Challenges to the field of teacher education research

April, 2022

Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 50:2, 165-170

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The author wants to say more about this idea of the journal as educative, picking up on the challenge for us to develop “an educational conception of education” – and consider the larger provocation: What is education for?
This is our question as teacher educators – and as the editors say, it is the one that takes us far beyond other people’s questions about efficacy, efficiency and meeting imposed standards.
So long as such standards fail to include any requirement for new teachers to actually study education – to understand its philosophy and history as a concept; to know about the theoretical frames that provide its present-day structures and forms; to realise how and in what ways these are different from other times and places, this question is never asked.
Knowledge about education is deemed to be unnecessary when learning to teach.
In fact, as the author suggests here, it might be construed as a liability.
Without education about education, its purposes are too easily normalised by the dominant ideological agendas of those shaping policy.
For a putative democracy such as Australia, this is a problem, and it is dangerous.
Teachers who have no grounding in curriculum theory, for instance, can only assume that curriculum is a simple matter of subject content, and that a “national curriculum” will tell them “what” to teach, while the assessment regimes in each state will dictate “how” they teach, and they have no need at all to think about “why” the government legislates the content matter it does.
They are learning to teach in a time when this work is seen as a technical capacity, not a moral one.
And when a Federal Minister for Education criticises a draft new Australian Curriculum for its heavy focus on Indigenous history, for instance, after a review of the existing content has called for our children to learn the truth about our national history since colonisation, education is compromised.
Teachers struggle to meet the demands of instrumental intensification of daily life in schools.
With the individual accountability that results from pervasive discourses of teacher quality (the ones that motivate the standards they are held to), they are easily held captive to ideological positions that run counter to the idea of an educational education.
They have not been prepared to teach in a way that seeks to fully understand and support a democratic society.
Despite continuous critique from the political left in relation to the failure to prioritise Indigenous cultures, history and knowledges, and sustained protest about national restrictions on accepting displaced refugees seeking asylum on our shores, this assessment shows that education is not changing our students’ minds.
In fact, there is a significant decrease in the proportion of students who believe that citizenship includes learning about political issues from the media or learning about what is happening in other countries, the longer they are in school (ACARA 2021).
It seems that the everyday practices of schooling remain firmly framed by the value system of the British settlers of the colonies that came to form this nation – and disconnected with larger social and moral concerns.
In spite of such evidence, the Federal Minister claims that draft new curriculum statements, which work in the interests of reconciliation and the 2019 Mpartnwe Declaration of the national goals for education in Australia, are inappropriate.
His claim that they promote a view of Australia as a “racist, sexist” country, and focus “too heavily on Indigenous history at the expense of western culture,” is a call to action for teacher educators.
It points the direction for us as a field.
How can our pre-service curriculum be decolonialised? What actions are being taken to help our graduates understand the larger questions of education as ultimately, and always correctly, political.
How do we enact a democratic curriculum in our own courses? What is the effect of this on the knowledge of our students, and theirs?
Our colleagues in other areas need our support.
The urgency of the need to address this issue is clear.
Other associations need our help.
Speaking back to the Minister, for example, citizenship educators from the Social and Citizenship Education Association of Australia (SCEAA) argue that:
“As Australian educational settings are super-diverse we need to embrace a curriculum that is not monocultural and embraces and critically explores and presents our history so that all learners can relate to it and be valued. (Heggart, Brett, & Fenton, 2021).”
Their claim that history “is a doorway into our past in ways that help us to make sense of our present and then enable us to make better informed decisions for our future” (Heggart et al., 2021) warrants support from our field.
Education, almost by definition, should be about change – preparing a citizenry that can make the best decisions for itself going forward.
But when teacher education practice and research does not educate schoolteachers about education – there is little wonder the education system is struggling to change the minds of Australians on these issues, and remains subject to the narrow, doctrinal interests of the traditional social structures that scaffolded the nation itself.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2021). Students are engaged in the community but test scores on democracy stall. Retrieved from
Heggart, K., Brett, P., & Fenton, S. (2021, September 9). Alan Tudge’s understanding of our history deserves a fail. EduResearch Matters. AARE. Retrieved from

Updated: Jul. 17, 2022