Preparing Teachers as Democratic Professionals

Spring, 2020

Source: Action in Teacher Education, 42:1, 38-48

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The author of this paper asserts that creating and sustaining teacher education programs where nondominant families and communities play genuine and influential roles in preparing teachers as democratic professionals for their communities will not be easy work, given the ways in which teacher education institutions and schools in nondominant communities have historically excluded families and communities from engagement in teacher preparation on their own terms, and because the contexts in both schools and teacher education institution are often hostile to this leveling of power and knowledge hierarchies.

Although teacher education institutions have sometimes “involved” members of local communities in hosting community field experiences for teacher candidates or serving as guest speakers in teacher education courses, this involvement has often been conceptualized, planned, and managed by program teacher educators leaving family and community participants in reactive and second class roles (Zeichner, 2018).
The author notes that there has been a long-standing problem in teacher education of the presence of popular and seemingly empowering and progressive efforts based on concepts such as social justice, democracy, and partnerships, and culturally or community-responsive teaching that are used merely in symbolic ways that present an illusion of commitment to change existing hierarchies of power and knowledge (Counts, 1935).
In reality, many of these allegedly progressive efforts have served to maintain existing power hierarchies and have strengthened the historically colonizing impact of teacher education programs (e.g, Popkewitz, 1975; Zeichner, 2018).

The author suggests that the first step toward the creation of teacher education programs that will support the transformation of knowledge and power relationships in teacher education programs serving nondominant families and communities is to educate teacher educators about how to work with families and communities in ways that will benefit both the quality of their programs and community well-being as defined by community members.
For example, one strategy that has been identified in the literature has been for program-based teacher educators, including school-based mentors, to reach out with humility to local community members to learn more about the communities for which they are preparing teachers to teach, and how their work in educating teachers is perceived in these communities (e.g., Koerner & Abdul-Tawwab, 2006).
The issue here goes beyond teacher educators learning how to work with and learn from families and communities.
Teacher educators and families and communities need to learn how to work with each other in mutually respectful and beneficial ways.
There should be a period of time where teacher educators and local community members develop trusting relationships and mutual concern for each other’s goals and needs before work is done to collaborate in improving teacher education programs.
The author states that while there is much to be learned from the literature over the last 40 years about practices and structures that have been successful in supporting the kind of work that has been discussed in this paper, the most important thing that needs to be kept in mind by teacher educators is the importance of developing mutually respectful and beneficial relationships with community partners, and to include them in all phases of ongoing program improvement including the conceptualization and development of practices and structures.
The work of community partners in teacher education is critical to the realization of educational justice and community partners in teacher education should be compensated for it rather than being seen as volunteers.
Without this foundation of trusting relationships characterized by mutual respect and benefit and teacher educators who are acting as democratic professionals, all of the practices and structures discussed in the literature on communities in teacher education will fall short.

Counts, G. (1935). Break the teacher training lockstep. The Social Frontier, 1, 6–7
Koerner, M., & Abdul-Tawwab, N. (2006). Using community as a resource for teache education: A case study. Equity and Excellence for Education, 39, 37–46. 
Popkewitz, T. (1975, November). Reform as political discourse. School Review, 84, 43–69. 
Zeichner, K. (2018). The struggle for the soul of teacher education. New York, NY: Routledge 

Updated: Oct. 28, 2020