Teacher Education as a Borderline Domain of Practice

December, 2018

Dr. Ainat Guberman is the Head of the Research Authority at the MOFET Institute, and lecturer at David Yellin College of Education and the Hebrew University, Israel.
She is the chairperson at the academic committee of MOFET'S 7th International Conference on Teacher Education.

The 7th International Conference on Teacher Education: The Story of Innovation in Teacher Education offers an opportunity to share your experiences and insights with other teacher educators and together transform these into innovative practices and coordinated actions that will bring the voice of teacher educators to the fore.

I believe teacher education is located on the borderline of both teaching and research. In the following, I will explain this statement, reviewing teacher educators’ vulnerabilities in each role. Finally, I will claim that this borderline position has a potential of becoming a resource for innovation.

As teachers, many teacher educators had gained experience and reputation as excellent teachers, before they were recruited into teacher education (Murray & Male, 2005). During the induction phase, beginning teacher educators realize that teaching student teachers in higher education institutes requires different teaching and assessment methods than teaching in schools. 

While teaching about teaching, teacher educators need to be explicit about their deliberations and about the methods they employ, and expose themselves to criticism concerning the degree to which their actual teaching exemplifies the principles they espouse (Murray & Male, 2005; Lunenberg, Dengerink & Korthagen, 2014).

As they become immersed in higher education, teacher educators’ school experience becomes gradually distant and less relevant, since realities within schools change rapidly. Student teachers tend to value their school experience more highly than the lessons they receive at their colleges or universities, and teacher educators often wonder how their own role needs to be different from that of cooperating or mentor teachers (Murray, Czerniawski & Barber, 2011).

This vulnerable position as teachers is exacerbated by the fact that some teacher educators have no teaching experience at all, and they are recruited directly from the university (Meeus, Cools & Placklé, 2018).

As scholars who work in academic institutions, teacher educators are expected to be familiar with the professional literature and conduct research to improve their own teaching as well as to contribute to education and teacher education as areas of knowledge and practice (Lunenberg et al., 2014). However, teacher educators have mixed feelings about this obligation. Work overload, time constraints and inadequate research skills hinder their participation in research projects, as well as feelings that research is overrated whereas teaching is undervalued (Griffiths, Thompson & Hrynigewicz, 2014).

Furthermore, teacher educators’ research does not receive proper attention, because it is viewed as too limited in scope and lacking rigor (Cochran-Smith 2005).
Teacher educators’ double-marginalized position as teachers and researchers is manifested in numerous reforms in education and teacher education performed by policymakers without consultations with teacher educators or consideration of their views (Flores, 2016).

This state of affairs is not inevitable. Teacher educators can be brokers of change. Located at the border between teaching, research and policymaking, they have the opportunity to be part of each profession, experiencing the other two’s perspectives, expectations and criticism.
These unique experiences can be resources for reflection, insights and innovation (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015).

The 7th International Conference on Teacher Education will deal with these issues and many more. As chairperson of the academic committee of the conference I am looking forward to your contribution.

Cochran-Smith, M. (2005). Teacher educators as researchers: multiple perspectives. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(2), 219-225.

Flores, M. A. Teacher education curriculum. In: J. Loughran and M. L. Hamilton (Eds.), International handbook of teacher education (Vol. 1, Ch. 5, pp. 187-230). Singapore: Springer.

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.

Lunenberg, M., Dengerink, J., & Korthagen, F. (2014). The Professional Teacher Educator: Roles, Behaviour, and Professional Development of Teacher Educators. Rotterdam: Sense.

Meeus, W., Cools, W. & Placklé, I. (2018). Teacher educators developing professional roles: frictions between current and optimal practices. European Journal of Teacher Education, 41(1), 15-31.

Murray, J., Czerniawski, G., & Barber, P. (2011). Teacher educators’ identities and work in England at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century. Journal of Education for Teaching, 37(3), 261–277.

Murray, J., & Male, T. (2005). Becoming a teacher educator: evidence from the field. Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(2), 125-142.

Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Learning in a landscape of practice: A framework. In: E. Wenger-Trayner, M. Fenton-O’Creevy, S. Hutchison, C. Kubiak & B. Wenger-Trayner (Eds). Learning in landscapes of practice (Ch. 1, pp. 13-29). NY: Routledge. 

Updated: Dec. 16, 2018