Teacher Education as a Journey of Opportunity for Continuous Learning and Personal Growth

Jul. 10, 2017
Professor Ann MacPhail is Head of the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick, Ireland. Her teaching and research interests revolve around teacher education, curriculum and assessment.
As teacher educators, our biographies are inextricably linked to our work and life practices, and I share here an edited presentation of my experiences and positioning as an apprentice, academic and administrator  that I share more fully in MacPhail (2017). I suspect a number of us have, or will, experience all three phases of apprenticeship, academia and administration, acknowledging that our experience in each element will be different as regards levels of investment, learning and enjoyment. Apprenticeship occurs through participation in a wide range of learning opportunities that allow an individual to progress within and beyond their workplace (Fuller & Unwin, 2003). Academia is defined as the accumulation of knowledge, its development and transmission, and in this instance resides within an institute of higher education. Administration relates to the academic-related tasks that scholars undertake to contribute to maintaining and overseeing the running of an institution.
While I refer to each as a ‘phase’, I suggest each overlap at varying times throughout our careers/life, particularly if we are lifelong learners. I would even suggest that an element of apprenticeship is present in all that we strive to do, although not everyone perhaps acknowledges and engages with apprenticeship as professional learning and learning about oneself. Individuals may choose to develop a skill-set that will inform their development within and across the three phases. Others may choose not to continue their professional learning and stay where they are with the knowledge base they have. For me, the roles of apprentice, academic and administrator are not mutually exclusive, very rarely inhabiting only one of the three at this stage in my career.
Fuller and Unwin (2003) note that the apprentice has to have access to, and participation in, a wide range of learning opportunities if they are to develop skills and knowledge which will enable them to progress within and beyond their current workplace, and so become lifelong learners, While we can question the extent to which apprenticeships are effective or not, I suggest that it is how you reflect on apprenticeship experiences, use them, interpret them and determine the impact they can have on you that is the worthwhile venture. The main consideration that arises for me from considering apprenticeship is how to most effectively encourage and nurture young teacher education scholars.
Related concepts that arise in considering my entry into academia and my subsequent experience as an academic include my identity as a teacher educator, working as part of a scholarly community and extending my own exposure within and outside teacher education. Academia is where most people reside and see their main responsibilities. In the domain. Griffiths, Thompson, and Hryniewicz (2014) believe that research that supports collaborative enquiry is vital in order to learn together, evaluate each other’s work and enhance practice and research. They quote Cochran-Smith’s (2005) belief that, ‘part of the task of the teacher educators is functioning simultaneously as both researcher and practitioner’ (p. 76), and reinforces the importance of scholarship as a joint enterprise in developing and enriching teacher education.
Teaching and research activities that are subject or disciplined based have traditionally
been the key tasks of academics, and a range of additional tasks, frequently defined as ‘service’, ‘administration’ or ‘management’, now form an important component of the academic workload. Branson et al. (2015) focus on leadership as first and foremost relational, providing four inter-related dimensions of structure and power, trust and credibility, learning, and discursive relations. They strongly advocate that understanding middle leadership as relational leadership results in the building of collegiality, cooperation and teamwork being understood as the very essence of leadership. With respect to ‘learning’, I too recognize the importance of opportunities to be able to learn from and with others who are positioned in a structural sense above, alongside and below me.
Considering the alignment of the local, lived context of the teacher education field with the broader teacher education field encourages a discussion around the rhetoric and reality of operating within the field, the associated nuances that impact engagement (or not) in teacher and how we can most effectively convince others to interrogate their own teacher education philosophies and, by association, practices.
Branson, C. M., Frankenstein, M., & Penney, D. (2015). Middle leadership in higher education: A relational analysis. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 44(1), 128–145.

Fuller, A., & Unwin, L. (2003). Fostering workplace learning: Looking through the lens of apprenticeship. European Educational Research Journal, 2(1), 41–55.

Griffiths, V., Thompson, S., & Hryniewicz, L. (2014). Landmarks in the professional and academic development of mid-career teacher educators. European Journal of Teacher Education, 37(1), 74–90.

MacPhail, A. (2017). ‘Physical education and sport pedagogy’ and the three ‘A’s: apprenticeship, academia and administration. Sport, Education and Society, 22:5, 669-6883. DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2016.1276053
Updated: Jul. 10, 2017