A Practice Turn for Teacher Education?

Oct. 01, 2011

Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 39, Issue 4, 2011, pages 293-310
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The author explores the idea of practice in pre-service teacher education.
The author argues that a (re)turn to a focus on ‘practice’ in initial teacher education programs might allow teacher educators to start to relate and integrate the experience that their students have of their courses.

The author addresses to Dreyfus and Dreyfus' work.
Dreyfus and Dreyfus show how, over time, and with repeated opportunities for practice, developing practitioners gradually move to being able to take for granted aspects of their practice that were initially new to them.
As experience provides more and more practice, expertise develops.

This is the basis of the author's thought experiment for teacher education, both initial and continuing – as a basis for understanding the sorts of activities that might be most useful to student teachers in different stages and places.

Turning to practice in initial teacher education

The author claims that the challenge for teacher educators is to find a way to allow student teachers to confront the work of teaching as something that they do NOT already know all about, and as something that must be practised and refined, reflected upon and tried again in the ways that Dreyfus and Dreyfus advocate.

The author draws also on the work of Pamela Grossman. Grossman and her colleagues have developed methods for assisting pre-service teachers to analyse and engage in ‘high leverage practices’ and ‘core practices’ of teaching integrated with the foundational, curriculum work of teaching.
Teaching is work that needs to be studied and practised in order to be learned.

On this basis, the author presents a form of ‘thought experiment’ that might suggest how teacher education could well turn on itself to support what might seem to be a re-form of its practices at the present moment in history.

Experimenting with ‘the very thought’ of practice
The author describes the csuPRAC 1 project at Charles Sturt University (CSU).
The csuPRAC 1 project is designed to investigate what happens when new student teachers encounter a program that focuses on studying and practising some of Grossman's ‘high leverage practices’ and ‘core practices’ of teaching that could be practised again and again.

This experience was designed as a variant of micro-teaching, where core practices are ‘deconstructed’ and modelled for students.
These core practices are then rehearsed and approximated by students for their peers, under the gaze of an expert professional mentor giving feedback and coaching.
The students must use their bodies, voices and minds together to assume the attitude of a teacher reading – not for instructional purposes but as aesthetic exercise.

The focus on the performance of a teacher's body in practice places the body in focus, i.e. how it is dressed, how it moves, how it stands and sits, and comports itself to create a professional identity, and how it feels to do and be like this.

One action cycle of the Study of Teaching program in csuPRAC has been completed to date, but the researchers are continuously reflecting and working on the changes to their language, relationships and organisation that will allow them to modify and move forward into the next cycle.

The benefits of the program for teacher educators have been immense – in terms of the researchers and their students' skills and experience in programming, relationships and communication.



In conclusion, the author argues that teacher educators should ensure that students teachers can actually study and 'practise' teaching, in order to develop expertise on the basis of experience.

The author argues that this form of teacher education will help ensure that the classroom spaces the students teachers enter and construct with their students are continuously
re-constructed with twenty-first-century practices even if they are working in what might still seem like ‘nineteenth-century schools’.

Updated: Apr. 18, 2013