Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 41, No. 3, 307–320, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study examined the recruitment and appointment of university-based teacher educators in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Data were collected through advertisements and position/person description materials for 11 education faculty positions across seven universities from a national university recruitment website and institutional websites during the six months.
Named personnel from the job advertisements were contacted by phone and email and invited to participate in a telephone interview. Interviewees gave informed consent for participation. A structured interview guide was used to explore how the position had come about, how its advertisement and associated documents were developed, the kind of skills and attributes desired in a potential recruit and the nature of the work a potential recruit to the position would be involved in.
The findings revealed three institutionally reified and identifiable constructions of the teacher educator type of academic worker.
First, a professional expert whose work is supervised, oriented towards the practice elements of initial teacher education (ITE), and whose service will be oriented towards communities outside of the university.
Second, a dually qualified teacher educator whose work is distributed across three major domains of an expanded type of academic work, including the expectation to teach, to carry out and publish research, and to contribute community service.
Third, a ‘traditional academic’ type of teacher educator whose work falls mostly across the domains of research and community involvement/service, but who will be involved in some university-based, rather than school-based, teaching of students of ITE.
Furthermore, only one of the advertised 11 positions in this six-month period could be considered truly representative of the dually qualified teacher educator construction. Of the other advertised positions, two that were reflective of the professional expert category did contain some expectations of research work, and three other positions contained elements of leadership and managerial tasks. Professional expert teacher educators, by comparison, were not required to engage in research and research leadership. The third category, the ‘traditional academic’ type teacher educators were not required to hold a teaching qualification leading to registration, be registered teachers, have early childhood or school curriculum expertise, nor were they expected to supervise prospective teachers on practicum. This study argues that the present recruitment and appointment processes are taking a bifurcated approach in the employment of education faculty, recruiting mostly professional experts or traditional academics to positions within university-based ITE. By taking such an approach, these institutional constructions are supporting several persistent and arguably troubling binaries shaping understandings of ITE in the university setting including theory/practice, research/teaching and academic/professional.
Given that the shift of ITE in Aotearoa NZ to mostly university-based provision has occurred only relatively recently, this bifurcation of teacher educators’ work along the lines of practice and research is perhaps unsurprising. It reflects a cultural-historical theme of a theory/practice divide within teacher education, a theme that many contemporary scholars of ITE are working hard to resist and which some postgraduate-level teacher education has worked to address. Another way to view recruitment practices that favour professional expert and traditional academic-type teacher educator constructions over the dually qualified is to see them as a response to the demands of conducting ITE in the university setting, particularly when national higher education policies involving performance-based research assessments come into play.
Maintaining a bifurcated teacher educator body through the employment of those who shall research and those who shall teach provides avenues for institutions to address the full scope of work involved in ITE whilst at the same time addressing both university and broader professional demands.
Furthermore, these programmes differ from most existing undergraduate models of ITE currently conducted in Aotearoa NZ’s universities as prospective teachers are expected to spend more frequent, and regular, periods of time in partnered education settings than their typical undergraduate ITE counterparts. The increase in school/centre dimensions of these postgraduate programmes means more of the work of teacher education will be situated across the dual settings of the university and schools/centres. More of the teacher educator workforce will therefore need be dually qualified to work in postgraduate ITE.
In conclusion, an analysis of the cultural-historical constructions of teacher educator’s work in advertised roles in Aotearoa NZ have made it possible to understand how institutional patterns of thought and practice combine to produce categories of academic worker needed for accomplishing the work of teacher education in the university setting. What has been shown is the expanded nature of teacher educators’ teaching and service work, brought about by the fact that ITE is increasingly distributed across sites within and outside of the university. Service is constructed in relation to both the profession and the academy; teaching within teacher education increasingly involves requirements for professional registration as well as successful teaching experience in school or early childhood centres and in tertiary teaching. Teacher educators who are dually qualified as registered teachers and as researchers are able to address the full scope of teacher educators’ work in this context.