Exploring Student Teachers’ Resistance to Teacher Education Pedagogies

May. 10, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 40 (May, 2014), p. 73-82.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors draw on two purposefully selected case studies of student teachers to explore the implications of this alternative understanding of the nature and consequences of resistance.
This cross-case analysis focuses on the causes and manifestations of friction over time.

The participants were two student teachers, enrolled at post-graduate teacher education program in the Netherlands.
They were purposefully selected as they explicitly voiced their friction.
Both students were female History student teachers, in their early twenties, without prior teaching experience.
They were supervised by an experienced teacher educator and trainer who had worked at the program for about ten years.
The authors used two data sources:
- An electronic portfolio, which the student teachers use to document evidence for six teacher competences, based on national requirements.
- Four supervision conversations conducted between the participants and their institute supervisor, discussing the participants' portfolio.


The authors conceptualized student teachers’ resistance as manifestations of friction that are interactive in nature and that can be exploited to foster learning and set out to explore the implications of this alternative understanding of the nature and consequences of resistance.
The findings indicate that resistance itself, and its causes, should be understood as interactive in multiple ways.
The two participants identified different causes for the friction they experienced at different moments in time.
For example, the first participant attributes her friction to a discontinuity between her understanding of learning as unplanned, unconscious and especially unwritten and how she perceived the program to understand and promote learning.
This gradually changes and after successfully introducing images in her final portfolio, she no longer mentions this as a cause of friction.
The other source of friction for her, the difference between her preferences for teaching and learning and the program’s pedagogies, remains present throughout the year.
She repeatedly expresses a preference for less collaborative and more “academic” pedagogies.

The second participant identifies the personal nature of reflection as the origin of her friction at the beginning and end of the program, but singles out other, sometimes contradicting, aspects of the program at other moments, which include the program’s ambiguous guidelines or the feeling of being addressed in the wrong way.
Although she is able to explicate exhaustion, dissatisfaction and undefinable feelings, she is unable to really pin down what causes these feelings or how she can deal with them e which in turn only add to her friction.
Moreover, almost each time they identified a certain cause, they added that it might work differently for other students or that they could also see how it would work, but just not under the given circumstances.
This implies that student teachers cannot be held solely accountable for their resistance.

In addition, students’ resistance, or the manifestations of their friction, changes over time.
The first participant first uses rather provocative and oppositional language to express her friction at her own initiative.
Gradually, her friction becomes less apparent as she finds a way to transform it into something productive.
The second participant mostly expressed her resistance by not engaging, or disidentifying. This is apparent from her short texts and short answers to her supervisor’s questions and her superficial use of the program’s instruments.
As such, her supervisor had to search for manifestations of friction, in spite of the fact that it was always present.
Given that disidentification is not easily recognized as resistance, as it is not overtly oppositional, this entails that educators should be prone to signs of disidentification, because its consequences can be just as real.
However, the results indicate that outcomes of resistance should be seen as tentative.
For the first participant, resisting actually appeared to support her in explicating her own way of learning and thereby think of ways in which she could negotiate the program’s demands and her own preferences.
Her way of managing the friction she experienced thus appeared to be successful not only in terms of learning to teach, but also in terms of feeling capable of doing so on her own terms, now and in the future.
In contrast, the second participant’s case shows that resistance is not necessary constructive either. Although Sabrina was successful in dealing with the friction, as her coordination enabled her to complete the program, she incurred the drawbacks of participating without really identifying.
Additionally, the teacher educator’s strategy in dealing with both students’ resistance was highly similar.
It consisted of inviting the students to explicate their friction, including legitimizing their struggles.
She also encouraged the students to think of possible solutions within the boundaries of the program.

These results draw attention the potential of exploring and thereby exploiting resistance in the process of learning to teach.
Instead of trying to overcome student teachers’ resistance, or turning away from it, the authors propose that educators turn toward it.
For educators, engaging in resistance can be informative to understand the complexity of their student teachers’ learning processes better, whereas for students engaging in resistance can entail assuming or extending agency of their own learning.

Updated: Sep. 08, 2015