What Should Teacher Educators Know and Be Able to Do? Perspectives From Practicing Teacher Educators

Sep. 01, 2014

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 65(4), p. 284-302, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study investigated the knowledge and experiences of practicing teacher educators and learn from them regarding what they believe they needed to know to do their work well.

The study encompassed two data collection phases:
Phase 1 comprised an online survey.
Phase 2 was a follow-up to the survey and comprised interviews organized around the conceptual categories included in the survey.

The participants were 293 teacher educators.
The two-stage sample was drawn from higher education faculty who self-identified as teacher educators. Such identities were confirmed via survey items, which further defined their specific roles.

The authors use Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s theorizing about “relationships of knowledge and practice” to understand knowledge essential to teacher educating.


Discussion and Implications 

The findings reveal that practicing teacher educators often feel unprepared to assume their role.
Respondents said that in their experience, there does not seem to be a curriculum for, or even attention to, the preparation of teacher educators, let alone a coherent, codified pedagogy of teacher education.
The findings show that too many academics who may be hired to do teacher education work are not necessarily prepared, qualified, or even choose to do this work.

Knowledge-for-practice, as explained by interviewees, included theoretical and content knowledge (e.g., learning theories, models of teaching, educational philosophy).
Building on Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s (1999) work, the assumption is that knowledge necessary for teacher educating is about content or discipline knowledge, and that effective teacher educating is predicated on this knowledge rather than on knowledge that might be specific to teacher educating.
So new teacher educators arrive at the academy without preparation, a state of affairs perpetuated by prevailing hiring practices, thus contributing to the de-professionalization of teacher educating and teacher educators .
Knowledge-in-practice, according to Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999), is also shared with neophytes from experienced practitioners’ accumulated wisdom through experience and extended reflection.
This kind of knowledge was ostensibly scarce, with several interviewees perceiving the academy to be competitive and lonely.
The data reveal that this group of practicing teacher educators did not describe receiving—or understanding—such specific preparation.
The participants' recommendation implies that through their experience, they have come to see that theoretical knowledge or research skills come up short.
As new teacher educators entering higher education, they needed to have had guidance and opportunities for application and experimentation during their doctoral programs, so as to gain familiarity with and develop basic competence in the doing of teacher education research, not just the thinking or understanding of educational research in general.

Cochran- Smith and Lytle’s (1999) theorizing about “relationships of knowledge and practice” provides a useful framework for thinking about what this study might mean for the teacher education profession and professoriate in relation to notions of teacher educator preparation:
1. Knowledge-for-teacher educating practice is not yet codified, coherent, or deliberately integrated into the preparation of doctoral students, especially those intent on a professional/professorial life as a teacher educator.
The interviewees’ recommendations for preparation that emphasized theory over pedagogy, suggest that the divide between theory and practice persists.
This implies that first there needs to be a collective conversation across the profession to articulate the specific and unique work/knowledge/skills/commitment of those who teach teachers.

2. Knowledge-in-practice/teaching should be an intentional goal of preparation for teacher educators, both in the academy during doctoral preparation and during induction as new teacher educators.
Intentional mentoring, as recommended by the respondents, as well as an organized curriculum designed to integrate theory–practice–research, combined with structured induction can enable novice teacher educators to not only learn from practice but also to learn about teacher educating as situated within a shifting and complex socio-political context.

3. Knowledge-of-practice will require that teacher educator preparation places equal emphasis on research as well as on teacher educating practice.
In addition, according to the practicing teacher educators in this study, the time and energy demanded by their primary responsibility—teaching—leaves little left over for research.
The result is that research and teaching are positioned as separate instead of mutually informing.
Therefore, research preparation for teacher educators needs to begin with the assumption that novice teacher educators will need to learn how to blend their teaching and research agendas so that as they learn in practice, they are also learning of practice.

4. Diversity, social justice, and multiculturalism must undergird the pedagogy of teacher education.
The findings showed the lower ratings seasoned teacher educators gave to their multicultural knowledge as compared with those of recent entrants to the field.

The implication is that much work is needed in the academy to help both experienced and novice teacher educators become conscious of their own biases and subjectivities, develop skills and sensitivities that can support social justice teaching and researching, and build confidence as advocates for all learners and communities.

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. (1999). Relationships of knowledge and practice: Teacher learning in communities. In G. Griffin (Ed.), Review of research in education (Vol. 24, pp. 249-305). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Updated: Jan. 13, 2016