Source: Journal of Education for Teaching , Vol. 37, No. 3, August 2011, 337–349.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article describes the Noewegian teacher education context in which two new teacher educators, John and Karen, start work in a university.
The article looks at the many roles they have to undertake in that work, and the explicit and implicit requirements they have to meet.
The versatile pedagogue
The role of teacher educators everywhere is multi-faceted and complex, and it seems that the roles of the two new teacher educators in the Norwegian context are complex, and lack clear definitions and clearly stated requirements.
As John and Karen will be teaching pedagogy or issues in general education from a theoretical as well as a practical aspect, they have to be well read and hold extensive practical experience in teaching. They have to be skilled pedagogues in the wider sense of the word, able to build a bridge between theory and practice, which students are able to draw upon both in their academic courses at the university and during their school-based practice teaching.
Being a role model
Teacher educators act as role models for their students, as teachers and as academic researchers. The students are engaged in both activities, trying to make sense of how to combine these during teacher education and later on in their teaching.
Being a researcher
The role of teacher educator as researcher is demanding.
Teacher educators have to be up to date on relevant research, be active researchers themselves and be ready to engage student teachers in research.
They have to be knowledgeable about various types of research, empirical as well as theoretical, quantitative as well as qualitative.
As a teacher of research, the teacher educator is responsible for developing the students’ knowledge about and skills in a variety of research designs, thus teacher educators need to be capable of teaching and developing quantitative, as well as qualitative, perspectives and data collection instruments.
Being an administrator
The teacher educator’s role as administrator has become more and more complex in the Norwegian context.
There is a never-ending request for meetings, often intensified by the various committees and other responsibilities in which teacher educators, like other academics, are expected to participate.
Moreover, Norwegian teacher educators have during the course multiple tutorials with individual students, their ongoing assignments are subject to formative feedback before final submission for summative grading, and there are extensive course evaluations to be planned and administered, prior to writing a number of reports.
Several activities to support the teacher education staff have been developed at the Department of Education in the University of Bergen.
Pedagogical aspects of teacher education are dealt with through joint planning of courses, continuous revisions of reading lists, and departmental seminars in which teacher educators learn from each other and occasionally receive external input from national and international invited colleagues. Teacher educators have also engaged in team self-studies .
Explicit role modelling is something that several teacher educators in our context are beginning to try out.
Teacher educators share each others’ experiences and they are also trying out the idea of having a colleague planted during their teaching for the purpose of asking questions about why they do what they do.
Research forms 45% of teacher educators’ work, for an academic with tenure. All staff in the faculty have to be members of a research group where research is discussed, research instruments and data are validated, projects are planned and applications for funding are written.
In spite of these well-intended initiatives to create a supportive and up-to-date professional environment, there are still multiple challenges causing frustrations rooted in the local, national and international context.
First, recent reforms in the Norwegian context of teacher education have forced institutions and teacher education to design new programmes and to develop new courses. This is challenging for the institution as well as for the individual teacher educator.
Furthermore, many teacher educators, who aspire to meet external requirements, are frustrated because they do not want to diminish the importance and the quality of teaching students to be good teachers.
An additional frustration for teacher education internationally is that in spite of the good work and sincere intentions in providing good pre-service programmes, a large number of newly qualified teachers do not enter the profession at all, while others leave it after a few years.
Teacher educators have to be multi-faceted; they are expected to take on a number of roles, some of which seem to be conflicting roles, at least when considering the available time and energy that have to be divided among teaching, research and administration.