009) Understanding teacher educators' work and identities. Becoming a teacher educator. Theory and practice for teacher educators pp. 29-44.

Updated: Apr. 12, 2011