Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 41, No. 3, 285–306. 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article reported on a study focuses on student teachers’ evaluations of a university teacher training programme in the context of a university–school partnership model.
This model was integrated for the first time into the academic programme of a university teacher education department in Israel.
The university–school partnership model builds on the concept of praxis, that is, it aims at fostering dialectical connections between students’ academic learning at the university and their lived experiences at school (Orland-Barak 2010).
This university–school partnership model focuses on pedagogical relationships between the involved partners.
A questionnaire was developed to examine the contribution of the major curricular components of the partnership for student teachers’ experience of learning to teach, as evaluated by the student teachers themselves.
The questionnaire was delivered to 119 student teachers placed in 9 selected school–university partnerships.
The model studied can be positioned as part of the ‘larger case’ of university– school partnership models that are guided by clinical, praxical approaches to professional education but are still operating within a predominantly applied, individualistic research university model.
One consequence of such tension is that professional education programmes at universities suffer, on the one hand, from a relatively low status by virtue of their less scientific orientation yet, on the other hand, benefit from the image of being vocationally appealing, relevant for successfully coping with real life professional challenges and profitable for the university.
The local case presented here of a clinical, practice-driven professional programme within a research university model reflects the dual structural complexity described above, both pragmatically -in terms of allotting appropriate resources- and politically -in terms of its academic recognition.
In addition, the findings of this study suggest that besides bridging theory and practice, the university coordinator seemed to have functioned as a ‘strategic backbone’ in the partnership.
Identified by student teachers as accountable to both the professional–practical discourse and the research–academic discourse, the university coordinator functioned as a legitimate mediator between the university and the workplace.
Hence, the coordinator mitigated the conflicts of interest, power relations and competing agendas that often emerge between the school and the university.
The focal partnership can be positioned along enquiry-reflective models that stress pedagogic relationships.
In this case, such a model seems to be of better strategic sustainability than a model designed around larger scale collaborations with the field, namely because it is closer to the advocated research-enquiry orientation of the university.
The findings regarding the distinctive profile of each partnership also underscore the importance of creating the right alignments between student teachers’ backgrounds and the selected school profile for their placements.
Finally, the strong positive correlations between student teachers’ evaluations of their mentors and all the other components of the university–school partnership model foreground the added value of creating a cohesive organizational structure sustained by rich and diverse platforms of support for student teachers in their initial journey into becoming teachers.
Orland-Barak, L. 2010. Learning to Mentor as Praxis: Foundations for a Curriculum in Teacher Education. New York: Springer.