Teachers as Society-Involved “Organic Intellectuals”: Training Teachers in a Political Context

May. 02, 2011

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 62(3), 312-324, May 2011
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors examine how teacher training can play an active role in inculcating teachers with sociopolitical awareness and the resultant image of this transformative teacher training.
The authors present a conceptual and practical model for training teachers as involved intellectuals in the society and in the community.
Involved intellectual teachers are those whose professional identity leans on robust intellectual self-esteem, a culture of actively caring about other people, awareness of social activism, and commitment to public activity.
This article describes the training model from its theoretical and applicatory aspects.

Description of the Model

The model was built in light of educational challenges in the global, technological, and competitive world in general and in Israeli society with its schisms and violence in particular. This model seeks to produce teachers who are equipped with a critical approach to reality and a willingness to introduce changes into it.
A broad and comprehensive policy for teacher training was designed at the Kibbutzim College of Education.
A training model encompassing all the college’s training programs and including all the students engaged in BA studies was designed to implement the program on the organizational level.

The teacher-training model at the college translated the pedagogical vision into three circles of implementation:
(a) including community involvement in pedagogical training as part of the
regular practical experience process and establishing a program of social involvement in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs),
(b) developing frameworks for intercultural dialogue and education for peace, and
(c) expanding opportunities for the students’ active involvement in campus life.

The New Teacher Training Model: A Formative Assessment

The new policy for teacher training at the Kibbutzim College of Education is attended by a special study conducted by the College Research Unit.
Some pilot studies have been done to assess the program.

First, a correlation was found between the preparatory activities prior to the social involvement instigated by the pedagogical instructors and the deepening of the social involvement reported by the students.
The study found that the students attest that the attendant courses greatly contributed to their learning and that they acquired substantial theoretical knowledge on subjects and issues with which they had previously been completely unfamiliar.

The study further shows that the students felt that the attendant courses were characterized by a democratic culture that enabled them to raise issues, ask questions, and conduct in-depth debates.
This study showed that exposing novice teachers to the backyard of Israeli society as part of a binding curriculum enabled them to get to know a reality of which they were completely unaware, understand it, analyze it, and formulate a personal position regarding it.
The study raises a need to reinforce the connection between social activity and theoretical learning.

Second, a study that examined the attitudes of Arab and Jewish students toward the role of the teacher in a society with social and cultural schisms showed interesting findings.
The study’s findings indicate that the Jewish and Arab students of both colleges came closer to each other at the initial level.
They learned to get to know one another as women from different cultures and developed initial mutual tolerance.

These pilot studies might indicate that the training model, which has been operating in the Kibbutzim College of Education for almost four years, has taken a first step toward inculcating teachers with a social-public consciousness.

Thoughts and Insights in Conclusion

In the fifth year of the model’s operation, and on the basis of their accumulated experience and completed studies, the authors can present a number of insights.
The first is recognizing the importance of combining the practices of experience in active social involvement with intellectual theory, particularly in political philosophy, cultural research, and critical sociology.
The second is related to the fact that this is an overall integrated curriculum binding all students.
The third insight touches on the self-perception of the teacher training institution as a body bearing responsibility for enhancing the face of education in particular and that of democratic society in general.

Updated: Feb. 26, 2014