Academic Work and Proletarianisation: A Study of Higher Education-based Teacher Educators

May. 01, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 40, (May, 2014), p. 33-43.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The main purpose of this article was to understand the activities, social organisation and material conditions of higher education (HE) - based teacher educators.
The article also explored the teacher educators’ own accounts of their work.

The participants were 13 teacher educators, who work in English and Scottish higher education institutions.
The authors adopted a mixed methods approach that included semi-structured interviewing, statistical analysis of work diary instrument data, ethnographic-type observation, and a participatory data analysis workshop.


The authors found no significant difference between the experiences of English and Scottish teacher educators.
Furthermore, they found that relationship maintenance was the prevailing, typical and defining activity of the teacher educators in this sample.
Relationship maintenance included building, sustaining and repairing the complex and fragile networks of personal relationships that allow initial teacher education programmes, school partnerships and, indeed, HE Education departments to function.
They found teacher educators acting both strategically and reactively on the social relations of partnership and institutional life.

Additionally, the authors found that there are at least three kinds of pressures that had the effect of raising relationship maintenance to the pre-eminent position it occupied, specifically with reference to partnerships with schools.
First, the requirements of the quality assurance and inspection regimes and the risks of reputational damage to HE institutions .

Second, in the wider context of educational reform, higher education institutions cannot afford to disrupt the social practices of schools ‘delivering’ those reforms, disruptions that may well lead to opportunities for learning by schools and by HE but are disruptive nonetheless.
So the teaching methods of schools must be perpetuated in the practices of student teachers even if they run counter to the practices of the HE teacher education programme.

Thirdly, the authors also think it is important to recognise the underlying historical cultures of teacher education as an activity within HE institutions and also the residual identities of teacher educators as teachers.

Finally, the authors found that for some participants, research was not a motivation to leave school teaching and join an HE Education department.
They articulated instead strong commitments to ‘spreading good practice’, to seeing future generations of school children well-taught and also believed they were doing good, ‘socially transformative’ work.
In their talk, they produced their work as teacher educators in relation to teachers in schools as much or more than they did to their colleagues in HE.

In conclusion, data suggests that the work of teacher educators might well support the reproduction of the labour power of research in Education departments from which a class of worker described as ‘researchers’ benefits.
These are structural inequalities with material conditions for teacher educators sometimes profoundly different to colleagues who work on other programmes.

For these teacher educators, what is usually part of the academic’s workload has become intensified to the extent that it is a defining characteristic.
These teacher educators were also required to be flexible, adaptable and resilient, almost infinitely capable of dealing with contractual complexity.
As regulations and bureaucracy changes, they were expected to respond immediately.
As income streams diversify, they were expected to take on additional teaching added to an existing workload of undergraduate and graduate-level teaching.
What proletarianisation means, then, for the teacher educators in this sample is that their expertise is unacknowledged and devalued e uncapitalised within the political economy of Education as a discipline e and underexploited in the education of teachers.

Updated: Mar. 03, 2015