Teacher Education: Its Problems and Some Prospects

Nov. 01, 2010

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 61(5), p. 464-476. (November/December 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article addresses a set of dilemmas that are associated with teaching, then with teacher education, and finally with the relation or linkage between the two.

Occupational Competence in Teaching
The first set of problems facing teacher education’s role in developing occupational competence has to do with teaching itself. The teaching occupation is large and has increased in size in recent years. Further, it is highly differentiated internally by grade levels, subject areas, and specializations. These structural features of the occupation create difficulties for training programs that must produce large numbers annually while filling a wide range of specialty niches in the labor market.

Teacher Education and Occupational Competence
A second set of problems looks to the enterprise of teacher education itself.
Teacher education’s role in occupational development is a function not only of institutional arrangements but of fundamental problems. These problems include short duration and modest resourcing in the context of other powerful influences on learning to teach, before and after formal training, and the parallel absence of technical knowledge to guide teacher education.

The Linkage Between Settings of Preparation and Practice
The third set of problems has to do with the relationship between sites of training and of practice. In particular, the issue concerns how programs of training supervise and manage practice teaching in the schools. Because the total amount of time under the supervision of training programs is truncated, much of the learning occurs in the early years on the job, outside the direct control of the training institutions. This also means that programs of preparation rely heavily on practicing teachers to be agents of learning and socialization.

This creates two problems for training programs: One is recruitment, the other integration.
The recruitment and integration of the primary agents of socialization and training present a structural challenge to many programs due to the need for numbers that are large overall yet differentiated into many small specialties.

Reforms, Again, Anew…

The authors have described how the role of training programs in the development of occupational competence is hindered by a number of problems associated with teaching, teacher education, and the relationship or linkage between them. However, a number of reform ideas and initiatives are contending for influence. Three of these, which the authors characterize as “managing by results,” “encouraging competition,” and “embedding training in schooling,” might be conceived as working together under the right circumstances.

Improving the Incumbent Practice of Teacher Education

Efforts to regulate teacher education on the basis of outcomes rather than inputs, to create competitive alternatives, and to embed more of the training in districts and schools have some merit and enjoy some advantages; yet each is plagued with many of the old problems and some new ones as well.
Finally, the authors argue that teacher education should establish a more generous and generative relationship with the field of practice.
Furthermore, training programs can introduce reform ideas, but they must do more to reach out to cooperating teachers; and must help novices find those seams in the system where they can work.
A final implication is that programs of preparation might make greater use of those elements of infrastructure that are available in particular locales, including the standards, materials, professional development, and other aspects of districts where instruction is being reformed in systematic ways.

Updated: May. 06, 2012