Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 35, No. 4, November 2012, 463–479.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article argues that in order to prepare student teachers for the challenges posed by global and societal changes in Ireland and elsewhere, initial teacher education programmes for primary teachers need to draw upon the theories and practices of lifelong learning in a fully informed manner.
In terms of teacher education, it is now widely accepted that initial teacher education is insufficient for the lifelong professional needs of teachers.
Following an overview of recent developments in initial primary teacher education in the Irish Republic, an argument is made for laying foundations for lifelong professional teacher education during initial primary teacher education.
In 1999, a Working Group on Primary Pre-Service Teacher Education’s report proposed the extension of the BEd course from three to four years.
The report also advocated a reduction in the time spent at formal lectures in favour of smaller group work and personal study.
In particular, the report recommended that significant attention be paid to the requirements of the revised primary school curriculum.
Other issues raised included the lack of integration within the BEd;; over-crowded programmes, in which the demands on the students are excessive; and the lack of time for student reflection (Department of Education and Skills 2002).
In order to integrate some of the ideas and principles from lifelong learning into the Bed degree programme the following recommendations are suggested for all agencies involved in teacher education.
1. Introduce lifelong learning as a compulsory component of the teacher education curriculum
The BEd degree programme should include discrete modules on lifelong learning as part of the core curriculum and the BEd itself should be designed and delivered with the explicit aim of preparing student teachers as lifelong learners.
2. Devise a curriculum for teacher educators
The education of teacher educators is a process that needs to be conceptualised as one that continues across the professional lifespan of the teacher educator.
Hence, the authors suggest that induction courses should be available for new teacher educators as well as professional development courses for all other teacher educators that include modules on lifelong learning.
3. Incorporate teachers as active partners
It is important for colleges of education to establish sustainable partnerships with schools and practicing teachers in order to offer a BEd that is realistic and cognisant of the realities of life in schools.
Such a partnership could be mutually beneficial for schools and colleges of education.
More importantly, policy on lifelong learning needs to locate the teacher strategically within reform of teacher education and the teacher needs to move from the periphery to the centre of teacher education in partnership with teacher educators.
In order to foster the culture of lifelong learning, it is important for all key stakeholders participating in the teacher education programme, namely lecturers, school teachers and schools principals, to form an alliance and partnership in the interests of learning from each other.
4. Promote the co-construction of knowledge
In the interest of creating a dynamic teacher education programme, knowledge creation needs to be seen as a process of co-construction between a range of partners in teacher education, particularly in the context of reflective practice.
5. Reflective practice
Teacher education that embraces principles of lifelong learning could proactively incorporate opportunities for reflectivity for students and teacher educators.
6. Establish a broader role for teacher education
In the context of lifelong learning, greater emphasis in now being placed on the provision of education programmes throughout the life cycle for early childhood education, youth education, further education and adult education.
Hence, there is now genuine potential for cross-fertilisation of ideas between teacher educators in the formal and further education sectors.
The author concludes that initial teacher education is on the cusp of radical change in Ireland.
She argues that a reform of the BEd degree programme ought to be informed by the philosophies and practices of lifelong learning.
This could be achieved by introducing students to the theories of lifelong learning, by teacher educators modelling best practice in lifelong learning and by student teachers acknowledging that initial teacher education is just the first step in the continuum of professional teacher education.